Lucas Criswell, Lewisburg, PA. 16th of June 2015

I am currently in Harrisburg Airport waiting to fly. I have just dropped off one car, I now have two flights which end up in Chicago and then I have to pick up another car and drive to my hotel and hopefully be there by midnight. So there is plenty of room for a balls up but at least I was not flying to Chicago last night as they had tornado warnings and flash flooding!

Today I have spent the day with Lucas Criswell a farmer in Pennsylvania.

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Lucas and I have a lot in common. We are a similar age, our other halves are primary school teachers, our fathers let us get on with it and we both enjoy trying mad things on the farm which other people tell us won’t work.

The first field we looked at next to Lucas’s house was a field of non GMO corn planted with untreated seed into waist high cover crop of rye, vetch and other things.

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Corn normally has a neonicotinoid seed dressing on but Lucas has been working with Penn State University and they have found that if a slug eating beetle eats a slug that has eaten a dressed seed or plant it sends the beetle into neurological shock and it eventually dies, which is obviously not what you want and leads to worse slugs problem. The one problem he has found of using non GMO seed is that the vigour is not a consistent and can lose some plants. So he is thinking of looking at organic seed lines which have been bred with better vigour for low input systems. He has also found using this seed he has to plant later and make sure the ground is warm but the crops catch up and his yields are good for the area.

Below is a 60 foot strip of corn where Lucas has not used any herbicide.

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The majority of the rye will die from the rolling and there are some vetch coming back but they should be an excellent companion. There was a few weeds but nothing to worry about. This strip will not get any herbicide. In terms of nitrogen he gas managed to reduce his fertiliser by one third through the covers and no till.

Below is a picture of his soya beans

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Yes there are soya beans there you have to look closer

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Still not sure they are there?

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Now you can see them. They are planted into cereal rye which is not rolled. He plants his soya beans early and uses short season varieties so he can get a cover crop in afterwards but he still gets the same yield. He plants the soya beans when the rye is about shin height and let’s them grow together and only takes out the rye later.

Lucas is also growing Rye, peas and canola together as a crop. He also put some Lucerne and Crimson clover out there to bulk out the seed.

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The peas and canola gave struggled this year but he put no nitrogen on them and will try some N next year.

Below is a strip of corn where he has tried mowing the rye to kill it instead of using a herbicide.

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Penn State are doing trials on his farm for slugs and comparing rolling cover and killing early. You can see the rolled rye in the back ground. The interesting thing was the only slug damage was on the corn that had no cover over winter.

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The other interesting thing they have found is slugs lose weight eating corn so they would rather not eat it, so you need to give them alternative food sources.

We then went to see some no till pumpkins where he has planted a pollinator strip to try and reduce insecticide usage. Pumpkins apparently need a lot of looking after!

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Finally we went to the machinery shed. Below is the roller on his planters he uses to roll the rye at planting time

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Today was a great visit with Lucas and a really enjoyable time. Keep up the good work!