As the interest in organic farming grows so does the interest in farming knowledge passed down from generations. Organic farmers have seen considerable successes following these farming techniques organic farming has continued to enjoy explosive growth in the United States as a result.
One of these successful farmers is Nelson Smith, who has been farming organically for 21 years near Brighton in South East Iowa. He recently hosted the Practical Farmers of Iowa filed day to share what he has learned. His success and what he shared has inspired more organic farmers to get in the game, putting into practice some of the farming systems that have contributed to his success.
Organic Farming Systems
One of the things that organic farmers have to get creative on is weed control. Over the years, they have introduced certain systems and practices that include adding hay, clover or small grain crop to the rotation or planting into a standing rye cover crop.
One organic farmer, Dustin Farnsworth says his go-to solution has been adding additional crops to lengthen his rotation. Some of the crops he adds to the rotation include nitrogen-fixing green manure crops like red clover help with soil fertility. But he says that his main goal in crop rotation is the reduction of weed populations by reducing the number of weed seeds that germinate and grow with every planting cycle.
Adding more crops to the rotation can certainly help with the weed populations. But in a corn or soybean year, the best option is to use mechanical cultivation for weed control. There are a lot of weed control equipment to choose from, but the harrow, the cultivator and the rotary hoe are the most essential.
The first cultivation pass after planting corn or soybeans is more effectively made by some type of harrow. Often times this pass is made before the crop emerges. The harrow can help you effectively rearrange the soil just above the plated seed. This will bring up the weed roots, essentially drying them out on the surface and preventing their growth.
Most organic farmers use harrows and they attest to their efficiency in weed reduction. Of the many different types of harrows, the five-section spike-tooth harrow is among the most aggressive. It is important to note, however, that these harrows can be expensive to purchase and require a lot more upkeep.
Another very important point to consider is the timing of the cultivation process. Wet years are particularly frustrating since the weeds can still grow even after cultivation.
- Rotary Hoes
Although, today rotary hoes are used more as farm ornaments than for fieldwork, they can still be very useful for weed control and are relatively inexpensive. A Garden hoe is particularly useful when the crop emerges and is an inch or two high. Then, you can simply use the hoe to break up any hard ground and eliminate any in-grown weeds.
Cultivators can also be essential in the planting and weeding processes. The type of cultivator you choose will be determined by the size of your operation and how much cultivation you actually want do. Just keep in mind that cultivation is about keeping the crop ahead of any completion that weeds can bring. If you can give your crops and edge over the weeds and let them outgrow weeds by up to 6 weeks, you are well on your way to having a great harvest with nice yields.