As part of our holistic BioLOGIC® approach, Avondale makes use of a uniquely diverse cover cropping system. We use more than 10 different mixes of cover crops to foster a thriving community of life in our soils. The cover crops fall into three main plants groups – cereals, brassicas and legumes, each makes a different contribution to the diversity of micro-life in our soils.
In this series of articles, I will get to discussing different species within those plant groups. However, the first 3 articles will deal with the plant groups. So let’s start here with cereals. A cereal is a grass from the monocot family Poaceae. They are commonly cultivated for the edibility of their grains, which are staple foods around the world. The main cereals that we use as cover crops include barley, oats, Saia oats, wheat and a cross between rye and wheat known as korrog or triticale.
Why do we use Cereals as Cover Crops?
As grasses, cereals foster a certain regime of micro-life in the soil. There are particular benefits to including cereals in the cover crop mix:
- they are winter rainfall crops that do their major growing when the vines are dormant;
- they utilise free nutrients in the top level of the soil that you might otherwise lose through leaching in the rainy season;
- simple to digest, cereals particularly feed the beneficial bacteria in the soil, enabling them to thrive and multiply;
- their fibrous shallow root system dominates the top level of soil providing stiff competition for weeds;
- members of the black oats family such as Saia oats have an allopathic effect on the soil, preventing the seeds of weeds from growing;
- they create a valuable biomass when they are managed in summer and left as mulch over the soil
By using cereals in our cover crop mixes we get all of these benefits, as well as the positive benefits that they contribute towards the soil structure and feeding the soil life. Specifically, the cereals foster a bacteria-dominated microbial population which helps with the natural digestion of organic matter to humus and the solubilising of natural nutritional minerals for the vines.