SEAMS – Sustainability in Education and Agriculture using Mixtures

SEAMS (Sustainability in Education and Agriculture using Mixtures) is a four-year project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and coordinated by the James Hutton Institute, which ran from April 2019 to March 2023.

To develop, promote and implement crop species mixtures as a sustainable crop production system for Scotland and as a resource for knowledge exchange on food production, agricultural ecology, and environmental sustainability to a wider audience including school groups.

What are crop mixtures and why should we be interested in them?

Crop species mixtures – also known as intercrops – involve the growing together of more than one crop species at the same time and in the same area of land. Although a common practice globally, and once common in countries such as Scotland, they have fallen out of favour during the recent drive to highly mechanised and intensive farming. Potential benefits from mixed crops include the maintenance of crop yields with reduced inputs such as herbicides and pesticides, and greater resilience to environmental variability such as summer droughts.

Challenges to the wider growing of crop mixtures include the provision of advice to farmers on what to grow and how to grow it as part of a modern farming system and generating an understanding of crop mixtures and a demand for their products.

What we have done through SEAMS?

SEAMS developed a network of field sites across the main arable food production areas of Scotland. These sites trialled crop mixtures, providing information on how to tailor the use of crop mixtures to different locations in Scotland. They also provided a platform for knowledge exchange and learning. The sites were working farms spread across Scotland and the project took a participatory approach, especially with respect to deciding the crop mixtures to be trialled.

Core sites also hosted visits for wide a range of groups, including:

  • Farmers – following the highly successful GWCT farmer clusters approach core sites were a hub for discussions with farmers
  • Local schools – schools engaged in citizen science activities and used crop mixtures as an opportunity to find out more about sustainable food production and the ecology of farmed landscapes.
  • Food buyers and producers – to help increase the uptake and demand for local products derived from crop mixtures.
  • Policy makers – to promote crop mixtures within future policy decision making.

Interested in growing mixtures but not sure what to expect? 

Our data platform provides a range of information about on-farm crop mixture trials, including how the trials were sown, what the mixture was, and how well the mixture performed.

Project lead of SEAMS, Rob Brook­er, the James Hut­ton Insti­tute and Thomas Veitch, Sci­ence and Advice for Scot­tish Agri­cul­ture in discussion with project partner LEAF.
Produced by Royal highland Education Trust Working in partnership with Buglife and the Hutton, this resource offers the chance to find out more about growing crop mixtures and biodiversity.
International Barley Hub online seminar, April 2023. Presented by Professor Rob Brooker.
A chat with James Hutton Ltd covering intercrops, the benefits of intercropping and considerations of the impact intercropping can have.
Overview of the project with farmers sharing their experiences with crop mixtures including cereal, legume and legume-OSR mixtures in Scotland.
This virtual field day brought together insights from farmer experience and scientific research into the role of crop mixtures to address different agronomic issues and discuss some of the practicalities and end uses.

For more information on this project contact