Efficient and Regenerative Land Use, Part 2.
In this post I'm going to discuss what I'm doing to try to implement Regenerative Farming Methods on Carwood Farm along with some of the struggles I've experienced along the way.
What I've found to be the most significant challenge is to maintain weed control within the implementation process. I know by not tilling, thus not stirring up the seed bed that exists in all soils, at least a bit less of weed germination should occur. Also, by keeping the right things growing in the soil, year round, weeds can be shaded and choked out (theoretically).
One of my first experiments was to plant clover with corn. The idea was, the corn would outgrow the clover and not be hindered by it. Then the clover would grow and form a covering over the soil between the corn stalks. This covering would retain moisture in the soil, reduce erosion and act as a barrier to weed establishment. What ended up happening was the weeds overtook the clover and grew with the corn, ultimately choking out 3/4 of the corn crop. By the end of the corn growing season, I had a field full of 7' high weeds and a little bit of corn. By the time the corn was ready, the weeds had gone to seed making weeds even more of a problem for future crops and seasons.
After this experience I decided to focus on my crop rotations. I needed to find a rotation that gave me the highest production possible of the crops I needed for the farm plus the highest likelihood of being able to keep something growing year round. My current rotation is barley to beans to cereal rye to corn, then back to barley. This is a two year rotation. 2023 is year two of my first try. I have different fields at different places in the rotation as opposed to all my crop land being in the same crop at the same time. My first barley, bean and corn harvest were average of above average yields. In the fall of 2022, for the first time I planted barley after the corn and rye after the beans.
Barley should be planted in September, but my corn was not ready for harvest until the end of October. By planting barley that late, it did not grow enough to cover the ground before winter and left room for the spring weeds to get started. My plan is to plant my corn earlier this year in the hope it will harvest earlier this fall and allow me to get my barley started early enough to cover the ground before winter.
Last fall, I planted rye for the first time. Beans were not harvested until late November, so the rye was planted the day before Thanksgiving. I sprouted Jan. 5th which I thought was amazing! However, it grew very slowly throughout the rest of the winter and again, the early spring weeds have had a chance to grow because the rye did not cover the ground. I don't have a solution for this, as of yet.
I also started a field of alfalfa this March, 2023. I did not plant anything in this field the fall before, knowing I was going to plant the alfalfa. So the field sat empty over the winter. This gave me a place to spread winter manure. When it was ready to plant, there were enough spring weeds started that I had to minimal till disc the field. Otherwise the weeds would have choked out the alfalfa. I might try to start alfalfa in the fall, at some point, to see if that could be a possible solution, so I don't have to till.
As you can see, I have a lot to learn and a long way to go before I can say we are truly regenerative. It will take years to adjust planting timing, change my rotations of crops and other adjustments, until I get to a point that I have an effective method in place.
The concepts of Regenerative Farming are sound. The difficulty I've found with the implementation is that different crops grow differently regionally and even farm to farm. Each farm operation have different crop needs, as well. As a result there is not a singular guide any farmer can follow to implement the method. So, we are left to trial and error and that takes time.
In my Blog Post #14 I'll tell you the impact of introducing bee hives on the farm have had!
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