2020 Starting an Organic Grain Farming Operation – Joel Gruver Presentation #1
Starting an Organic Grain Farming Operation – What You Need to Know Program held Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 at the University of Nebraska Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center. Farming System Strategies for Success in Organics presented by Joel Gruver – Associate Professor of Soil Science and Sustainability Ag – Western Illinois University.
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[00:00:22.930]Here our next speaker,
[00:00:25.800]it's kind of ironic we
[00:00:28.150]gonna have this meeting last summer well,
[00:00:30.500]our main speaker we wanted to have,
[00:00:32.350]the keynote speaker was Joel Gruver
[00:00:34.180]from Western Illinois University.
[00:00:36.975]He was too busy to come then.
[00:00:39.754]Unfortunately he got a text or email on Monday,
[00:00:46.540]and he was in a car accident on Monday.
[00:00:50.410]This weekend he was going talking at a conference
[00:00:53.460]in Wisconsin and some drunk guy was going the wrong way.
[00:00:58.340]He's fortunate, he's pretty sore, but he's okay.
[00:01:04.098]But he didn't think he could,
[00:01:05.280]he has to drive to Chicago, or 90 miles to get on a plane
[00:01:08.530]to come here and back, and he's still pretty sore.
[00:01:10.870]But he could do it online, he's online.
[00:01:14.100]And I've heard Joel several times.
[00:01:17.070]He does an excellent job.
[00:01:19.050]He's an Associate Professor of Soil Science
[00:01:22.580]at the School of Agriculture at Western Illinois University.
[00:01:25.930]I think that's at Normal, Illinois.
[00:01:28.370]And he teaches a lot of soul science, conservation classes,
[00:01:32.290]and he's the director of their organic research program,
[00:01:36.010]and his research and outreach activities,
[00:01:40.370]talks about organic green production systems,
[00:01:43.500]and big emphasis on weed management.
[00:01:45.730]So that's a big issue.
[00:01:47.310]I know everybody's thinking about that.
[00:01:49.530]A nutrient management and farming systems,
[00:01:52.500]how to help soil health, and he's talked a lot at the
[00:01:56.300]different soil health conferences in recent years.
[00:01:59.680]He grew up on a small farm in Maryland,
[00:02:02.460]and he's been active in the farming systems research
[00:02:05.630]and education for the past 25 years.
[00:02:07.670]So, hi Joel, how you doing?
[00:02:11.070]I'm doing okay, can you see me?
[00:02:13.220]Yes, we can.
[00:02:15.670]So, let me open my presentation here.
[00:02:19.620]Yeah, we're looking forward, he's gonna talk about
[00:02:21.410]farming system strategies for success in organics.
[00:02:24.900]And he's gonna move along with that and he'll,
[00:02:30.310]as we get through the process he'll ask if
[00:02:34.090]need a break or not, if we don't well
[00:02:35.944]he'll go to finish that, and then he's gonna do
[00:02:38.770]a presentation on weed management as well.
[00:02:42.090]Go on, go for it Joel.
[00:02:43.970]Okay, so I'm opening things right now.
[00:02:47.030]Joel, first we need to have you share your desktop.
[00:02:52.210]There you go.
There we go.
[00:02:55.310]And let me hide a couple things here.
[00:02:59.990]You are ready.
How are we doing?
[00:03:01.600]Great, we'll turn you up a little bit, and have at it.
[00:03:04.850]It's looking good?
[00:03:07.770]Okay, hello everybody, I really wish I could be with you.
[00:03:12.080]I love the interaction of seeing my audience.
[00:03:15.950]I teach lots of undergraduate classes.
[00:03:18.970]And when people suggest that I might teach a class online,
[00:03:22.930]I just cringe because I'd like to interact with people.
[00:03:26.490]And so I will do my very best to keep this energetic.
[00:03:31.530]Not feeling quite as high energy as
[00:03:33.260]I normally am, but I am recovering.
[00:03:36.300]I feel like I took a mule kick to my chest.
[00:03:42.760]That's because that seat belt did its job.
[00:03:45.990]Anyway, I am very happy to be with you.
[00:03:48.640]And I will talk with you now about farming
[00:03:52.440]system strategies for success in organics.
[00:04:00.150]Really critical thing to keep in mind
[00:04:02.400]is we each have our own context.
[00:04:05.420]I have not farmed in Nebraska.
[00:04:07.860]And I know that Nebraska has different regions
[00:04:10.870]where the soils are very different,
[00:04:13.150]where the farming practices are very different.
[00:04:16.323]So as you think about farming system strategies you need
[00:04:20.270]to think about your context for making good decisions.
[00:04:25.320]Obviously, there's a lot of irrigation in Nebraska.
[00:04:29.040]In Illinois there's very little.
[00:04:30.530]So I can't bring expertise to center pivot irrigation.
[00:04:36.100]But you have that in Nebraska.
[00:04:38.310]Some of you are larger scale where you will really need
[00:04:41.930]to think about the geographic spread of your fields,
[00:04:45.270]and just various scale issues that
[00:04:48.890]are different than smaller operations.
[00:04:52.400]Obviously, you need to think about (coughing) excuse me,
[00:04:57.210]the climate that you have as the historical climate,
[00:05:02.420]and then of course the actual weather,
[00:05:04.040]that may be getting extreme, more extreme.
[00:05:07.230]You need to think about the resources that
[00:05:09.360]you have available, and of course, that may change.
[00:05:12.830]There may be things that you're
[00:05:13.900]able to bring to your operation.
[00:05:16.440]But the bottom line is,
[00:05:19.560]to make good decisions you need to think about the factors
[00:05:24.060]that create your context, and think about things like
[00:05:29.060]what are the weak links in your current management system?
[00:05:35.700]Then what are your low hanging fruit
[00:05:37.740]for improved management?
[00:05:39.850]Every once in a while, the weak links
[00:05:41.800]and the low hanging fruit are the same,
[00:05:43.300]and then it's really easy to make progress.
[00:05:45.610]But lots of times that's not the case.
[00:05:47.660]But regardless we need to be thinking
[00:05:50.580]strategically about how when we hear about
[00:05:53.900]what someone else is doing successfully,
[00:05:56.800]what are the principles that are relevant
[00:05:59.050]within our context, rather than how do we just
[00:06:02.490]take that set of practices and directly apply them?
[00:06:05.560]Because that's rarely, rarely the case in organics.
[00:06:11.740]So my context is I have 100% teaching appointment.
[00:06:14.084]My focus is on teaching six to seven
[00:06:17.180]undergraduate classes each year, hundreds of students.
[00:06:22.790]And that's what I love doing.
[00:06:25.540]In addition, I do have an organic research program.
[00:06:30.600]And we have a farm that is about 15 miles from campus.
[00:06:36.950]Nobody lives there, we have no electricity, no water.
[00:06:40.550]It's very difficult to do certain things,
[00:06:43.490]like have livestock there, but we have
[00:06:45.790]a great relationship with the landowner,
[00:06:48.550]as well as the neighboring farmers.
[00:06:51.350]It's flat black, poorly drained soil,
[00:06:54.250]which is great when we have dry conditions,
[00:06:56.530]and can be very challenging when we have wet conditions.
[00:06:59.170]And, of course, it seems like these days we have wet
[00:07:02.570]conditions and dry conditions, sometimes in the same season.
[00:07:06.730]But we're about 350 miles east of you guys, and
[00:07:12.330]just a little bit south, but mostly just directly east.
[00:07:20.040]In my program, I'm really blessed to work with great people.
[00:07:23.320]We have student workers work with us every year.
[00:07:26.810]Not a lot of labor, they're not out there doing all the work
[00:07:30.820]that you might imagine happening on a research farm.,
[00:07:34.700]Our student workers do less physical labor then I do,
[00:07:39.240]then my technician Andy does.
[00:07:41.320]But they do learn about farming systems research.
[00:07:45.180]And it's great to have them.
[00:07:47.640]But my right hand man is Andy Clayton.
[00:07:50.550]And there's really nothing that we'd be able
[00:07:53.500]to get done without his his excellent work.
[00:07:56.930]We also would not be able to run our program
[00:07:59.710]without supportive neighbors that have
[00:08:01.530]lots of experience, and lots of equipment.
[00:08:04.130]We pay them promptly based on custom rate prices.
[00:08:09.830]And they are just an incredible asset.
[00:08:12.850]We do not own very much equipment.
[00:08:14.470]We're not funded by the university.
[00:08:16.820]We're funded by our revenues,
[00:08:19.400]and a small amount of grant funds.
[00:08:23.967]But it's just truly critical that we have
[00:08:26.630]good relationships with our neighbors.
[00:08:28.180]And when I sometimes hear about organic farmers
[00:08:30.780]that have adversarial relationships with their neighbors.
[00:08:33.040]I just know that that could not work for us.
[00:08:36.940]We work very hard to maintain positive relationships.
[00:08:41.730]And then I also am very grateful for
[00:08:44.290]the supportive organic community.
[00:08:46.640]That's something that I think if you
[00:08:49.640]spend any time in in organic farming, you will realize
[00:08:53.850]that organic farmers are willing to share information.
[00:08:59.570]In conventional AG, things can be so competitive that
[00:09:04.800]there's a limited amount of sharing of the trade secrets.
[00:09:10.750]But in organic farming people
[00:09:12.620]really do like to share information.
[00:09:15.540]This picture happens to be a picture from
[00:09:18.070]our field day a couple of years ago.
[00:09:19.790]We have a field day every August.
[00:09:21.790]And so you're certainly welcome to to come join us.
[00:09:25.010]350 miles isn't too far.
[00:09:29.440]We even have people from Nebraska come sometimes.
[00:09:31.760]And this was a panel discussion.
[00:09:35.810]Anybody recognize this guy?
[00:09:38.980]Well I can't hear the audio but hopefully
[00:09:40.890]a few of you know Eric Falcon.
[00:09:42.930]And he posts on AG Talk, as do I.
[00:09:46.110]And so that's how I got to know him.
[00:09:48.060]And he was a great contributor to our field day
[00:09:51.770]panel discussion a couple years ago.
[00:09:55.280]Our other panelists ranged from an organic agronomist,
[00:10:01.190]to an organic farmer and consultant,
[00:10:04.230]to an equipment manufacturing CEO.
[00:10:08.780]This guy in particular is someone
[00:10:10.390]that maybe you've heard of.
[00:10:11.850]Anybody know who that is?
[00:10:15.380]That's Gary MacDonald he's an organic farmer and consultant.
[00:10:19.410]And this guy really changed my outlook on
[00:10:25.060]organic weed control, and I'll talk more about that
[00:10:28.070]this afternoon, or later, sorry later this morning.
[00:10:31.337]Gary MacDonald is a true cultivation artist.
[00:10:35.450]He brings a very high level of expertise,
[00:10:39.380]and expectation of success to what he does.
[00:10:45.020]He uses old school methods.
[00:10:48.690]I'll show you pictures later of an IH1-53.
[00:10:52.390]That's an old cultivator, but he rebuilt it for us.
[00:10:55.210]And he just showed us a new way of thinking
[00:11:00.730]about how to operate a cultivator for higher success.
[00:11:05.450]And there's a new series of videos that was
[00:11:08.630]made recently that's now available online.
[00:11:11.840]It's nine different videos that just go through,
[00:11:14.920]step by step, Gary McDonald's approach
[00:11:18.250]to excellence in cultivation.
[00:11:23.200]Speaking of success, I think a good framework for thinking
[00:11:26.660]about success is to think about what I've observed over
[00:11:30.160]the years as the characteristics of success in organics.
[00:11:33.730]And I've interacted with a number of the
[00:11:37.070]true pioneers in organic farming.
[00:11:40.049]In the upper right you can see Jack Airmen, sorry Erisman.
[00:11:44.280]And Jack Erisman has been farming
[00:11:46.600]in central Illinois organically since the 80s,
[00:11:52.610]has been farming since the 60s,
[00:11:54.370]and he has been doing it on a large scale,
[00:11:57.502]using lots of interesting strategies.
[00:12:01.340]His focus is not technology, his focus is
[00:12:03.870]farming systems and good marketing.
[00:12:07.200]And, of course, in the lower left you see Klaas Martens,
[00:12:09.930]excellent organic farmer in New York State.
[00:12:12.820]In the upper left you see Andy Ambriol,
[00:12:15.200]excellent young organic farmer that we had
[00:12:17.850]speak at our field day a few years ago.
[00:12:23.150]So what are the common, the common foundational
[00:12:28.480]concepts or characteristics for successful organic farmers?
[00:12:32.570]Well, what I've observed is that they have
[00:12:35.410]a focus on farming system solutions.
[00:12:39.220]What do I mean by that?
[00:12:40.580]Basically, they think carefully about how to use
[00:12:43.720]strategic sequencing of crop and cover crops.
[00:12:48.960]I'm using the word sequencing rather than rotation,
[00:12:51.890]because I think we need to be careful.
[00:12:53.850]Rotation implies something that revolves,
[00:12:56.550]it just goes around and around.
[00:12:58.390]And I think it's critical to understand that we have
[00:13:02.960]drivers like the marketplace that we have to respond to
[00:13:06.150]to be successful, and so we need to evolve not revolve,
[00:13:11.750]but still hold on very strongly to the
[00:13:15.290]strategies that we're trying to accomplish.
[00:13:17.840]We also need to think about integration
[00:13:19.560]of crop and livestock enterprises.
[00:13:21.100]Certainly not all successful organic farmers
[00:13:23.688]have livestock, but many of them do,
[00:13:26.410]and do a good job of integration.
[00:13:31.380]Farming system flexibility.
[00:13:32.900]I already just kind of alluded to that.
[00:13:36.450]Rather having a rotation that revolves,
[00:13:39.130]we need to be able to adjust, and so we need to have
[00:13:42.280]strong contingency planning skills.
[00:13:45.310]It's very helpful to have access to additional equipment.
[00:13:48.700]Sometimes people call that redundant equipment.
[00:13:53.960]When you need it it's very valuable to have that extra tool.
[00:13:57.920]In addition to additional equipment, we want to have
[00:14:00.640]access to additional labor when necessary,
[00:14:03.610]maybe additional grain storage.
[00:14:06.170]And then if you have livestock that you
[00:14:08.500]could use to eat your mistakes,
[00:14:11.620]you always have a good risk management plan.
[00:14:17.340]Focus on financial management.
[00:14:20.210]It really doesn't matter if you're a great grower,
[00:14:22.830]if you don't have the skills to make money.
[00:14:25.983]That's what we're doing, we have to be entrepreneurs.
[00:14:29.050]So we need to have entrepreneurial acumen.
[00:14:31.321]And there are many dimensions of that.
[00:14:34.540]But one key piece in the organic world,
[00:14:37.750]is that there are good prices available.
[00:14:40.760]But the prices vary quite a bit.
[00:14:42.800]And so you need to be following that, and doing your best
[00:14:46.630]marketing so you can capture those premium prices.
[00:14:49.510]And get paid for the higher level of management
[00:14:52.610]that you're bringing to your farming.
[00:14:56.290]Effective use of technology.
[00:15:00.900]It doesn't really matter what technology you're using.
[00:15:03.650]I think there are real opportunities for
[00:15:06.290]some of the newer technologies, but the bottom line is
[00:15:08.930]whatever technology you're using you need to
[00:15:12.040]have proactive maintenance, adjustment,
[00:15:14.630]and upgrading of that technology as needed.
[00:15:19.370]Openness to new technologies, such as GPS guidance,
[00:15:22.880]or upgraded planting units that precisely deliver seed at
[00:15:26.140]correct depth and spacing can be extremely transformative.
[00:15:31.730]That said, they're obviously philosophical reasons why
[00:15:36.932]some farmers shy away from certain technologies.
[00:15:40.240]But I think there are real opportunities to improve
[00:15:44.240]our ability to do organic farming using new technologies.
[00:15:50.330]Focus on starting right.
[00:15:53.220]I joke with my students that coming to class
[00:15:57.080]is like establishing a good stand.
[00:16:00.270]There's no amount of studying and trying to
[00:16:03.830]make up things at the end of the semester
[00:16:05.590]if they haven't been coming to class.
[00:16:08.560]And it's really the same thing.
[00:16:10.130]You cannot do good organic weed control,
[00:16:12.870]you can't address problems effectively
[00:16:19.450]if you didn't start with establishing a good stand.
[00:16:23.100]So how do we do that?
[00:16:24.470]We want to have well adapted genetics and high quality seed.
[00:16:27.990]We want to do careful seedbed preparation.
[00:16:30.350]We want to plant deeper and later.
[00:16:35.170]Effective residue management.
[00:16:38.090]The amount of residue that many organic farmers
[00:16:43.120]historically found acceptable, is just no longer
[00:16:46.990]cutting it with the more intense rainfall.
[00:16:50.600]The low residue levels that historically were the norm,
[00:16:54.532]we just need to move beyond that.
[00:16:57.370]But at the same time, we need to make sure
[00:16:59.060]with higher residue levels that we are preventing nitrogen
[00:17:02.200]tile, disease and pest issues, equipment malfunction.
[00:17:06.670]And we often think of tillage as
[00:17:09.590]our tool for residue management.
[00:17:11.514]Crop and cover crop sequence
[00:17:13.870]is just as important as tillage.
[00:17:15.640]But we need to have conservation levels of residue
[00:17:20.348]on our soils if at all possible.
[00:17:22.810]But at the same time we need to
[00:17:24.343]manage that residue to avoid problems.
[00:17:29.200]Timeliness of field operations,
[00:17:30.820]especially weed control, is so critical in organics.
[00:17:35.610]And as I will try to emphasize very clearly
[00:17:40.900]as we go through this presentation,
[00:17:43.460]timeliness of field operations is so much easier
[00:17:46.900]if you have a well balanced crop and cover crop mix.
[00:17:51.000]What I'm talking about is a crop rotation, or crop sequence,
[00:17:57.000]that doesn't require you to do all
[00:17:59.570]the same operations at the same time.
[00:18:02.440]If you're only growing corn and soybeans, basically
[00:18:05.860]all your work has to just occur at the same time.
[00:18:10.000]If you have small grains in your rotation,
[00:18:12.530]if you have hay in your rotation,
[00:18:14.400]you may have far fewer breaks during your season,
[00:18:19.130]but you have things spread out so that you're able to be
[00:18:22.000]more timely in your field operations, in many cases.
[00:18:26.260]Strong support system.
[00:18:29.230]I think it's critically important to recognize
[00:18:31.680]that we're not farming on an island.
[00:18:34.410]Normally we are farming in the context
[00:18:38.380]that includes other people.
[00:18:40.340]And the encouragement from those other people
[00:18:42.240]when things are tough, the caution to avoid
[00:18:45.140]doing things that are excessively risky,
[00:18:47.220]the troubleshooting that people can provide,
[00:18:49.710]whether that be family or other organic farmers,
[00:18:52.890]or neighboring farmers, or industry reps.
[00:18:55.190]All of these things make it much more possible
[00:18:58.700]to be successful in organic farming.
[00:19:04.100]And a few other things that I think are pretty common
[00:19:07.470]amongst the most successful organic farmers,
[00:19:10.050]excellent observation skills,
[00:19:11.660]attention to detail, prioritize problem solving.
[00:19:15.911]And truly I think this is,
[00:19:19.983]this last one is important for success in anything.
[00:19:23.140]We need to recognize that we need to be life long students,
[00:19:27.785]learning continuously, and engaging in self examination
[00:19:30.990]of where we need to make progress.
[00:19:37.140]Okay, so that's kind of our foundation,
[00:19:39.510]the characteristics of success in organics.
[00:19:41.800]Let's think about how to
[00:19:43.120]put it together into a farming system.
[00:19:46.050]If you look in the scientific literature,
[00:19:49.810]and you look in just the popular literature
[00:19:52.060]about organic farming you will see a very common thread,
[00:19:56.150]that crop rotation is (coughing) excuse me,
[00:20:01.940]viewed as a central management tool in organic farming
[00:20:05.700]much more so than in conventional farming.
[00:20:09.830]What do I mean by that?
[00:20:11.810]Well, basically there are some overarching goals
[00:20:15.550]of rotation, and I'm using the word rotation without crop
[00:20:20.410]preceding it, because we can rotate other things,
[00:20:22.890]like rotate tillage practices.
[00:20:24.640]But the overarching goal of rotation,
[00:20:27.590]whether it be crops or tillage,
[00:20:29.550]is to solve agronomic problems, to overcome bottlenecks,
[00:20:35.080]enhance soil health, offset inputs,
[00:20:39.820]improve the resilience of our farming systems.
[00:20:45.370]Some of those, I think, are self evident.
[00:20:47.780]But let's dig a little deeper into a few.
[00:20:51.660]What do I mean by resilient?
[00:20:56.290]Basically a resilient system is a system
[00:20:59.300]that can roll with the punches, a system that is
[00:21:01.775]able to basically continue to function,
[00:21:06.580]and thus reduce risk of failure.
[00:21:12.070]How about overcome bottlenecks, what does that mean?
[00:21:16.240]What is a bottleneck?
[00:21:18.310]This is a really important concept in terms of
[00:21:20.500]thinking about how to improve a system.
[00:21:24.670]The concept of a bottleneck is that the performance
[00:21:27.680]of an entire system is sometimes limited by
[00:21:30.450]a single, or small number of components or resources.
[00:21:38.060]Let's think about this.
[00:21:41.030]How would rotation help us resolve a bottleneck?
[00:21:46.400]I wish I was there with you guys and could
[00:21:48.730]field some questions or field some comments.
[00:21:51.289]Let's hold on to that question.
[00:21:55.400]And we'll take a look at some specific
[00:21:57.763]crop rotation strategies and we'll think about
[00:21:59.910]how they might address bottlenecks.
[00:22:03.670]So here we have some specific crop rotation strategies.
[00:22:06.340]And I am not gonna read through all of these.
[00:22:11.130]You're not always able to, within the constraints of the
[00:22:14.240]marketplace, achieve all of these strategies simultaneously.
[00:22:18.510]But as we design our crop rotations we need
[00:22:21.130]to be thinking about these types of things.
[00:22:24.260]For example, alternating nitrogen fixing
[00:22:27.140]and nitrogen demanding crops, that's a very obvious one.
[00:22:30.060]Alternating weed sensitive, and weed suppressive crops.
[00:22:33.990]Alternating crops with different pests
[00:22:35.567]and disease susceptibilities.
[00:22:37.910]Alternating forage, grain, and cover crops.
[00:22:42.780]Balancing labor requirements and availability.
[00:22:46.080]Let's just think about that labor requirement.
[00:22:48.850]How would a crop rotation
[00:22:51.570]help us overcome a labor bottleneck?
[00:22:55.290]Basically, if we're able to spread out our field activities,
[00:23:00.210]a bottleneck would be where there's just a limited
[00:23:02.840]amount of time to get things done,
[00:23:04.290]or a limited amount of labor available.
[00:23:06.370]And so that would constrain our system performance.
[00:23:11.890]But if we spread out our activities with a crop rotation,
[00:23:15.473]then we can overcome that labor bottleneck.
[00:23:19.670]You could think about, a classic example of
[00:23:22.500]a bottleneck is that your planter,
[00:23:25.080]or your field equipment in general is too small.
[00:23:28.080]And so you might have a narrower window
[00:23:30.620]of opportunity because of extreme weather,
[00:23:33.040]and you just can't get things done
[00:23:35.400]because you have equipment that's too small.
[00:23:39.160]So the conventional perspective would be
[00:23:40.960]you need to buy bigger equipment.
[00:23:42.970]And there is certainly value in that in organics.
[00:23:45.940]But you can overcome that equipment size constraint
[00:23:51.490]by having a crop rotation that doesn't require you
[00:23:55.910]to get as many acres of corn and soybeans, for example,
[00:23:59.810]planted at one time or in that narrow window
[00:24:03.260]because you have small grains, or hay in that rotation.
[00:24:10.780]We also have nutrient availability bottlenecks,
[00:24:13.080]where it is difficult to get enough nutrients
[00:24:16.300]available to our corn crop, for example.
[00:24:19.510]So we can solve that bottleneck by buying in nutrients.
[00:24:23.540]But we can also solve that bottleneck by having a rotation
[00:24:27.540]that doesn't require us to feed as many acres of corn,
[00:24:31.430]and maybe provide some of that nitrogen for the corn
[00:24:34.650]with the preceding crop or cover crop.
[00:24:41.860]It's the winter time, great time to do some
[00:24:45.910]reading about these types of things.
[00:24:48.080]If you really are looking for an interesting collection of
[00:24:52.760]articles about crop rotation, this is a
[00:24:57.440]compilation that's available online.
[00:24:59.950]It was a international workshop on designing
[00:25:04.430]and testing crop rotations for organic farming.
[00:25:07.330]Obviously some of these are pretty scientific,
[00:25:09.660]and some of them are very accessible.
[00:25:12.550]If you're somebody who likes to read,
[00:25:14.470]I would encourage you to take a look at this collection.
[00:25:18.210]And we'll just take a quick look at a few of the articles
[00:25:22.170]that are in this collection right now.
[00:25:25.780]Very first article in the collection,
[00:25:27.970]crop rotation and organic farming, theory and practice.
[00:25:31.890]And it does a great job of laying out what are our goals,
[00:25:37.120]kind of like what I just laid out earlier.
[00:25:40.120]But then what are the realities?
[00:25:42.530]What is actually happening on organic farms?
[00:25:45.410]And in this case they were looking in
[00:25:47.650]the industry of the Netherlands,
[00:25:50.010]organic farming industry in Netherlands.
[00:25:52.130]But the bottom line is there's always kind of a
[00:25:58.660]lack of perfect fit between theory and practice.
[00:26:02.060]And that's a reality, but
[00:26:04.900]when we think carefully about that lack of perfect fit
[00:26:09.560]we're able to resolve it to some extent, we're able to
[00:26:12.990]bring theory and practice to fit together better.
[00:26:18.490]That's a desirable thing.
[00:26:20.660]For example, from that article, it talks about
[00:26:23.700]the value of crop rotation in relation to
[00:26:27.390]mobility and specificity of pests and diseases.
[00:26:31.210]The basic idea is if you have pests, or diseases,
[00:26:37.030]that are non mobile and very crop specific,
[00:26:41.440]crop rotation is highly effective.
[00:26:44.670]If you have the opposite, you have pests that
[00:26:47.510]are very mobile, and are not specific to a crop,
[00:26:51.260]well then crop rotation isn't as effective,
[00:26:54.480]or really has little effect.
[00:26:57.210]Anyway, this is a simple concept,
[00:26:59.830]but it helps us to think through what the
[00:27:03.611]underlying value of crop rotation would be
[00:27:06.910]to address certain pest or disease issues.
[00:27:09.310]And so that's the theory and then the reality is that
[00:27:11.920]farmers are faced with the constraints of the marketplace.
[00:27:14.736]And so they may not be able to address
[00:27:19.461]all of their pests and diseases with crop rotation,
[00:27:22.720]partly because of the concept on this slide,
[00:27:25.460]and partly because they simply aren't able to
[00:27:29.360]implement what they theoretically know is possible.
[00:27:36.610]Another great article,
[00:27:39.740]using plant species composition to restore
[00:27:42.450]soil quality and ecosystem function.
[00:27:44.370]What in the world is that all about?
[00:27:46.960]Well the basic idea is at the Rodale Institute,
[00:27:51.890]in Pennsylvania, they have the oldest organic
[00:27:56.600]agronomic experiment in the United States.
[00:28:00.300]Back in the 80s they started a long term experiment
[00:28:03.390]comparing two organic farming systems with a conventional,
[00:28:08.330]what was called the conventional BMP system,
[00:28:12.170]using the practices recommended by Penn State.
[00:28:15.670]And they observed something very interesting.
[00:28:20.210]While the conventional farming system,
[00:28:23.630]on average did have higher yields,
[00:28:26.000]and was returning more residue to the soil,
[00:28:29.100]more carbon going back to the soil,
[00:28:31.540]the organic systems were accumulating more carbon,
[00:28:36.180]and ended up with more organic matter,
[00:28:37.960]even though they had less carbon inputs.
[00:28:41.480]Now the organic systems did have more cover crops.
[00:28:44.550]They had more sources of carbon.
[00:28:46.640]But the total amount of carbon going in was actually less.
[00:28:49.880]So why was there more retention or accumulation
[00:28:54.400]of organic matter in the organic systems?
[00:28:56.710]That's a fundamental question that was laid out
[00:29:00.460]by Laura Drinkwater, now about 20 years ago.
[00:29:03.240]But now we have recently made progress
[00:29:06.570]in understanding what's going on.
[00:29:11.870]Around the same time as Dr. Drinkwater laid out her ideas,
[00:29:16.640]this classic commentary was written.
[00:29:18.490]Conventional row crop agriculture,
[00:29:20.470]putting America's soils on a white bread diet.
[00:29:25.506]If you want an interesting short read,
[00:29:27.250]it's only about two pages, I think it really does
[00:29:29.900]a great job of addressing some of the underlying
[00:29:34.500]problems with our conventional farming systems, why we
[00:29:37.290]don't have the soil health that we would like to have.
[00:29:41.500]The basic concept is, in our conventional farming systems,
[00:29:46.950]we normally only have a small number of months
[00:29:49.400]of the year that we have anything growing.
[00:29:53.270]That's basically the feast and famine concept that
[00:29:56.330]most of the year we don't have any living roots in the soil.
[00:30:02.210]And then what we return may be a huge amount
[00:30:05.310]of residue, if we're growing high yields,
[00:30:07.590]but it's nearly all low quality dead residue,
[00:30:12.080]residue that is not easily digested by microbes.
[00:30:16.750]And so the bottom line is that when we have
[00:30:18.910]the feast and famine dead residue diet, most of our soils,
[00:30:21.917]while they may have large amounts of carbon going
[00:30:26.030]back to them, they retain very little of that carbon.
[00:30:30.860]Essentially the microbial activity responds
[00:30:33.710]to this feast famine, dead residue diet differently then
[00:30:37.380]an organic system, where we might have more living roots,
[00:30:41.860]and more high quality residues.
[00:30:44.930]Let's think a little more about that.
[00:30:51.070]Whether we're talking conventional or organic,
[00:30:54.420]when we have an annual cropping system,
[00:30:57.820]the majority of the carbon in our crop residues
[00:31:00.630]that has returned to the soil,
[00:31:02.850]quickly returns to the atmosphere, typically more than 75%.
[00:31:07.520]If we think about what is actually being retained
[00:31:10.150]in the soil, it's a small fraction,
[00:31:12.940]but basically it consists of three main things.
[00:31:17.130]It consists of the plant compounds
[00:31:20.410]that haven't decomposed yet.
[00:31:23.630]It consists of living organisms, mostly microbes.
[00:31:28.390]And then it also consists of microbial compounds,
[00:31:32.270]compounds that were synthesized by the microbes,
[00:31:34.820]that are distinctly different than the plant compounds.
[00:31:42.590]The transformation of plant compounds into microbial
[00:31:45.930]compounds is a critically important concept that
[00:31:49.901]basically goes back to what Laura Drinkwater
[00:31:53.670]was first starting to hypothesize about
[00:31:56.760]at the Rodale Institute back in the 90s.
[00:31:59.550]And this is currently one of the hottest topics
[00:32:02.290]in soil organic matter research, because what we know now
[00:32:05.260]is the microbial compounds are almost all of what
[00:32:09.860]is retained as soil organic matter.
[00:32:12.600]We used to think soil organic matter was a bunch of
[00:32:15.477]old plant material that just hadn't decomposed yet.
[00:32:18.790]Now we realize that's largely not the case.
[00:32:21.580]If organic matter gets stabilized and retained in soil,
[00:32:25.760]it's largely because it has been turned into
[00:32:29.710]microbial materials that now have connected with the soil
[00:32:33.810]in a way that's different than plant materials do.
[00:32:40.500]Really, I guess transformative article that came out
[00:32:45.240]a couple years ago, you probably don't read
[00:32:47.957]nature microbiology, but let me just walk you through
[00:32:51.952]a couple quick ideas here that will,
[00:32:54.320]I guess, finish our discussion of why
[00:32:57.860]in organic farming systems we can build organic matter,
[00:33:02.140]and enhance soil function more effectively
[00:33:06.120]than in conventional farming systems, even if we have
[00:33:08.510]less total residue carbon coming into the system.
[00:33:14.520]Most of us think about microbes as engaging in
[00:33:17.880]decomposition, meaning they take apart organic matter.
[00:33:23.280]But the new concept is that they
[00:33:25.900]also synthesize organic materials.
[00:33:29.420]The title of the article, the importance of anabolism
[00:33:32.230]in microbial control over soil carbon storage,
[00:33:35.620]uses a word that probably you're not familiar with.
[00:33:40.002]But I think you've heard this word, like anabolic steroids.
[00:33:43.800]Anabolism is the idea of building something, and microbes
[00:33:48.780]are not just taking things apart, they're also building.
[00:33:52.850]This article basically says that we can think about.
[00:33:56.460]When an organic material is added
[00:33:58.870]to soil, it triggers two effects.
[00:34:05.380]One of those effects is the priming effect,
[00:34:08.540]where that organic input stimulates decomposition.
[00:34:13.120]Microbes get activated, they start to eat.
[00:34:16.320]But another effect is the entombing effect.
[00:34:20.000]And that's basically the effect where the
[00:34:23.040]microbial activity causes soil structure to build
[00:34:27.090]as sticky gluey materials are being released,
[00:34:30.480]and the soil structure is forming around that
[00:34:34.800]organic material, and of course, the microbial activity.
[00:34:38.810]When the entombing effect is greater than
[00:34:41.230]the priming effect we build organic matter.
[00:34:44.270]And what we're learning is that the white bread diet,
[00:34:48.040]or the feast and famine dead residue diet,
[00:34:52.840]basically does a lot more priming than entombing.
[00:34:55.860]It doesn't build much organic matter.
[00:34:58.150]Whereas, in our organic farming systems, where we have
[00:35:01.350]rotations that include more diverse types of residues,
[00:35:05.610]where we have younger materials,
[00:35:08.020]and more months of living roots in the soil,
[00:35:11.540]we end up with more entombing, such that we get
[00:35:15.100]a better balance between entombing and priming.
[00:35:18.150]Now entombing may seem like a crazy
[00:35:20.620]technical word, but here's the bottom line.
[00:35:24.380]We can go way back to the 1950s when this
[00:35:27.240]publication came out, your soil crumbly or cloddy?
[00:35:30.860]Obviously we want to have more crumbly soil.
[00:35:34.530]Soil becomes more crumbly because organic materials
[00:35:40.050]that are being eaten by microbes
[00:35:43.000]act as the nucleus of a soil crumb.
[00:35:46.570]A crumb forms around organic materials.
[00:35:49.980]If we can get more carbon inside of soil crumbs,
[00:35:53.587]we can build more crumbly soil, and we can also
[00:35:57.690]accumulate more organic matter in our soils.
[00:36:00.320]When we have poor structure, we retain less carbon.
[00:36:10.270]Just a little bit more before we get into some
[00:36:13.450]pictures of my actual research farm, and some data.
[00:36:16.850]But just a few more concepts here.
[00:36:19.020]One of the critical terms that
[00:36:20.500]I like to think about is balance.
[00:36:24.160]How do we develop well balanced farming systems?
[00:36:27.520]And this is also from that 1999 compilation,
[00:36:31.390]the last article here that we talked about.
[00:36:34.448]Designing crop rotations so that we have a lee, or I'm sorry
[00:36:40.980]I'm saying that incorrectly, a ley, arable balance.
[00:36:44.292]What in the world does that mean?
[00:36:46.170]Well a ley in English farming systems is
[00:36:50.390]a perennial component that you are
[00:36:55.490]rotating with an arable or annual component.
[00:36:59.330]So the basic concept is you might have a few years of
[00:37:03.260]alfalfa and then you wrote rotate back into annual grains.
[00:37:07.470]And the larger concept is you have years that are
[00:37:13.610]soil building years, and then you might have
[00:37:16.630]years that are soil depleting, and when you can achieve
[00:37:19.530]the right balance you're able to maintain your soil health.
[00:37:24.050]As soon as you have an excessive focus on
[00:37:27.020]the soil depleting parts of your rotation,
[00:37:29.850]then obviously you end up with degradation of your soil.
[00:37:34.840]So very last thing I want to show you before we
[00:37:37.810]move on to looking at my research farm.
[00:37:41.780]I think this is an excellent way to kind of
[00:37:45.540]put all together the ideas about what
[00:37:48.180]a balanced farming system is, and how we can
[00:37:52.310]understand that crop rotations are not just about agronomy.
[00:37:57.180]They're also about quality of life.
[00:37:59.810]They have social elements.
[00:38:03.440]Back in the 1940s and 50s in Missouri they realized
[00:38:07.160]that something undesirable was happening,
[00:38:09.420]that their researchers at the university were becoming
[00:38:12.870]more and more specialized, and more and more disconnected.
[00:38:15.960]They were giving ideas out to farmers that basically were
[00:38:19.110]pulling farmers in all different directions, rather than
[00:38:21.890]helping them put together balanced farming systems.
[00:38:26.180]So they came up with a strategy called balanced farming.
[00:38:29.390]And I'll just read you a little bit here.
[00:38:32.730]Basically, they recognized that they needed
[00:38:37.310]a system of farming that would tie together
[00:38:39.700]the good practices that were being recommended
[00:38:42.220]in a way that would give the greatest net income,
[00:38:45.130]consistent with continuing improvement of the soil.
[00:38:52.030]The objective, and I'm just reading from the article here.
[00:38:56.801]The objective has been to achieve a balance
[00:38:58.120]between input and output of soil fertility,
[00:39:01.657]between type of soil and crops,
[00:39:04.220]between pasture and crops in the livestock system,
[00:39:07.210]between the livestock system and the desires and abilities
[00:39:09.700]of the operator and his labor supply,
[00:39:12.840]between that income and the needs of the farm family,
[00:39:16.190]between good planning, hard work,
[00:39:18.227]and a comfortable attractive home.
[00:39:20.120]The point is that we need to think about our crop rotations
[00:39:24.770]as a way to bring balance to our farming.
[00:39:30.310]And obviously we're balancing agronomic issues,
[00:39:32.940]but we're also balancing our quality of life.
[00:39:36.460]And thinking about this from that broader context I think is
[00:39:42.020]really helpful as we set our crop rotation priorities.
[00:39:48.673]Let's get down to the actual practice of farming.
[00:39:53.650]What do the national standards actually require?
[00:39:56.910]Do they require crop rotation?
[00:40:03.780]Let me say that again, the national standards
[00:40:06.110]do not require, specifically, crop rotation.
[00:40:10.480]What they require is that you are maintaining
[00:40:14.030]or improving soil organic matter content,
[00:40:16.710]providing pest management in annual and perennial crops,
[00:40:19.510]managing deficient or excessive plant nutrients,
[00:40:21.800]providing erosion control.
[00:40:23.450]Essentially what the rotation standard says,
[00:40:25.880]and this is obviously something that
[00:40:29.470]requires interpretation by the certifier.
[00:40:32.200]The standard says that you need to be maintaining
[00:40:35.540]soil function, rather than stating that you need to have
[00:40:38.150]a specific number of crops in rotation.
[00:40:43.070]So simple rotation, such as corn-soybean,
[00:40:45.550]or continuous corn without cover crops
[00:40:48.510]are not explicitly prohibited.
[00:40:51.480]I said that incorrectly, continuous corn with cover crops
[00:40:54.740]are not explicitly prohibited.
[00:40:57.830]That said, it is often difficult to put together
[00:41:02.110]a farming system that achieves these functions,
[00:41:07.280]if we have a system that's too simple.
[00:41:10.920]Our particular certifier that we work with
[00:41:13.240]for our research farm is up in Wisconsin,
[00:41:15.900]and I asked him about, what do you do when a farmer says
[00:41:20.460]I want to grow continuous corn, or just corn-soybeans?
[00:41:23.980]And they described how basically they have this
[00:41:27.340]boilerplate letter that they send.
[00:41:30.390]And then after they've sent this letter,
[00:41:32.930]then they specifically start asking questions.
[00:41:37.501]They start asking, well are you actually
[00:41:40.506]increasing or maintaining organic matter?
[00:41:43.790]Are your pests and weeds being controlled adequately?
[00:41:47.410]How are your fertility levels?
[00:41:49.240]Are their erosion concerns?
[00:41:51.360]And the bottom line is I think this requires
[00:41:55.640]a level of engagement by the certifier that
[00:42:00.140]may be more than you realized.
[00:42:02.910]But it also doesn't strictly tie the hands of the farmer
[00:42:07.790]and say no you can't respond to the marketplace.
[00:42:11.240]You have to grow these specific crops in rotation.
[00:42:15.060]And so I like the idea that organic
[00:42:18.130]farmers can respond to the marketplace.
[00:42:20.900]But at the same time they shouldn't be overly driven by
[00:42:25.450]chasing that highest net revenue, they need to recognize
[00:42:31.290]they need to maintain these functions.
[00:42:33.100]If they're pests and weeds are getting out of control,
[00:42:35.680]obviously the revenue isn't going to continue to come.
[00:42:42.110]So how do we use rotation to reduce weed pressure?
[00:42:45.120]That's one of the key issues in organic farming
[00:42:47.670]that we'll go into in more detail this afternoon,
[00:42:50.930]or sorry later this morning, but let's just
[00:42:53.450]go through a few concepts real quickly.
[00:42:56.250]With rotations we can prevent seed production.
[00:42:58.860]There are certain phases of a rotation,
[00:43:01.120]for example the hay phase, or a
[00:43:04.338]small grain phase where it is easier
[00:43:06.541]to prevent seed production.
[00:43:10.710]We can promote seed predation, decay, and dormancy.
[00:43:13.800]Basically we can let nature deplete the weed pressure.
[00:43:20.989]And practices such as delaying tillage,
[00:43:23.370]maintaining cover, extending break periods.
[00:43:26.650]We'll talk about this more my second presentation,
[00:43:29.160]but basically we can promote the soil biology,
[00:43:33.150]and also physical processes in
[00:43:37.610]basically reducing the weed seed bank.
[00:43:42.410]We can use system strategies,
[00:43:44.560]such as productive fallow periods.
[00:43:48.390]We think of fallow, often, as
[00:43:50.670]a period when nothing is happening.
[00:43:52.550]But fallow can be strategic.
[00:43:55.340]It can be bare fallow where we have no vegetation,
[00:43:58.160]versus vegetative fallow where we have cover crops planted.
[00:44:02.250]But we need to think about the possibility of having
[00:44:06.090]productive fallow periods, whether they be short
[00:44:08.850]or full season, they are real opportunities.
[00:44:13.860]We need to think about tillage systems
[00:44:16.500]like ridge till, for example.
[00:44:18.690]I know in the central corn belt, like Illinois for example,
[00:44:22.980]Iowa, there are very few ridge tillers left.
[00:44:25.740]I think there are a few more in Nebraska.
[00:44:28.380]And the evidence is really clear that ridge till
[00:44:32.530]can do a great job of reducing in row weed pressure.
[00:44:37.520]And then obviously ley rotations, where we rotate
[00:44:41.130]between annuals and perennial sod, we can do a great job
[00:44:45.220]of preventing seed production, promoting those processes,
[00:44:50.710]seed predation, decaying dormancy,
[00:44:53.050]and in the process we reduce our weed pressure.
[00:45:02.240]About reducing risk.
[00:45:05.460]How is rotation going to reduce our risk?
[00:45:09.200]I've already talked about this a little bit, but let's
[00:45:11.436]dig into a little bit deeper, in a Nebraska context.
[00:45:16.440]Some of you may know Jim Bender,
[00:45:19.540]Willow Springs, Nebraska I believe.
[00:45:21.960]I have not met Jim Bender, but over 20 years ago
[00:45:25.210]I enjoyed reading this book and I've never
[00:45:27.920]forgotten something that I read back in the 90s.
[00:45:32.070]Jim Bender states it's more important for organic farmers
[00:45:34.820]to minimize the minimums then to maximize the maximums.
[00:45:41.160]What in the world does that mean?
[00:45:43.360]Well basically what he's saying is that
[00:45:46.560]avoiding crop failure is more important
[00:45:49.960]than chasing the highest yield or profit potential.
[00:45:54.540]We're trying to avoid those years when we have
[00:45:57.360]minimal production, rather than have those few years
[00:46:02.860]where we get the highest possible yields.
[00:46:08.400]Think about that.
[00:46:10.770]I'll give you some examples from our research farm.
[00:46:13.920]We have found that later planting,
[00:46:16.810]sometimes is just absolutely necessary because,
[00:46:19.750]for example, this last season we had about 45 days where we
[00:46:24.680]couldn't do anything, it just was so wet.
[00:46:28.730]We didn't plant any soybeans on our farm until July first,
[00:46:32.320]and we finished planting our soybean lots on July second.
[00:46:36.180]So basically all of our soybeans were planted about a month,
[00:46:39.409]a month to month and a half later than we normally plant.
[00:46:44.070]I'm sure we lost some yield potential.
[00:46:47.810]But at the same time,
[00:46:48.670]we had dramatically reduced weed pressure.
[00:46:51.550]And so it was much easier to control weeds in those crops.
[00:46:54.410]This happens to be an interesting situation.
[00:46:58.120]Now, I'll show in more detail in my next presentation.
[00:47:01.890]But we did a single pass with a rotavator.
[00:47:07.550]We came back about four hours later
[00:47:09.920]with our 1760 John Deere planter with the rows
[00:47:15.800]set with aggressive residue managers.
[00:47:18.830]And we moved this thick residue out of the way.
[00:47:24.720]What was proceeding was a mix of forage peas and some weeds.
[00:47:30.250]We had planned to plant corn in this field.
[00:47:33.200]So we had planted forage pea as a spring planted cover
[00:47:37.040]to precede the corn, planted back actually on March 28th.
[00:47:41.560]And then we just had so much rain that eventually we
[00:47:45.230]lost our window of opportunity for planting corn.
[00:47:47.920]But we tilled in that residue,
[00:47:51.210]but only tilled two inches deep.
[00:47:54.435]So we still had firm soil at the depth
[00:47:57.080]that we wanted to plant our corn seed.
[00:47:59.710]But we were able to use the residue managers
[00:48:01.490]to move the residue out of the way,
[00:48:04.630]and then the system worked beautifully.
[00:48:07.140]We had minimal weed pressure.
[00:48:09.440]Rotary hoeing and row cultivation worked
[00:48:11.560]very effective with just one pass of rotary hoe,
[00:48:14.990]one pass with the row cultivator.
[00:48:17.080]And we ended up with excellent yields.
[00:48:21.170]For a July second planting date, I think 50 bushels corn,
[00:48:26.900]sorry 50 bushels of soy beans is very acceptable.
[00:48:32.490]There are other crops other than soybeans
[00:48:34.280]that can be planted late, like sunflowers.
[00:48:36.780]We struggle with finding a market for our sunflowers.
[00:48:41.520]But they have fit very nicely,
[00:48:43.417]certain seasons when we weren't able to get things
[00:48:45.870]planted until later, we had good success with weed control,
[00:48:50.320]that obviously makes the next crops less risky.
[00:48:58.140]And then, occasionally,
[00:49:01.290]you might even want to have a fallow period.
[00:49:05.040]By fallow, in this case, I'm talking about actually
[00:49:08.000]a whole season you don't have a cash crop.
[00:49:13.690]Periodic inclusion of fallow can be a problem solving,
[00:49:16.750]and profit promoting phase in your crop rotation.
[00:49:21.011]How could not having any revenue for
[00:49:24.410]a season actually be profit promoting?
[00:49:27.300]Well the reality is that that fallow period may
[00:49:30.886]improve the productivity of your next season so greatly,
[00:49:35.650]improve the effectiveness of your practices so greatly,
[00:49:40.920]that you can be much more efficient,
[00:49:42.570]use less inputs, have more effective weed control.
[00:49:46.130]And the result actually can be so much more yield
[00:49:49.657]that you actually have greater profit
[00:49:52.540]from one year of high yielding corn, or other crops,
[00:49:59.030]that you don't need to actually have any profit,
[00:50:02.730]or any revenue during the fallow year.
[00:50:06.810]Here's an example.
[00:50:08.940]We've had a lot of success with organic no till beans.
[00:50:12.450]But sometimes they don't succeed.
[00:50:14.500]In 2017 we had a very weedy field.
[00:50:17.980]We had some successful organic no till beans that season.
[00:50:20.820]But this particular field,
[00:50:22.840]we planted the beans with a drill.
[00:50:26.010]It was a very dry season at that time of the season.
[00:50:29.140]And the drill didn't successfully place the seed
[00:50:32.410]into moisture, and we ended up with
[00:50:34.050]a poor stand of beans, and lots of weeds.
[00:50:38.420]So in August I decided to pull the plug.
[00:50:41.320]And I actually tilled in all the beans,
[00:50:44.280]all the weeds, before the weeds went to seed.
[00:50:47.320]And I really wrestled with whether
[00:50:49.050]this was the right thing to do.
[00:50:51.500]But the next season I was extremely
[00:50:53.970]pleased with how it worked out.
[00:50:56.200]We ended up with that whole field
[00:50:58.970]averaged 225 bushels per acre.
[00:51:03.600]That would to be more than 30 bushels per acre
[00:51:10.590]higher than we normally achieve, on average.
[00:51:13.900]And we were able to achieve that with relatively low inputs,
[00:51:18.540]just two tons of pelletized chicken litter per acre.
[00:51:22.190]And we also only did one rotary hoeing, one row cultivation.
[00:51:27.830]The soil was extremely mellow, the weed pressure was low,
[00:51:31.040]we had excellent weed control, and the whole system
[00:51:34.428]worked out to be significantly more profitable
[00:51:38.430]than if we had taken a poor bean harvest,
[00:51:41.670]and then ended up with an average
[00:51:45.450]to less than average corn crop the next season.
[00:51:48.320]So fallow really can pay sometimes.
[00:51:55.150]Speaking of organic no till,
[00:51:58.570]where does that best fit into an organic crop rotation?
[00:52:02.400]This is a critically important thing.
[00:52:03.950]If you're thinking I want to try organic no till,
[00:52:06.670]you really need to think about
[00:52:09.250]how do you set yourself up for success.
[00:52:15.780]The majority of farmers that are trying organic,
[00:52:18.420]no till soybeans try to do it following corn.
[00:52:23.603]But is that really the best strategy?
[00:52:27.030]The reality is that establishing a
[00:52:29.900]strong stand of cereal rye, or other small grains,
[00:52:33.580]after corn harvest into all those residues
[00:52:38.140]that interfere with your planting equipment,
[00:52:40.620]that interfere with nitrogen availability,
[00:52:43.510]it is simply difficult.
[00:52:45.790]Not every season is impossible.
[00:52:49.440]But it's difficult to establish a really
[00:52:51.970]strong stand of cereal rye after corn.
[00:52:54.360]And then, if you don't have that strong stand
[00:52:56.590]of cereal rye, it's very difficult to have
[00:52:59.040]successful organic no till beans.
[00:53:02.680]We have shifted to a less risky rotation.
[00:53:05.137]And this is actually working so much better.
[00:53:10.430]We use tillage ahead of our corn,
[00:53:12.960]and normally following corn.
[00:53:16.980]Following corn, a small grain like wheat might be
[00:53:21.510]challenging unless you bring in some additional fertility.
[00:53:24.400]But a small grain like field peas actually works very well.
[00:53:28.740]Or we have more recently been doing
[00:53:31.170]mixtures of field peas and oats.
[00:53:33.950]After you've harvested your field peas, or your mixture,
[00:53:37.260]you're gonna have volunteer field peas.
[00:53:41.490]That fixes some more nitrogen.
[00:53:43.900]And then sometime maybe, the end of August,
[00:53:48.730]early September, you terminate your volunteer peas,
[00:53:52.960]you plant your rye, you've planted it so early that
[00:53:57.210]you don't need to use a whole lot of seed.
[00:53:59.320]One to one and a half bushels per acre has worked well.
[00:54:02.680]And you end up with an excellent stand.
[00:54:05.360]There's good nutrient availability,
[00:54:06.880]the seed germinates quickly.
[00:54:08.600]You have prepared a seed bed for planting.
[00:54:11.060]And your rye shows that you've taken good care of it.
[00:54:16.740]When you have a great stand of rye,
[00:54:19.310]no till soybeans can work very well.
[00:54:21.860]When you have a poor stand of rye,
[00:54:23.810]no till soybeans are almost guaranteed not to work.
[00:54:29.510]What other options are kind of tried
[00:54:31.900]and true and consistently work?
[00:54:33.840]Well, I can't specifically speak to Nebraska.
[00:54:37.320]But I know in much of the Midwest, frost seeded red clover,
[00:54:43.090]putting that small seed into a small grain,
[00:54:46.310]like wheat or oats, when the soil is freezing and thawing,
[00:54:50.950]and can basically bring that seed in,
[00:54:53.140]that's a tried and true approach.
[00:54:58.100]There's a great brand new publication on this,
[00:55:01.330]clover cover crop management, just was posted
[00:55:04.270]on the Practical Farmers of Iowa website.
[00:55:06.310]If you aren't familiar with PFI, they are a great
[00:55:10.090]source of resources, both online sources and,
[00:55:13.890]of course, they have lots of field days, lots of different
[00:55:18.070]ways that you can become part of their learning community.
[00:55:21.180]And this is an excellent resource on red clover management.
[00:55:26.780]We still use frost seeded red clover on some of our acres.
[00:55:30.050]But we actually have started doing less of it.
[00:55:34.070]Not because it's risky, but simply because
[00:55:39.101]as we have gone to more no till we've started
[00:55:42.380]to develop more perennial weed pressure.
[00:55:45.940]When you have perennial weeds developing,
[00:55:48.810]you need to think about when you can use tillage
[00:55:51.830]most effectively to control those perennial profit yields.
[00:55:55.380]And middle of the summer is really the most effective time.
[00:56:00.870]So when we have a field that has
[00:56:04.600]some perennial weed pressure, whether we're talking
[00:56:06.930]Canada thistle, or bindweed, horse nettle,
[00:56:11.110]we normally, after small grain harvest,
[00:56:14.150]like after pea harvest, we will have a fallow period,
[00:56:18.610]maybe a month where we keep that soil without
[00:56:22.100]any vegetation to make sure that we
[00:56:24.500]have really set back the perennial weeds.
[00:56:28.830]Then we will plant a mixture,
[00:56:31.860]might be this mixture you see here,
[00:56:33.610]sunflower, sunn hemp, radish, mustard, oats.
[00:56:36.780]And then, of course, we would have volunteer yellow peas,
[00:56:40.440]or whatever the previous crop was,
[00:56:42.500]we're gonna have some volunteers.
[00:56:44.050]And a mix like that, as long as you have moisture,
[00:56:48.280]can grow amazingly well.
[00:56:50.750]Now the challenge, the reason why the frost seeded
[00:56:53.440]red clover is so tried and true is it just essentially
[00:56:57.690]always works, because you are less likely to have
[00:57:01.150]insufficient moisture for the clover to establish.
[00:57:03.900]But the bottom line is that even if that warm season mix
[00:57:07.770]following small grain has to sit in the ground,
[00:57:10.230]dry ground for a while, it normally eventually will
[00:57:13.430]start to grow and can produce quite a bit of biomass,
[00:57:16.578]basically soil health enhancing effects.
[00:57:21.810]Here's another diverse mix, soybeans, cowpeas, sunflower,
[00:57:26.600]sesbania, radish, T-raptor, which is a brassica,
[00:57:30.900]and even some chia, chia as in Chia Pets.
[00:57:35.570]Believe it or not, it is a species that
[00:57:39.190]germinates really fast, tiny tiny seed,
[00:57:41.610]that can turn into a big beautiful plant.
[00:57:43.950]And so we've been actually working with chia a little bit.
[00:57:48.520]This was following a mix of oats and peas,
[00:57:50.810]so of course we had volunteer oats and peas.
[00:57:52.980]And we ended up with an excellent stand of cover crop that
[00:57:56.680]set us up really well for the next corn crop.
[00:58:02.720]The number one way to make these mixes pay is to graze them.
[00:58:09.200]You can obviously reduce your cost of feeding your animals,
[00:58:14.100]have an animal product to sell, and
[00:58:18.040]recycle your nutrients very effectively.
[00:58:21.810]It's possible, like on our research farm,
[00:58:24.310]we don't have any livestock.
[00:58:25.530]But every time I look at one of these beautiful summer mixes
[00:58:28.600]I think wow, we really need to find a way to
[00:58:31.830]get some livestock on our farm.
[00:58:33.830]Even if you don't have an enterprise on your farm,
[00:58:39.170]you might want to think about bringing in
[00:58:41.950]stockers just for the season.
[00:58:44.845]There are ways to make this work
[00:58:47.020]without having a cow, calf operation.
[00:58:51.279]One thing that we have done as an alternative to grazing is
[00:58:55.680]we've run this, we have a neighbor that
[00:58:58.330]has a custom cover crop planting enterprise.
[00:59:02.280]And so he came over with his SALFORD, and he ran through
[00:59:06.630]a mix that was kind of like this mix here.
[00:59:09.780]And the bottom line was he sized that mix,
[00:59:16.180]and then he planted cereal rye at the same time.
[00:59:22.550]A really low rate of cereal rye,
[00:59:24.410]just 12 pounds of rye per acre,
[00:59:27.510]actually produced more biomass than one bushel per acre
[00:59:30.610]of cereal rye drilled into corn stalks.
[00:59:33.970]How did that happen?
[00:59:35.160]Well, basically each cereal rye plant
[00:59:38.140]had a great environment, plenty of nutrient availability,
[00:59:42.760]very limited competition with other rye plants,
[00:59:45.640]and so we ended up with lots of rye biomass
[00:59:50.640]without having to plant very much seed.
[00:59:53.720]That goes back to why it is difficult to
[00:59:57.870]do organic no till beans following corn,
[01:00:00.420]because it's difficult to get your rye to really grow well.
[01:00:05.030]Another opportunity here that started out as a challenge.
[01:00:09.760]We have a fair amount of volunteer rye
[01:00:12.830]after an organic no till soybean experiment.
[01:00:15.260]The soybeans grew great, but
[01:00:17.030]a fair amount of the rye set seed.
[01:00:20.490]So we had to think about what do we want
[01:00:21.910]to do with all that volunteer rye?
[01:00:24.070]Well we made it into an opportunity.
[01:00:26.870]We spring planted oats, peas, and mustard
[01:00:30.040]second week of March, and we ended up with a beautiful mix,
[01:00:32.940]where we had fall and spring seeded covers.
[01:00:37.680]And that preceded pumpkins, and grew a great pumpkin crop.
[01:00:44.090]We have mostly been using rye, or triticale
[01:00:47.100]ahead of our organic no till beans.
[01:00:48.680]But we are thinking about ways that we can
[01:00:51.530]add a little more diversity to maybe improve the system.
[01:00:55.220]So this past fall we planted triticale, 90 pounds per acre,
[01:01:00.690]with a small amount of radish, one pound per acre.
[01:01:06.450]We also did plots where we interceded buckwheat,
[01:01:09.400]forage pea, crimson clover, with the triticale.
[01:01:13.300]And we'll see some of those, obviously will not overwinter,
[01:01:16.420]some of them will, we'll see how that sets us up
[01:01:19.700]for successful or less successful no till organic soybeans.
[01:01:24.050]We have had a lot of good success with the system.
[01:01:26.400]We've grown more than 70 bushel soybeans, no till,
[01:01:29.700]organic no till soybeans on multiple occasions.
[01:01:32.930]But we need to figure out ways
[01:01:35.100]to make this system more reliable.
[01:01:39.850]Here's an interesting approach.
[01:01:41.670]We have access to precision AG technologies,
[01:01:45.330]for example planting with RTK guidance.
[01:01:48.410]So here's something we tried two years ago.
[01:01:52.170]Fall of 2018 we planted alternating twin rows
[01:01:55.880]of triticale, and alternating twin rows of oats and radish.
[01:02:00.360]The triticale should overwinter,
[01:02:02.030]the oats and radish should winterkill.
[01:02:08.265]So here's what it looked like a few weeks later.
[01:02:12.260]Here's what it looked like after
[01:02:14.368]we had some sub zero temperatures.
[01:02:17.610]Oats a radish are dead, triticale is looking great.
[01:02:21.160]Now the question for you to think about is,
[01:02:23.130]where should we plant the no till soybeans?
[01:02:27.620]Maybe the most obvious place will be in that dead residue,
[01:02:30.710]where the oats and peas were, but that was not our plan.
[01:02:33.790]Our plan was actually to put the no till soybeans
[01:02:37.300]right between the triticale rows,
[01:02:40.540]and then to use a high residue cultivator to
[01:02:45.610]keep the weeds out of the zone where
[01:02:49.220]the winterkill cover crops were.
[01:02:53.370]So things were looking good,
[01:02:55.730]except it was starting to rain.
[01:02:58.830]This is spring 2019 now, and we were starting
[01:03:01.580]to get some drown out areas in this field.
[01:03:05.200]Ultimately, by late May, a third of the triticale
[01:03:08.770]had been killed by flooding, and a lot more of
[01:03:11.170]the triticale had been compromised by flooding,
[01:03:13.780]and we ended up pulling the plug on this experiment.
[01:03:16.780]Because, if you don't have a good stand of your
[01:03:19.140]small grain there's just no reason
[01:03:21.140]to proceed with a no till planting of beans.
[01:03:26.260]But we observed something really interesting.
[01:03:28.850]Where the twin rows of triticale had the gaps
[01:03:32.000]that had no winterkill covers,
[01:03:35.480]the winterkill covers were were dead,
[01:03:37.866]we had more than 75% more biomass per row foot.
[01:03:42.100]So basically we had much healthier more vigorous growth
[01:03:44.710]of the triticale, as compared to where the triticale
[01:03:48.823]was just planted every seven and a half inch rows.
[01:03:53.940]What that says to me is if we didn't have the flooding,
[01:03:57.180]we probably would have had better in row
[01:04:00.370]weed control if we had planted our beans
[01:04:02.800]right between those triticale rows.
[01:04:05.120]And then we would have had nice mellow soil
[01:04:09.070]in between where we could have effective cultivation.
[01:04:14.266]With no till planting systems cultivation is possible
[01:04:18.340]if you're on a wide row system like 30 inch rows.
[01:04:20.910]But cultivation with a single sweep isn't
[01:04:25.100]nearly as effective as when you are able to
[01:04:28.800]fracture the soil, and flow it more effectively.
[01:04:30.970]So what we were trying to do with this system was
[01:04:33.630]to have better in row weed control from the triticale,
[01:04:36.620]and then better cultivation effectiveness
[01:04:39.930]where we had the winterkill cover crop.
[01:04:43.010]We haven't succeeded with this system yet,
[01:04:45.650]but we'll give it another try.
[01:04:49.070]Just to try and wrap up where we're at now,
[01:04:52.400]in terms of putting together more diverse farming systems.
[01:04:55.360]We have been trying wider rows, what we call
[01:04:59.130]solar corridors in recent years.
[01:05:01.310]This was our first attempt.
[01:05:03.100]We planted some corn on 60 inch rows.
[01:05:05.940]Basically, we kept the same population so our 30 inch
[01:05:10.079]corn would normally be at about 30,000,
[01:05:12.750]so we set the 60 inch corn for 60,000.
[01:05:17.390]That's really high, about the size our
[01:05:20.020]planter transmission could plant.
[01:05:21.968]But the result was we were able to grow
[01:05:26.140]lots of cowpea biomass in between.
[01:05:29.150]And with the wide spacing even though the plants
[01:05:34.230]were crammed shoulder to shoulder, they still
[01:05:38.390]looked pretty healthy throughout the whole season.
[01:05:40.930]We took a yield hit, about 20% less yield.
[01:05:44.960]But we grew five to ten times more legume biomass
[01:05:48.060]in between, and we had excellent we control.
[01:05:50.560]So this was our first taste.
[01:05:52.840]It wasn't perfect, because of that big yield hit.
[01:05:55.940]But it gave us a
[01:05:59.240]sense that we should go forward with this system.
[01:06:03.680]The following season in that same field,
[01:06:06.280]we planted oats because we wanted to see
[01:06:08.090]what the legacy effect would be.
[01:06:10.000]Everywhere that we had the cow pea,
[01:06:14.010]either growing between 60 inch rows or between 30 inch rows,
[01:06:18.954]as we had both of those systems out in that field,
[01:06:21.660]everywhere that we followed cow pea we had
[01:06:24.200]significantly more oat biomass.
[01:06:26.670]We didn't actually take the oats to grain,
[01:06:29.210]but we harvested plots of oat biomass.
[01:06:31.077]And it was very clear, just in terms of the color
[01:06:33.770]of the oats, and the biomass productivity,
[01:06:36.060]that we were getting a benefit from those cow peas.
[01:06:42.520]We have also been working with cow peas planted in
[01:06:46.480]to 30 inch corn, typically when the corn is about V5.
[01:06:51.950]This is kind of complicated.
[01:06:53.727]It's not ideal to be coming back,
[01:06:56.440]and trying to plant into your corn stands,
[01:06:59.740]but we've been developing ways to do it.
[01:07:06.120]Depending on the weather you can get
[01:07:08.730]a significant amount of cow pea growth.
[01:07:10.960]Cow pea, these are very shade tolerant.
[01:07:12.710]So they will grow under the corn.
[01:07:14.350]They don't grow nearly as well between 30 inch rows
[01:07:16.600]as 60 inch rows, but you can get some biomass.
[01:07:21.430]2019 was our third season of trying this.
[01:07:25.460]In 2018 we actually had significantly higher corn yields,
[01:07:29.930]where we had interceded cow peas.
[01:07:32.450]I don't know exactly what the mechanism was,
[01:07:34.430]but something promoted better corn growth
[01:07:38.090]when we had the cow peas interceded.
[01:07:40.620]2017 and 19, we didn't have any effect on yield.
[01:07:44.180]So basically in three seasons of trying this, we never lost
[01:07:46.970]corn yield, and one year we actually picked up corn yield.
[01:07:50.410]And we grew legume biomass that basically,
[01:07:54.410]while it may not routinely enhance the corn yield,
[01:07:58.800]it can enhance the productivity of your next crop.
[01:08:05.130]So here's where we are at today in terms of interceding
[01:08:10.150]soybeans, or sorry, interceding a legume into corn.
[01:08:14.950]Our 2019 approach to this was, we skipped every third row
[01:08:21.290]rather than every other row, and we planted
[01:08:24.810]forage soybeans at the same time as we planted the corn.
[01:08:28.080]So we just took out every third seed disk.
[01:08:31.410]And rather than planting corn, we put in a bean disk.
[01:08:35.300]And we planted the corn at 45,000, and the beans at 128,000.
[01:08:43.964]That 45,000 population actually worked out
[01:08:46.780]to 30,000 per acre, but we were planning it on 45,000
[01:08:51.850]just for those two rows out of three.
[01:08:54.690]And so this is what it looked like.
[01:08:58.330]Plants that are on 45,000 population,
[01:09:02.650]that's a little bit less than five inches between plants.
[01:09:06.490]The in row canape developed rapidly.
[01:09:08.500]Cultivation was very easy.
[01:09:10.660]The soybeans that were planted at the same time
[01:09:12.830]as the corn were very easy to manage.
[01:09:15.730]We were able to rotary hoe and cultivate,
[01:09:19.449]as if it was just a uniform stand across the whole field.
[01:09:23.170]There was nothing special that needed to be done,
[01:09:25.600]and the system worked really well.
[01:09:28.870]We ended up with a lot of biomass
[01:09:30.500]produced by the forage soybeans.
[01:09:32.930]In terms of nitrogen fixation, we had about 65 pounds
[01:09:36.190]of nitrogen produced by soybeans growing in corn.
[01:09:42.650]Every third row was soybeans.
[01:09:44.770]Obviously we had plots that didn't have the forage soybeans.
[01:09:48.090]So we were able to compare across the field.
[01:09:50.940]But we had these plots where
[01:09:52.550]every third row was forage soybeans.
[01:09:54.240]And the amount of biomass production was quite impressive.
[01:10:00.360]Where we planted the same forage soybean
[01:10:02.290]variety without corn, we did have more
[01:10:05.590]forage soybean growth, about 50% more biomass.
[01:10:08.510]So clearly the corn was shading those forage soybeans.
[01:10:11.010]But planting at the same time as the corn,
[01:10:14.220]we were able to grow a substantial amount of biomass,
[01:10:17.830]much more biomass than the cow peas
[01:10:21.470]that were interceded into 30 inch corn.
[01:10:23.740]Basically about 90% more biomass was grown
[01:10:27.310]in those forage soybeans, as compared to when we just had
[01:10:30.520]the cow peas interceded at V5 into 30 inch corn.
[01:10:34.760]This is shortly before harvest.
[01:10:37.470]The corn yields were lower in our solar corridor plots
[01:10:40.923]then in our solid corn, but only about 10% lower.
[01:10:44.860]But we had excellent soybean biomass production.
[01:10:47.410]We had excellent weed control.
[01:10:49.140]And the system was very simple to manage.
[01:10:53.450]Bottom line is, we haven't achieved our goal yet,
[01:10:56.510]which is comparable yields, but I think we can do it.
[01:10:59.900]Next season we're going to apply a little bit more nitrogen
[01:11:03.430]banded between our twin rows of corn.
[01:11:07.865]I think we will continue to use the system
[01:11:10.670]where we have two rows of corn 30 inches apart,
[01:11:13.600]and then a row of a legume.
[01:11:15.990]And with a little extra nitrogen, I think we'll really
[01:11:19.950]be able to respond to that extra sunlight.
[01:11:22.480]And hopefully, if we get the right corn hybrid,
[01:11:26.150]with the right nitrogen availability,
[01:11:28.970]I think we can have comparable yields.
[01:11:33.270]Just to kind of wrap this all up,
[01:11:35.800]there are all sorts of interesting possibilities
[01:11:38.310]for companion and intercropping.
[01:11:40.774]If you want to read about some possibilities,
[01:11:44.420]this is a report by a British farmer, Andy Howard,
[01:11:48.730]who traveled the world back in 2016,
[01:11:51.970]visited a whole bunch of different countries
[01:11:53.560]looking at inter cropping systems all around the world.
[01:11:56.880]This is available for free download online.
[01:12:00.710]This is the kind of thing I look at to get
[01:12:02.640]ideas about things that we should try.
[01:12:04.940]And so there are lots of great pictures of systems,
[01:12:08.010]including some even in the American Midwest,
[01:12:11.900]but all around the world, pictures of all sorts
[01:12:14.890]of interesting equipment that farmers are coming up with
[01:12:17.320]to do these intercropping things effectively.
[01:12:19.480]Obviously they need ways to separate seed.
[01:12:21.335]They need ways to deliver seed that are different
[01:12:24.570]than if they're just planting one crop.
[01:12:27.720]I won't read through very much of this, but basically
[01:12:30.341]he found that there are successful innovators
[01:12:34.190]around the world that are achieving more yield.
[01:12:37.220]They are also needing more management.
[01:12:40.300]But basically people are making intercropping work.
[01:12:42.500]It is a possibility that is already working on some farms.
[01:12:48.610]One simple intercropping option that we
[01:12:50.900]have had work for us is combining oats and peas.
[01:12:58.430]Basically about two bushels of oats,
[01:13:00.070]with one bushel of forage, sorry of grain peas.
[01:13:03.410]This was our first year doing it.
[01:13:06.640]We got about 90 bushels of oats, about five bushels of peas.
[01:13:10.390]And that was an excellent feed for a local dairy farm.
[01:13:14.070]So they paid us more than they would have paid us for oats.
[01:13:17.700]Oats aren't a real valuable crop.
[01:13:20.260]But you add in some extra protein,
[01:13:22.230]and they become more valuable.
[01:13:25.240]So this worked well for us.
[01:13:26.510]We've now done it several years,
[01:13:28.100]and we're still fine tuning the system.
[01:13:31.020]But the dairy farmer still wants it, and we're still trying
[01:13:34.150]to figure out the best way to make this system work.
[01:13:38.870]One of the nicest benefits from the system is
[01:13:43.260]after you've harvested the oats and peas,
[01:13:45.100]you have a beautiful cover crop already planted.
[01:13:49.260]This was a particularly challenging year, 2019,
[01:13:51.760]because it was so wet and we had lots of flooding.
[01:13:54.380]So our oat and pea yields were poor.
[01:13:56.670]But we also had lots of light seed
[01:13:59.710]that got left in the field.
[01:14:02.050]And we did one pass with a vertical tillage tool,
[01:14:06.150]we applied some manure, and we ended up with
[01:14:09.650]this beautiful stand of oats and peas
[01:14:11.820]that we didn't have to plant a seed.
[01:14:15.330]Now we're gonna grow some beautiful corn in 2020, I hope.
[01:14:19.730]So just to, I guess conclude with one key thought.
[01:14:24.630]When we think about farming system strategies,
[01:14:27.260]we don't want to lose sight of
[01:14:29.510]the need for individual practices.
[01:14:31.390]Sometimes, as you can read here, we need to do things
[01:14:34.440]that alleviate physical, or chemical,
[01:14:37.270]or biological barriers to root growth.
[01:14:41.080]But at the same time we want to keep in mind
[01:14:43.770]that our farming system strategy
[01:14:46.160]is what you can read at the very bottom.
[01:14:48.850]We're trying to grow strategic sequences of crops and cover
[01:14:53.480]crops to maximize a positive cycle of root zone improvement.
[01:14:58.440]That's not something where there's a formula how to do it.
[01:15:00.670]But when we have that as our goal,
[01:15:03.630]we can put together farming systems that
[01:15:07.070]are designed to do that as well as we can.
[01:15:10.640]And I guess I would leave that in your court.
[01:15:15.100]You have to figure out what to do with that idea.
[01:15:17.400]But think about what farming systems you can
[01:15:21.920]put together they will give you that
[01:15:23.940]strategic sequence of root zone improvement.
[01:15:29.580]And with that I'll end this presentation.
[01:15:31.710]Thank you guys.
[01:15:42.929]You got a few minutes for questions
[01:15:46.810]before you do your other talk,
[01:15:48.500]and then we're gonna take a little break.
[01:15:53.770]Can you hear me Joel?
[01:15:54.950]I could hear you just fine, I don't know if,
[01:15:57.505]I don't know if I'll be able to hear people in the audience.
[01:16:01.535]Well we'll use, you can hear me.
[01:16:03.580]We'll use a microphone.
[01:16:06.520]Any questions for Joel?
[01:16:07.990]Are you gonna be able to be on the panel at
[01:16:11.690]whatever it is, three o'clock or 2:30?
[01:16:14.890]I should be able to do that.
[01:16:16.805]I'm gonna try to teach a class at noon today.
[01:16:22.110]And then when I finish with that,
[01:16:23.660]I am available to come back and join you guys.
[01:16:28.960]Any questions for now?
[01:16:33.590]Oh, yes sir?
[01:16:37.960]Okay, very elementary thing.
[01:16:41.500]You didn't touch too much on burn down,
[01:16:45.510]or mechanical methods of preparing
[01:16:49.300]the plot for the next planting.
[01:16:51.993]I guess maybe there's a lot of assumptions
[01:16:54.670]on your part that we're not clued in to.
[01:16:57.870]So if you want to elaborate on any of those types of things?
[01:17:06.080]Basically I guess that goes back to the very beginning
[01:17:09.420]slide, where you have to think about what your context is.
[01:17:14.190]In the context of Nebraska, the growers that
[01:17:16.950]I'm familiar with are starting to use more and more
[01:17:20.750]high speed discs, and more and more cover crops that.
[01:17:27.970]So this would be preceding corn, for example.
[01:17:32.470]You might harvest a small grain in the middle of the summer,
[01:17:36.400]plant a cover crop mix that might be
[01:17:40.820]heavy on hairy vetch, maybe 25 pounds to the acre,
[01:17:45.760]and then also have a little bit of rye,
[01:17:48.580]maybe a little bit of a brassica.
[01:17:50.990]And basically end up with a really strong stand of
[01:17:55.520]cover crop that's planted early enough
[01:17:57.480]that you can get significant fall growth.
[01:17:59.670]And then the vetch and the rye will overwinter.
[01:18:04.230]And you'll be able to have substantial spring growth
[01:18:09.010]if you allow it to grow into early May.
[01:18:12.240]Then you might come back with a Lemken,
[01:18:16.040]or a Horsh Joker, or a Landoll,
[01:18:18.970]the various high speed discs that are available.
[01:18:22.100]And we don't have one of those tools.
[01:18:24.910]We have a rotavator that we use.
[01:18:27.710]And the bottom line is you want a tool that can get
[01:18:34.419]excellent termination of your cover,
[01:18:39.550]good sizing of the cover residue.
[01:18:42.390]You don't need to have it all buried
[01:18:47.660]if you have your planter set up properly,
[01:18:50.030]to be able to move residues out of the row.
[01:18:52.580]I know there's some growers in Nebraska
[01:18:54.890]that are actually planting the very next day.
[01:18:57.510]Might be ideal to wait a week or more.
[01:19:00.420]But as long as you have your residue moved out of the row,
[01:19:04.150]and you're planting your seed into the firm soil,
[01:19:07.758]what you end up with is this residue layer on the surface
[01:19:13.150]that's not interfering with your cash crop,
[01:19:16.220]but is highly suppressive of weeds,
[01:19:18.100]and really sets you up for effective use of
[01:19:21.330]your rotary hoe, and your cultivator.
[01:19:23.310]But your tools have to be set properly,
[01:19:26.270]otherwise obviously, the residue can plug on you.
[01:19:29.270]But being able to flow a lot of residue
[01:19:33.990]with your rotary hoe and your row cultivator,
[01:19:38.290]allows you to have highly effective weed control in row.
[01:19:43.310]And I guess that's what I would say in terms of
[01:19:48.020]kind of a basic approach in terms of preparing
[01:19:50.790]your field for success with with a corn crop.
[01:19:56.620]There are a variety of tools that are out there.
[01:19:59.120]You've got to work with what you have.
[01:20:01.270]And the system of having living cover
[01:20:05.900]that you terminate shortly before planting your corn crop,
[01:20:09.640]I think is becoming increasingly popular,
[01:20:13.360]both in Nebraska and in the central corn belt.
[01:20:18.030]Okay, thank you.
[01:20:23.000]There was a question in the chat box.
[01:20:24.870]I don't know if you see that, about--
[01:20:27.040]I don't see that.
[01:20:28.500]Tillage, and soil health.
[01:20:34.259]A trade off as far as tillage.
[01:20:36.270]Yeah, that's a very valid concern.
[01:20:40.220]And I guess what I'm seeing is when we are incorporating
[01:20:44.500]living covers, rather than just dead residue,
[01:20:48.630]we normally have a very positive effect on soil structure.
[01:20:54.020]When you have that positive effect on soil structure,
[01:20:56.740]that improving of the crumb structure,
[01:20:59.350]you are building organic matter, even with tillage.
[01:21:03.670]And you are having the conservation effects
[01:21:06.950]that you might think you need to have full no till.
[01:21:11.150]And certainly in some landscapes,
[01:21:13.300]maybe full no till is absolutely the way to go.
[01:21:15.580]But you're able to have such good soil structure
[01:21:19.600]that you have excellent infiltration.
[01:21:21.560]And erosion is basically an infiltration problem.
[01:21:24.760]If you don't have the infiltration,
[01:21:26.470]you get runoff, and particle detachment, and soil loss.
[01:21:30.920]But if we can have such porous soils
[01:21:34.600]that the water moves into the soil,
[01:21:37.820]we have minimal runoff, and minimal erosion.
[01:21:41.200]That's what we're seeing.
[01:21:44.020]We don't have a highly erodible landscape
[01:21:46.070]on our research farm, so we are in a different context
[01:21:49.610]than some of the rolling hills in Nebraska.
[01:21:53.430]But the bottom line is that there are farmers
[01:21:56.580]that are using tillage in rotation
[01:22:03.320]in a way that allows them to build soil health.
[01:22:07.900]We are doing now about half to
[01:22:10.530]two thirds of our soybeans no till.
[01:22:12.760]We plant more than two thirds of our small grains no till.
[01:22:18.050]And then we're using tillage ahead of corn.
[01:22:20.930]And that's an evolving system.
[01:22:24.080]Maybe eventually we'll have some no till corn.
[01:22:27.600]The reason why I'm not interested at this point
[01:22:31.020]of going to no till soybeans 100%,
[01:22:34.910]is because I want to continue to learn how to
[01:22:37.690]effectively cultivate beans in a tillage system.
[01:22:42.060]But we have had a lot of good success with no till soybeans.
[01:22:45.300]And, as I said before, the key is having
[01:22:47.870]a really good stand of cover crop.
[01:22:49.940]And the key to that, I think, is having the right rotation
[01:22:54.050]that allows you to plant your cover crop in a timely fashion
[01:22:58.390]where it's really likely to succeed.
[01:23:02.803]Any other questions?
[01:23:03.760]Yes sir, just a second.
[01:23:10.700]When you did your 60 inch corn,
[01:23:14.250]you had the cow peas in between the row?
[01:23:17.900]When you cultivated, how did you manage that?
[01:23:21.010]Did you just lift that section of the cultivator
[01:23:23.350]out of the ground and go over the corn, or what?
[01:23:26.910]Okay so what we did is we cultivated one time,
[01:23:31.810]and then planted the cow peas right after cultivation.
[01:23:36.440]So the corn was at about V5,
[01:23:39.150]and we had our cultivator set up for 30 inch rows.
[01:23:42.560]And where we were intending to plant,
[01:23:47.790]where we had the skipped rows, where we were intending
[01:23:49.980]to come back and plant the cow peas,
[01:23:51.894]we actually did something very makeshift.
[01:23:55.050]We just tied a wire flag between the cultivator sweeps.
[01:23:59.390]And so the wire took out the weeds that were in those rows.
[01:24:04.020]Obviously, we could set up our cultivator in a more
[01:24:08.340]permanent, or a more formal fashion to
[01:24:12.660]take out the weeds in those skip rows.
[01:24:15.320]But the wire flags did the job for us
[01:24:17.340]on the scale that we were doing it.
[01:24:20.974]We have set up cultivators before for 60 inch rows,
[01:24:24.660]because we've grown pumpkins on 60 inch rows.
[01:24:26.801]It's not a big deal.
[01:24:30.320]But I think the slickest system is
[01:24:32.930]what we tried this last season,
[01:24:34.380]where we planted the corn and beans at the same time,
[01:24:37.500]and just cultivated really with no
[01:24:40.410]significant changes to our operations,
[01:24:43.140]with our standard rotary hoe, and 30 inch row cultivators.
[01:24:48.720]Wouldn't the cow peas give the corn
[01:24:51.150]even more nitrogen than the soybeans did though?
[01:24:58.780]We didn't actually
[01:25:02.210]have more cow pea biomass than.
[01:25:06.730]When we grew the cow peas in 2018, we did have
[01:25:09.210]a substantial amount of cow pea biomass production.
[01:25:11.770]But the cow peas planted at V5 did not grow as much as our
[01:25:17.800]forage soybeans grew, planted at the same time as the corn.
[01:25:21.290]And so I don't think the cow peas would necessarily
[01:25:25.750]fix more nitrogen, they basically,
[01:25:31.980]they are more tolerant of shading than soybeans.
[01:25:37.550]They are more tolerant, I think, of drought than soybeans.
[01:25:43.580]But at the same time, there's limited
[01:25:47.890]availability of forage soybeans.
[01:25:51.210]Sorry, I said that incorrectly.
[01:25:52.530]Limited availability of the forage cow pea.
[01:25:55.330]The seed cost is fairly high.
[01:25:57.850]And I think a system where you can
[01:26:01.490]plant at the same time as the corn,
[01:26:03.720]and not be concerned about the cow pea
[01:26:06.340]vining excessively up the corn, is maybe the best system.
[01:26:11.905]Basically we had the cow peas starting to vine up
[01:26:15.280]the corn pretty substantially at the very end of the season,
[01:26:19.350]where the cow peas were planted at V5.
[01:26:21.750]And if they had been planted at the same time as the corn,
[01:26:24.690]I think they might have interfered with harvest.
[01:26:27.757]But they they didn't create any
[01:26:30.230]problem for harvest planet of V5.
[01:26:32.853]Our next generation system that we're shooting for in 2020
[01:26:37.600]is we will try some forage soybeans again,
[01:26:42.130]maybe some cow peas, and we will try actually doing
[01:26:45.620]a mowing in mid season to shred the residue
[01:26:52.300]of our forage soybean or cowpea,
[01:26:55.030]such that we get more nitrogen release to the corn.
[01:26:59.120]And we'll probably try spinning on some small
[01:27:05.920]cool season annual seed, like maybe annual rye grass,
[01:27:09.840]or rapeseed, or crimson clover at that same time.
[01:27:12.890]And so we'll end up with nitrogen release from our summer
[01:27:19.127]legume, and establishment of a cool season annual mix
[01:27:22.260]that won't do too much until the corn is harvested.
[01:27:27.397]But we'll really be able to make better use
[01:27:30.840]of our fall opportunity for growth.
[01:27:34.160]Joel, I had a question.
[01:27:35.190]What variety of cow pea did you plant?
[01:27:39.030]We have used Iron and Clay Cow Pea,
[01:27:42.070]and that's the main one that's available.
[01:27:46.119]There are lots of horticultural cow peas available,
[01:27:49.640]but they don't have nearly the biomass potential
[01:27:52.630]of a forage cow pea like Iron and Clay.
[01:27:56.360]And I think there are some other ones
[01:27:57.730]that are used globally, used in places like Australia.
[01:28:01.990]And we just need to get those seeds
[01:28:05.480]into our commercial marketplaces.
[01:28:08.020]I know that Green Cover Seed, in Nebraska
[01:28:11.160]was working on a a black forage cow pea.
[01:28:15.660]And I think they've had some production problems with it.
[01:28:20.130]The bottom line is that cow pea is an excellent
[01:28:25.460]summer annual legume and if we used cow pea,
[01:28:31.360]it would allow us to avoid having soybeans
[01:28:35.750]in our fields with such frequency.
[01:28:42.750]Ideally we don't want to have forage soybeans growing,
[01:28:47.309]or soybeans in general growing as many seasons as we would
[01:28:53.299]have if we had forage soybean as our component
[01:28:56.500]in the solar corridor corn system.
[01:29:00.599]The other thing that we're
[01:29:03.154]thinking about these days is whether
[01:29:05.030]we might want to actually have a rotation that
[01:29:10.490]only involves moving back and forth.
[01:29:14.360]So we would plant corn the next season,
[01:29:21.120]where we had the cow pea or the forage soybean.
[01:29:24.410]And we wouldn't be rotating corn from field to field.
[01:29:27.530]We'd be rotating corn 30 inches back and forth on the field.
[01:29:31.830]That's a concept we haven't gotten to yet,
[01:29:34.290]but that's something that we're thinking about.
[01:29:37.930]Let's take about,
[01:29:39.550]I got a question, Joel one more question.
[01:29:42.335]There's one in the chat box too, it looks like, Gary.
[01:29:45.227]I got that.
[01:29:46.102]You got that one?
[01:29:46.935]Joel here's a question.
[01:29:48.250]In transitioning from conventional to organic farming,
[01:29:53.360]it is my assumption at at some point in time
[01:29:56.270]you would like to reach equilibrium in terms of
[01:30:00.410]physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil.
[01:30:04.800]How long do you think that takes?
[01:30:08.790]Oh, that is a great question.
[01:30:10.727]Is that an incorrect assumption to make?
[01:30:12.501]Well, I mean I think that there are
[01:30:16.122]soil health changes that take multiple years to occur,
[01:30:20.930]that will improve the effectiveness
[01:30:23.170]of your organic farming system.
[01:30:26.700]As your soil develops better tilth,
[01:30:29.490]you will have more effective cultivation,
[01:30:31.820]you will have more effective predation of your weed seeds.
[01:30:37.500]Various things will start to improve.
[01:30:40.350]But I guess that I would say the transition
[01:30:44.730]is as much in the farmers head, as it is in his soils.
[01:30:48.200]Both things take several years to happen.
[01:30:51.330]The more cover crops you use, the more basically
[01:30:58.570]farming systems approaches you use,
[01:31:01.490]you will build your soil faster.
[01:31:04.080]And the more you, I guess, engage in
[01:31:10.290]effective continuous education the more effectively
[01:31:13.070]you will transition in your mind
[01:31:17.390]how to manage organic farming systems.
[01:31:22.503]Let's give him a hand.
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