So after a 500 mile journey on Sunday this morning I was with Robin Griffeth in Kansas, once I had finally found him or rather he had found me. Sat Nav was wrong and so was Google maps, not a good start to a Monday morining. Robin has come to my attention from reading No till farmer magazine and also he was recommended by Gabe Brown. Robin and his son Kelly farm Wheat, Barley, Triticale, Sunflowers, Sorghum, Milo and Soya beans. Some of those are double cropping.
The first field we looked at was a field of wheat after Soyabeans. Until May they had had a drought and Robin was not sure this field was going to make it. (They have now had 14 inches of rain in the last 6 weeks). The main problem they are finding is that soyabeans leave no residue which is not good in their dry climate.
The next field we went to was wheat after a triticale/ pea intercrop and there was plenty of residue and Robin thought the yield potential was much higher.
Residue seems to be a common theme over here that once your soils are biologically active they eat up the residue so quickly.
Below is a field just planted with soya beans
There is plenty of residue there but no so much in the field that had just been planted with Milo
Robin is fed up with modern wheat varieties. They are too short which means less residue and they do not seem to tolerate drought very well so he is trying some old heritage varieties. The field below is only 4 acres but has his best and worst soil in it so it is a good test for the heritage varieties to see how they do.
Robin in is also trying Barley this year. Strangely enough their wheat is bearded and their barley is awnless. Some awnless Barley would be nice to try at home.
The reason Robin has got some press is because of his companion cropped sunflowers. He planted a cover crop after wheat and it got later in the year and they thought it might be worth combining the sunflowers. These sunflowers out yielded the double crop Monocrop. So they tried it again the next year and found that planted crops of companion sunflowers in wide rows actually failed whereas drilled mixed row companion crops made a good crop. So now they plant about a twelve way mix and harvest the sunflowers.
They have found that this companion crop needs no insecticide or fertiliser whereas the monorop needs both. Quite incredible!
Just as I was leaving Robin stopped me and showed me the crop of Triticale below
This crop is after the companion cropped sunflowers and has received no inputs! Looked great. It is also a new crop for Robin as cheap to grow and lots of residue.
Robin is doing some great things on his place and hopes to companion crop all his crops as he has seen such dramatic benefits. He is doing a great job in a tough environment.