Field of crops

Catch and Cover Crops

Catch and Cover crops are widely and successfully used in Germany and the Netherlands to significally improve the output of arable and energy crop rotations.

SAATEN UNION have led development of the Catch and Cover crop systems by providing the market with a succession of excellent varieties and a wealth of technical expertise developed by the team at specialist plant breeder, PH PETERSEN. Elsoms are now working closely with SAATEN UNION’S team to make the same varieties and services available to UK farmers and growers.

What are Catch and Cover crops?

Catch and Cover crops can make as important a contribution to a farm’s overall income as major crop types through their effect on long term soil health. As a result, Catch and Cover crops warrant as much attention and input the main combinable and root crops their use is designed to support. Soil quality directly effects the yield potential of the crops that are grown in and on it and the objective of growing a Catch and Cover crop is to improve soil quality and hence yield and income potential. Catch and Cover cropping improves soil quality by protecting soil against erosion, locking in nitrogen, preventing nutrient loss, promoting biological activity and  improving soil structure.

The Benefits of Catch and Cover crops

Soil Nutrients

1. Soil Nutrients

Catch and Cover crops improve the content and management of nutrients in the soil. Losses of

existing nutrients due to leeching are reduced whilst through incorporation and/or through

the nature of the Catch and Cover crop nutrient levels can be increased and released back into

the soil at a time when the next crop can use them.

Soil Structure

2. Soil Structure

The vigorous, extensive and deep rooting habits of Catch and Cover crops such as CONTRA RADISH

can significantly improve the structure and quality of soil.

Soil Health

3. Soil Health

Catch and Cover crops can have a very beneficial effect on soil health with respect to pests

and diseases such as, for example, Take All, Beet Cyst Nematode, Potato Cyst Nematode etc. They

can also prevent the build-up of diseases such as club root.

Water Management

4. Water Management

A vigorous Catch and Cover crop will provide excellent ground cover that will significantly

reduce soil moisture loss due to evaporation during the summer. The water holding capacity of

soil can be considerably improved as a result of an increase in humus content produced by the

use of a Catch and Cover crop. For example increasing the soil humus content by 0.5% can lead

to soil being able to hold an additional 70 m3 of water per ha whilst improvements in soil

structure will improve the rate at which soil drains.

Reduced risk of soil 


5. Reduced risk of soil erosion

The presence of a Catch and Cover crop with a strong root structure and good ground cover

will significantly reduce the risk of soil erosion whilst a crop is growing as well as over the

longer term. This is of particular importance on fens and light, sandy soils.

Weed Control

6. Weed Control

Catch and Cover crops perform an excellent role in suppressing weeds and volunteers by

smothering them with their dense canopies and vigorous growth. Companion seeding between crops

can reduce the requirement for herbicides.

Bees and Insects

7. Bees and Insects

Catch and Cover crops can provide a much needed and plentiful source of late fodder for bees

and other beneficial insects.

Bio Mass

8. Bio Mass

As well as improving the yield potential of other crops, Catch and Cover crops can provide a direct tangible benefit by improving the bio mass available for AD plants and silage for livestock.

Types of Energy Crop
Choose a Energy Crop category:
  • Phacelia is not related to the major agricultural crop types and belongs to the Hydrophylloideae family. As such this makes it an ideal catch crop, especially for arable rotations containing Oilseed Rape, where including radish and mustard could be problematic. Rapidly establishing and deep rooted, Phacelia performs an excellent role in reducing soil erosion and improving soil structure. It can perform a valuable role in controlling club root as it is not a host plant for this disease. Phacelia can also contribute to the management of slugs.

  • Incredibly vigorous, with a wide sowing window and very high biomass yield, Rye is the ideal low input catch crop to precede a late spring sown crop.

  • Rapidly establishes high yields of biomass and has a beneficial effect on reducing Root Lesion and Stubby Root Knot Nematode. Faster establishing than annual ryegrass Saia Oats are ideal for weed suppression and reducing soil erosion, making them an ideal choice for light of sandy soils.

  • Oil Radish combines early establishment with a vigorous growth habit, deep root structure and dense foliage. Depending on the variety chosen, oil radish can contribute significantly to the management of soil borne pests and diseases such as Beet Cyst Nematodes, Root Knot Nematode and Tobacco Rattle Virus.

  • White (Forage) Mustard such as ALBATROS has been used for many years by farmers as a cheap, easy and effective short term catch crop following the cereal harvest. In addition to the classical white mustard segment, farmers are now able to select varieties such as VETO that can be very effective in controlling soil borne diseases such as Beet Cyst Nematode (BCN). In addition both types of mustard can play an important role in reducing levels of rhizoctonia in the soil whilst their ability to assist in the control of soil borne pathogens in the horticultural industry is attracting strong interest from growers looking for an alternative to methylbromide.

  • Individual catch crops can significantly improve the efficiency and output of an overall rotation. Working closely with farmers and growers, SAATEN UNION'S catch crop specialists at PH PETERSEN have successfully developed a number of specialist mixes that combine different catch crop species to excellent effect in a range of Green Manure blends.

Need help from the Specialists?

Contact our Vegetable team