Midlands growers drilling cover crops are reminded to make the most of match funding and free specialist advice.

Up to £175/ha is available to match fund seed purchases via Severn Trent’s Environmental Protection Scheme (STEPS). Support is also on offer from the water company’s team of agricultural advisers.

Dr Alex Cooke, principal catchment management scientist at Severn Trent says in the last round of STEPS grants, Severn Trent funded more than 5,500ha of cover crops, which are vital tools in building healthy soils on-farm and improving water quality.

“We always encourage farmers to speak to their local agricultural adviser before applying for any match funded STEPS options.

“The team is on-hand to discuss the most suitable cover crop options for your farm and recommend which mixes offer the most value for soil health and future field productivity. Having this information from your adviser will also improve the likelihood of your application being successful,” she explains.

A valuable tool

According to Alex, cover crops are invaluable for preventing soil damage during the wetter months, which is key to maximising future crop productivity and water quality.

“The most beneficial cover crop mix for each individual field will depend on the soil type, nutrient levels and any pest or disease that may be present.

“For example, biofumigant species such as Brown or Indian mustard and radish, can help to control soil-borne pathogens, while deep-rooting species, such as radish, can scavenge nitrogen and retain it for use by subsequent crops,” she says.

The main STEPS match funding is available to farmers in priority catchments to address issues such as nitrates reaching watercourses and help to keep rivers healthy.

For more information and full eligibility criteria visit www.stwater.co.uk/steps or contact a local Severn Trent agricultural adviser for support with the application.

How to apply:

  1. Check the priority catchments here: www.stwater.co.uk/steps 
  2. To increase the chances of a successful application, seek advice from a local Severn Trent agricultural adviser on the most suitable options
  3. Fill out an application online: www.stwater.co.uk/steps before 31 December 2023.