Posted July 11, 2003: First cutting hay
is all put away. Some of it cut a bit late but most of it
without any rain. Rotary hoeing and first cultivation has
been completed for corn and soybeans. Again late and in some
cases in conditions far too wet to really be considered successful.
Of course this means we’ll have some weeds in both crops
this year. Looks like the weed populations shouldn’t
affect the yield, but it hurts the pride. Both mine and Owen’s
(Owen is the field foreman here at The Institute.)
Usually by early July I’m getting ready to harvest
small grains. For me it all starts with barley and finishes
up with rye. But last fall I didn’t plant any barley,
so that takes care of that. The winter wheat is still weeks
away from harvest here in Pennsylvania. The rain and cloud
cover we had every day in June pushed everything back. The
oats look great; they enjoyed the cool damp weather even if
I didn’t. And the rye – well, rye always does
well on this farm but it’s all weeks away from being
ready for harvest.
Even though the grain isn’t ready, I seem to be on
the same time schedule as every other year so it’s off
to the equipment building to get the combine in shape. Mark
and I also need to get the stirring auger replaced in the
grain bin in preparation for drying the wheat (Mark is the
mechanic here at The Institute)
The apples in the orchard are beginning to size up and the leafy
greens in the garden look great. Tomatoes are a different story.
They need more sun. I planted several acres of pumpkins again
this year as I usually do. Only, this year I tried some new
varieties that are touted as being resistant to powdery mildew.
(A problem I sometimes have late in the season). It seemed the
variety “Magic Lantern” didn’t germinate well
at all while the old stand by varieties did just fine.
||"Weeds in the corn and soybeans
this year shouldn’t hurt our yields, but it sure
does hurt the pride."
Have any of you noticed any problems with germination of
disease resistant varieties? One of our research technicians,
Matt Ryan, is also working on a project looking into compost
tea as a treatment for powdery mildew.
I’m busy preparing for a field trip to the farm of
Don Kretchmann out on the other side of the state in Rochester
Pennsylvania. (Click here for a profile of the Kretchmann
farm.) We’re helping Don host a field day on his farm
on July 18th. I plan on making a brief presentation. But more
importantly I plan on learning lots more about his and other
operations. I learn so much when I get off my own farm and
out onto another farm. I never fail to take away some useful
information from every farm I visit. I hope all of you take
advantage of opportunities like this one to get off your own
farm this summer to learn from each other.
Better yet, volunteer to host a field day on your own farm.
There are plenty of organizations looking for host sites,
and you’ll gain valuable insights into your own operation
by going through the process of playing host. We hosted a
small group of farmers for a twilight growers meeting here
two weeks ago and I learned some things about one of our research
projects that I hadn’t known.
||"One of the farmers engaged in
our on-farm trials reported a two-fold difference in transplant
size when he inoculated the growing media with the mycorrhizae.
Wow! That’s worth reporting. "
I knew we were working with Dr. David Douds from USDA-ARS
for the past 15 years, looking into the effects of mycorrhizae
fungi on the yields of various grain and vegetable crops.
Dave saw differences in the population numbers and diversity
of species of the fungi between organic and conventional crops
grown side by side in one of our long term systems trails
(The Farming Systems Trial). He has shown that these microscopic
fungi actually improve the efficiency of the organic systems.
The fact that we use cover crops gives us nutrient benefits
and the added benefit of host roots for the mycorrhizae to
For the past two years Dave has been working on a system
of growing the mycorrhizae on a host grass plant in small
beds of compost. The mycorrhizae can then be harvested in
the compost and used to inoculate potting soil for bedding
plants and vegetable transplants.
What I didn’t know was that this year he is working
with some local growers to move from research plots to growers'
operations. One of those growers was attending the twilight
meeting and reported substantial differences in the rate of
damping off of pepper transplants and a two fold difference
in transplant size where he inoculated the growing media with
Wow! That’s worth reporting. I know Dave has reported
yield advantages of 30% to 50% in peppers and potatoes that
were inoculated with mycorrhizae in research plots. All in
all I think this basic research will have a positive effect
on farming practices in the future.
Several of you wrote to me for more information on the new
constructed wetlands project I am working on for our visitor
center here at The Institute. We hosted a meeting of the design
team on June 18th. Now each of the team members is working
on their particular area of expertise. I’ll be reporting
on our progress from time to time to keep you informed. I
think this will be an exciting project with long reaching
impacts for those of us with onsite septic systems.
I always appreciate the emails and letters. So, please write
and let me know what’s on your mind.
Now as I look out my window across the farm the small grains
are flowing like waves across the hills, the sun is shining,
the hay fields are greening back up, the corn is dark green
and growing, and I look forward to learning something new…
From one Farm to Another