Benefits of seasonal forecasts for cover crop planting decisions

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The prototype builds on the recent improvement in winter seasonal forecast skill for Northern Europe, linked to the need to make advance decisions on over-winter cover crop planting.

Benefits to CDE also include prevention of loss of its main farming resource, soil, and prevention of potential negative impact on the environment and communities with nutrient leaching and soil on roads. CDE have historically used cover cropping on a limited basis since it involves additional cost (seed, fuel, labour) and partly because it is not viewed as “normal practice”. Therefore predictions indicating high rainfall, nutrient loss, and soil erosion would make the decision making process much easier, and help to justify the additional expenditure.

The impact of the prototype on the decision made will be assessed using retrospective validation. We will assess a series of decisions made from previous years (e.g. past crop rotations), and compare them with the decision which would have been made if the prototype had been available. Consideration will be given to using another suitable estate or group of farms as a control.

Both cases will then be evaluated in terms of their economic, environmental (and other) impacts, which will then be compared to derive the overall impact of the prototype.

The information needed to assess the benefits of cover crop decisions will be gathered through the farmer engagement process, including:

  1. previous decisions made and how they relate to weather
  2. actions farmers would take, given a set of historical forecasts
  3. financial costs of planting and managing cover crops
  4. farmer perceptions of the "losses" from not planting cover crops in a wet season (e.g. environmental, social/reputation etc)

Where relevant, we will also make use of information from literature/other projects, for instance, on the value of ecosystem services.


Clinton Devon Estates


LMTool provides seasonal winter weather forecasts (1-3 months ahead) in support of decision making on cover crop planting, choice and management.