Can lupins be the answer to the rising demand for organic proteins to feed animals? This is the focus of a trial by a group of twelve farmers in the south west.

The Mole Valley Farmers group have completed a first year of trials, growing one white and one blue variety of lupin. Lupins have a reputation for being problematic to grow in the UK. Rising demand for organic proteins for animal feed is making sourcing increasingly difficult so the the group was keen to see if they could grow it on their land.

The results were mixed. The white variety largely failed, but the blue showed promise despite the challenges of an unpredictably dry April that reduced establishment. Each of the participants used one or both lupin varieties alongside a range of weed control measures, with mechanical weed control proving most successful. Some chose to intercrop with vetch but this tended to result in excessive competition from the vetch.

Nigel Mapstone is coordinating the trials. He said: “This first year has been a really helpful learning experience and we enter the second year with a more refined trial design, including adding a second blue lupin variety, and we’re confident we can deliver some really positive results. We’ve gathered some good insights that have encouraged us to implement the next trial on larger plot sizes, with denser planting and no intercropping, which should improve both establishment and harvest success this time around.”

Teh trial will continue for a second year and the farmers are considering using two blue varieties, Regent and Iris as they have different growth habits.

Paul Redmore is one of the farmers taking part. He said: “You can’t go on one year alone really as there are many variables in a field trial situation. Every year you learn a bit more, and over time you start to accumulate a mosaic of knowledge. It’s particularly nice that we’re working as a group, it’s very easy to stay in your own little silo but getting different people together to understand the common problems and find solutions that work is a really worthwhile exercise.”