Game Cover and Stewardship Mixture Demand Still Alive

Last week, Bright Seeds managing director, Chris Bright, spoke to the National Gamekeepers organisation about the current issues facing the nation and how it has impacted on sales at Bright Seeds, and the game crop industry in general.

Orders Still Coming In and Going Out

Working within government guidelines, Bright Seeds is still processing a vast amount of maize, game mixtures and stewardship wild bird crops as demand for such products has barely stalled.

With six months or so to go to the shooting season, many shoot owners have their eyes set on next winter’s field sports. Not unreasonably they believe matters will have much improved by then; or certainly sufficiently so for an outdoor pursuit such as shooting to proceed relatively unhindered.

Whatever arrangements are being made for next season’s shooting, the countryside and all that goes with it continues, and those who tend our wildlife and conservation can do so largely unimpeded by current restrictions. Gamekeeping is one profession that can continue proficiently in self isolation.

Of those shoots that have altered plans, Bright Seeds has seen the vast majority intend to uphold measures that protect and sustain wildlife. This might mean replacing some crops with a mixture predominantly aimed at feed supply for farmland birds or the planting of a catch crop to enhance soil fertility and structure. The options are numerous.

Get Something in the Ground

Obviously, those shoot owners who have decided to continue with running their shoots as normal don’t need to change what they have done in previous years – it is as important as ever to get game cover crops in at the right time and to look after them as part of the usual cycle.

However, for the minority who are overly concerned and have decided to cancel their shoots this year due to the current pandemic, there is still much that can, and should, be done.

As touched up on previously, there is still a varied population of wildlife that need food and cover, their world will not stop due to the Coronavirus. Farmland birds require seed, insects and brood nesting habitat to keep them safe and healthy, something that wild bird mixtures and stewardship crops have been designed for. Pollinators still need food and pollen to help pollinate the multitude of crops that are so vital at this time – something various mixtures containing wildflowers are ideally suited to.

It is important to consider the structure of soil also. If left bare, the following year when the shoot does start up again will be frustrating as crops will struggle to grow – money spent now will make future savings. It is well worth considering planting a catch crop or green manuring crop that will build nutrients and add biomass to the soil. Additionally, getting a crop down will prevent weeds from growing and becoming a nuisance for the following year.

A final opportunity if cancelling shoots this year is the chance to establish a perennial crop without missing out on a year, and without sowing this with a nurse crop. Things like canary grass normally take a year to become established, but if you are missing a year anyway this isn’t as much as a problem.

Revival Mix and Other Options

For its part, Bright Seeds has developed its ‘Revival Mix,’ specifically designed for these unusual times. The aim is to provide a nitrogen-fixing crop that is mindful of cost, yet beneficial to wild stocks and other wildlife. Not intended to be a fully-fledged winter hardy game cover; but a crop able to mark and hold land intended for future game cover.

Additionally, the mix can clean-up weed-burdened land used for game cover: and for each acre sold, £2 will be donated to the NGO to assist its members. Containing mustard, radish, vetch, quinoa, phacelia and buckwheat, the mix will provide feed value, early establishment and colour (an important consideration at the moment).

We are also seeing a heightened demand for perennial cropping, particularly our range of Royal Mark mixtures. As mentioned, longer term crops such as canary grass and chicory don’t grow much in their first year, meaning the lack of cover in year one is not such an issue. One mix we recommend is Royal Mark 4: a blend of chicory, sweet clover, Utopia and interval. Utopia and interval provide cover in the first year if needed whilst the chicory will go on to last for well over 4 years. Perennial options can be highly cost-effective.

To order or discuss your cover crop options, call Bright Seeds on 01722 744494; or visit the website