So after been fed and watered with Hubert Charpentier, we had an hour and a half drive to our next appointment with Jacques Charlot. Jacques is an arable farmer who has been experimenting in no till, strip till and cover crops for years. Gilles Sauzet, a local researcher, has his companion cropping and intercropping trials on Jacques’ farm so it was an excellent farm for me to visit.
First we went to an OSR field which had an area inside of it with the intercropping trials. They are trying many combinations of intercrops:
Spring Barley and Lentils
Spring Barley and Peas
Winter Peas and durum Wheat
Winter Barley and Peas (no Nitrogen added)
Winter Flax and Winter Beans (Beans died with frost)
The surrounding field of OSR was planted with a companion crop of Winter Beans, Fenugrec, Gesse and Lentils. A total of 80kg/ha of seed per hectare plus 1.5kg of OSR.
You can still see the bean residue. He has companion cropped with OSR for 4 years and has had consistent results: 30kg/ha of N back from the companion crop, 1 less herbicide, 2 less insecticides and 500kg per ha of extra yield. Lets just say it easily pays back the 60 Euro cost of seed. He also says you do not get geranium as a weed with the companion crop. This was shown as one headland has no companion crop and did has Geranium but everywhere else was clean.
Jacques grows his own Fenugrec and Gesse. He took us to a field of Fenugrec (I think!), which he grows on contract and also has a cultivation trial on it. Plough versus Min-till versus No Till.
The min till soil (above) had a lot of life and worms and good structure but the ploughed soil (below) was structureless and lifeless
The no-till plots were OK but were re-drilled due to slugs. Slugs and mice seems to be an increasing problem in this area
He showed up some Gesse seeds and they were amazing. They are multi-coloured and look like grit
The last place Jacques took us was a field of red clover. Jacques grows it for seed and is normally in the field for two years. Jacques said that it is not the best paying cropping but it improves the soil and also cleaned the fields. Soil under red clover below:
The interesting thing chatting to Jacques was that he used to average 7t/ha of wheat and now using a wide rotation, cover crops and companion crops he gets 10t/ha. There was a field of wheat next to the clover that was excellent and so I can well believe it. A 40% increase quite incredible. After showing us around the farm and machinery sheds it was about 8pm and as I had a 2 1/2 hour drive to Anger and was going to get on the road. This is France and did not happen! We had a Panache, wine and a four course meal and left at 10pm full again. Another great visit to another great farmer. Luckily my journey to Anger was easy and I got to my hotel at half midnight and finally to bed at 2am, tired but happy.