Organic farms have long used grass and herb leys in arable rotations to help restore soil structure and fertility after cropping. The main drawback of a ley for an arable farmer is the perceived loss of productivity and lack of income from a crop. For organic farmers, the return in terms of soil fertility and capacity for weed control outweighs this, but for other farmers it is seen as cheaper and easier to return nutrients using organic or mineral fertilisers and to control weeds with herbicides. Moving towards a more diverse mix of grasses and herbs and using the ley to keep livestock (getting a ‘crop’ from the ley years too), could make leys a more beneficial option for livestock and arable farmers alike.
Samantha Mullender, The Organic Research Centre