Farming improvements

Jul 29, 2015

Improvements to our farming practices can have a positive influence on our financial and ecological health.

Over the next couple of news updates we are going to describe some of the improvements that we are looking to make in the next few seasons.  Anything we try is an improvement if it saves us money, improves the saleability of our produce, reduces erosion, increases biodiversity, reduces our carbon footprint amongst others.

The trials that we have been doing have been to use covers crops, to drill directly into stubbles and change the way in which the livestock graze.  The first of these is to use cover crops.

Sunlight is converted into biomass only when it falls on a green leaf so that any soil that is only covered by stubble, bare soil or golden grains ready to be harvested.  Rainfall can lead to erosion if it allowed a free path to the soil.  In our current rotation, winter barley might be harvested in August and spring oats sown in April.  In that time (contrary to popular opinion) there are many hours of sunlight and many centimetres of rain.  Growing a cover crop between 2 cash crops can keep the ground covered over the winter when the rain falls and take advantage of any sunlight during those months.

The covers that we have grown so far are stubble turnips, a small trial of vetch and we are trying a 6 way mix including mostly legumes this coming winter.  In order to make some of the costs back of establishing a cover, we like to graze them with sheep.  In this way, we try to get 3 crops in 2 years on some fields.

Some of the things that we have to be concerned with when growing covers is that they don't negatively affect the following crop if the weeds grow well or the soil temperature is not right at the sowing time.  Used effectively, the only effects on the following crop could be positive with the increased soil activity leading to more resilient crops and potentially fewer artificial inputs.