Corn Roots in Rotovated Soil

July 21, 2014

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I expressed some concern when I rotovated the soil in the spring that the smeared soil at the bottom of the rotovated soil may prove difficult for corn roots to penetrate.  So I decided to dig up a plant to check.  If the roots had a difficult time they would be turned and/or short.

I took these photos June 24th, and am pleased to see that this corn plant appears to have had no problem.  By the looks of the rest of the field, its safe to say my fears were unfounded.

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Contour Strip Cropping, Farm Update

July 19, 2014

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There must be some sort of dubious record I am setting this year.  The top photo was taken July 6th.  It shows the contour strips, which is how we farm the hillsides in Wisconsin to prevent soil erosion.

The green in the foreground is a little strip of hay next to the road which was cut and baled in June.  Next up in the photo is very mature, cut hay.  Yes, the last of first cutting was made in July.  The green strip in the middle of the photo is hay which was cut and baled in May, and is now ready to be cut for a second time.  The light colored strip above that is my oats and hay new seeding which is cut and drying, waiting to be baled.

So, yes, I made first cutting hay in May, June, and July.  I know of no other farmer who is as on the ball, and behind, as myself.  At least I’m still laughing.

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The bottom photo shows my sweet corn on June 26th.  Beyond the sweet corn are the farrowing huts.  I’ve had 14 beautiful June litters.  Beyond the farrowing huts are my grass-finished steers.  I started them grazing hay fields at the end of June.


2014 Corn Height, 4th of July

July 4, 2014

DSCF1816Here we are again, another year older, striving for wiser.  I’m attempting organic sweet corn this year.  The last time I tried it was about ten years ago and it looked like I was a foxtail farmer.  This iteration is looking much better.  Pumpkins are growing in the foreground.

 

 


Sweet Corn Update, June 2014

June 25, 2014

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I cultivated between the rows on June 16th.  The soil was quite dry.  We received five inches of rain over the following four days.  I snapped these photos the morning of June 20th.

Now the corn is too tall for mechanical cultivation, so we are left with hand weeding.  We’ve been doing some of that, especially around my garden area.  That’s the beautiful thing with organic production, I can plant other crops amongst the corn and not worry about the herbicide killing them.

The bottom photo shows where I ran out of corn for a couple of rows.  Instead of panicking, I planted pole beans and squash and pumpkin in the empty rows.  Since this picture was taken, I weeded and mulched and put up a fence for the pole beans to climb on and it’s looking pretty good.

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I have mixed feelings about the weed control.  On the plus side, I definitely think I controlled the weeds enough that the corn yield will not be limited.  Research shows that much of a corn’s yield potential is determined at a very small size, (around four leaves I think).

But I can see a lot of weeds coming now.  I wonder if I let them escape and go to seed will the weed pressure continually worsen?  Maybe I have let too many weeds go to seed in the past?

I can see the allure of using herbicide to achieve a “clean” field.  It’s just that I can also see that there is no such thing as “clean”.  Life is messy!


Sorghum/Sudangrass and Forage Peas for Pig Pasture

June 20, 2014

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I planted two forages for a pig pasture this spring which are new to me.  I’m very pleased with the forage peas.  I’m not happy with the sorghum-sudangrass, but don’t feel I utilized it correctly.

I no-till planted both into last year’s pig pasture on April 23rd.  I used my single-disc John Deere grain drill, which is not considered a no-till drill, but works great when the ground is mallow in the spring.  I planted about 25 lbs to the acre for each.

Above you can see what most of the pasture looks like.  Three-foot high forage peas growing thickly.  The warm-season sorghum-sudangrass has been overpowered by the cool-season peas.

Below you can see an open area where each plant is growing side by side.  The sorghum-sudangrass is thriving here.  It looks like corn.  The pea is the green and white leaf on the left.

The sorghum-sudangrass is called Surpass BMR 6, and is from Lacrosse Seeds.  I can’t even find the forage pea on their website.  It’s safe to say the pea did better, but I believe it’s all in how I used them.

Planting them together and early in the spring is an advantage for the peas, and the results bear witness.  I shouldn’t have planted them together, but I wanted to try both plants and wasn’t sure I would have another spot to plant in this year.  Waiting another year is just too much.

I also think the sorghum-sudangrass would have like to have been planted deeper, but no-till into mallow ground worked great for the pea.  On a side note, Buckwheat no-tills very well in the spring, although it is not supposed to tolerate frost.

 

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I couldn’t resist including the photo below with my model sow amongst the purple and red flowers of alfalfa and red clover.  The sow was pictured last September as a gilt with her beautiful litter.  She has large, erect ears, which make it seem as if everything is exciting to her.  Maybe everything is.

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Rotary Hoeing Sweet Corn

June 3, 2014

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If a city person asks you if it will rain tomorrow, you couch your answer based on the likelihood of their plans being ruined. If a country person asks, you answer based on how dry or wet it is, and if we need rain or a break in the rain to get some field-work done.

We were getting dry, but it was moist enough for my sweet corn to germinate.  It was coming out of the ground about a week after I planted.  I rotovated a second time, then planted.

The second rotovating pretty much took care of the rye.  Unfortunately, whatever alleopathic properties the rye had also seemed to dissipate.  About a week after planting I could see small button weeds shooting up.

So I took the rotary hoe, pictured, and ran it over the field.  It took some of the weeds out, but not all.  Then we had some rain.

Yesterday I could see more weeds, (pigweed, lambsquarters, and foxtail), poking out of the ground.  I read online that you can rotary hoe until the corn is six inches high without much damage.  So I rotary hoed a second time.  It took out more weeds and didn’t damage the corn.  I’ll probably have to switch to cultivation between rows for weed control next.

My sweet corn is coming up uneven.  I dug and found some of the plants struggling to come out of the ground.  I think the ground was so mallow after two rotovatings I ended up planting too deep.  I had reduced the depth from my Dad’s field corn, but apparently not enough.  Sweet corn has a shrunken kernel when compared to field corn and it doesn’t appear to be as strong pushing itself out of the ground.  Learning.


Rotovating Rye Cover Crop

May 13, 2014

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I rotovated the rye cover crop last week.  The rye was about twelve inches tall and growing fast.  I used a Howard rotovator I borrowed from my partner.  Its a fifty- inch wide model.  I rotovated to a depth of about five inches.

The rotovator has blades which travel downward, pictured below, cutting through the plant and soil, mixing and tossing it backwards.  The gate at the back of the rotovator can be raised or lowered with a chain, which will leave the field very rough or fairly smooth.  I thought I may plant after this, so I tried to keep it smooth.

I wasn’t sure if I should plant sweet corn right away, so I did a google search.  When Curiousfarmer came up on the first page, I realized that unless I’m suffering from dementia, I’m unlikely to learn anything from myself.

So I called my old organic farmer friend and he told me to wait a week, then rotovate it again, then plant immediately.  He thought I could kill any weeds which may have germinated, and hurt the rye again.

A week later and I’m glad I’ve waited because although I don’t see any weeds, owing to the alleopathic nature of rye, I do see some of the rye greening up.  The rye is very tough.  Any larger root-clumps of rye look like they will recover and grow and compete with the sweet corn.

 

 

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I have mixed feelings about tillage.  When I garden, I like to keep the soil mulched.  But in a larger planting, mulching is impractical, and tillage seems to be the best way to make a good seedbed and set the weeds back.

I’m not an expert, but the way I understand it is that one drawback of tillage is that it burns up some of the organic matter in the soil.  Another thing I don’t like is the potential for compaction, which can happen anytime you drive on a field, but especially in the spring when the soil is moist.

When the rotovator cuts through the soil, it ends up smearing the soil and creating a compacted layer at its bottom depth.  It leaves the soil above this very fluffy, but I wonder if the corn will have trouble growing its roots though this compacted layer.  Remind me to dig this summer and see what is happening with the roots.

Rotovators are very popular with the organic and sustainable crowd, so I am glad to be able to borrow this one from my partner.  I also don’t think I would try to kill the rye without herbicide with any less aggressive tillage.  So all in all I’m happy with the way this experiment is going, but I am still working well outside of my comfort zone.  Stay tuned.


2014 New Hay Seeding

April 12, 2014

The snow all melted and ran off and we found out we are in a drought!  We’re dry.  The ditches which always run with water in the spring are empty.  Still, there is no cure for a drought like a good rain, and they are calling for rain this weekend.

I’m happy because I planted my oats/hay seeding the last two days.  I saw John and his Dad  in town on Tuesday pulling their purchased oat seed on a flat rack trailer.  I told my Dad we’d better get our oat seed picked up.

So we picked up the oat seed Wednesday morning, and started discing Wednesday afternoon.  We were worried about it being too wet, but it worked up nice, didn’t ball or stick to the disc blades.  I let the soil dry for a day, then hit it with the disc again, then planted.

I thought it would be good to report on my planting this year, as I’ve tried many different recipes in the past, but have kind of settled on a favorite.  All of the following figures are per acre.

2.5 bushels Jerry oats as cover crop.  Plan to cut and bale sometime in boot/dough stage in June.

13 lbs FSG 408DP alfalfa.  I paid a little more for this variety because they say it’s for hay or grazing, with lowerset crowns than the typical alfalfa.  The crowns are where new growth comes from and they can be damaged by wheel or hoof traffic.

4 lbs Extend Orchardgrass.

2.5 lbs Gain Festulolium.

 


First Day of Spring, Rye Cover Crop, Egg Balancing,

March 20, 2014

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It seems like a long time since the last photo of the rye cover crop in November.  You know it’s been a long winter if you feel like a different person come spring.

Spring always has an effect on me.  Along with being outside more, I’m reading and writing more, and sleeping less.  It’s a funny thing, I always think I’ll get more reading and writing done in the winter, but it appears I enter a state of semi-hibernation, only to emerge revitalized in the spring.

The bottom photo shows a tradition in my family of balancing an egg during the spring and fall equinox.  Egg balancing research says that this is a myth and eggs can be balanced any time of year.

We’ve tried it various times, and it’s so easy now, yet so difficult at other times, I find it difficult to believe science.  Experts speculate my delusion fuels my success, and I’m open-minded enough to admit they may be right, but I’d rather be a successful delusional than a know-it-all failure.  Cheers!

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First Snow, Fall 2013

November 11, 2013

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November 11th, 2013.  Here is another photo of the rye, now at six weeks.  It hasn’t grown much since it was two weeks old.

In the background you can see my fall-calving cows with calves.  I moved them home from the summer pasture and now they’re grazing hay fields on the south side of my farm.  The bull in the photo has been with the cows for a week, which will give us August and September calves next year.


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