Selected Crop Yields and Management – Season One of three year USDA / NOFA Soil Health study of Reduced Tillage
Data below will reflect the Planting dates, Begin and End Harvest Dates and total Crop Yields. The selected crops were Carrots and Napa Cabbage, in Permanent Raised Beds. Also, Summer Squash and Green Beans in Field Beds. The Raised Beds were prepared for planting by mowing, solarization and hand seeding, using a pinpoint seeder. The Field Beds were prepared using our “Favorable Furrow” method, including ripping a single furrow, filling with compost, then lightly rototilling the top 1/2 inch of soil, incorporating some soil into the surface of the compost, to create a uniform surface for planting. No additional fertilizer was added, since the soil test results indicated plenty of fertility, though high pH. The Summer Squash and Green Beans were directly seeding using a jab planter and EarthWay push seeder, respectively.
We used large clear plastic sheets to solarize the Field Beds to be furrowed, before ripping, to kill back pre-existing vegetation. The Field Beds are 200′ long and managing the large sheets of plastic was not easy. After establishing the seeded crop, we lightly harrowed, either side of the crop, twice. The second harrowing, we attempted to establish clover along the edge of the crops, and the untilled pathways, between crops. The season was very wet, then extremely dry and hot, and the ideal scenario did not work out very well. Yields of Summer Squash were low. The first succession of green beans was a crop failure due to flooding, but 2nd and 3rd successions were decent.
General Observations included the following. Late season yields of carrots were the best, with very little damage from Carrot Rust fly in the third and fourth successions. Early season establishment of carrots, without tillage was difficult, as we were relying on solarization to kill existing vegetation, and early in the season the temperatures generated wasn’t enough to kill all the vegetation. Yields from the Field beds were disappointing and poor establishment of cover crops were factors we hope to improve in the second and third years of the Project. One success of the field beds were stale beds, that were prepared as normal, then planted to Barley, as a winter kill cover crop, with untilled pathways of clover between the beds.
See CIG 2019 Photo album in FLickr
Add Crop Yields Table
First season, Three year Soil Health Grant – sub focus, IPM Scouting.
Paige Sirak, a junior at South Hunterdon Regional Highschool, and multi term, Chapter President, of the local Future Farmers of America, performed weekly insect scouting, for two months. North Slope Farm is grateful for her generous donation of time and focus, notes and photos!
The USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, awarded to NOFA’s Mass., Conn. and New Jersey is collecting data from 3 farms, from three states, on reduced tillage practices. One piece of the data collection is Insect and Pest Management (IPM) Scouting, to see if there are any obvious signs of benefit or challenges, associated with our reduced tillage practices. Meredith Melendez, of Mercer County Rutgers Cooperative Extension, visited the participating farms, in New Jersey, and reviewed the primary insect pests and problems we wanted to scout for. Meredith provided data collection forms and background information on some of the primary pests.
We choose to monitor Summer Squash, Leafy Greens and Carrots. Insects we expected to see were Squash Bugs, Cabbage Worm, Flea Beetles, Shield Bugs, and in carrots we were unsure what kind of soil nematode has always given us trouble. The details of Paige’s scouting will be posted below, but in brief, here are some conclusions. Paige identified our carrot pest to be; Carrot Rust Fly. This was exciting because our hope is that reduced tillage will yield a more robust soil predator population, and we hoped to see a reduction in Carrot Rust Fly damage as soil was left undisturbed. We believe we saw reduced damage, by the end of the season. Another interesting observation was intense insect pressure on Napa Cabbage, that didn’t end up affecting the total yield much, allowing us to avoid spraying, despite the presence of pests.
The White Paper – “Soil Carbon Restoration, Can Biology Do the Job”, by Jack Kittredge, NOFA-Mass, 2015, is an excellent introduction to the topic of Carbon in our Climate, and the Potential to foster the power of Soil to Capture the Greenhouse Gas.
Click on the Title above to Link to the NOFA-Mass website (scroll down) and you’ll follow a link to download the Document (14 pages plus references).
Reading about Soil Carbon, and the Ecology of Bacteria and Fungi assisting the growth of plants, by exchanging soil nutrients for Carbon root Exudate, and Soil Fungi using Carbon Exudate to bridge gaps between soil particles, and roots, potentially forming “Glomalin”, should kinda blow your mind. Jack Kittredge does an excellent job, utilizing soil scientist research, to describe just why we care about Organic Agriculture, as a means to foster a healthy Living Soil.
The Current NSF practice for Planting, following the principal of the Bio-Extensive System, is the use of Favorable Furrows, including cultivation and inter cropping of clover cover crops to follow the Cash Crop. The Clover would then be allowed a year of growth.