Scott Chalmers, Melita, Manitoba – Day 2 – 3rd June 2015

So today was a field trip around Southern Manitoba looking at various intercrops in the fields.

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This field is organic and last year had an intercrop of barley, mustard, peas plus clover. Apparently it was a very good crop and the picture above is the re growth which he was ploughing in today for some reason. We noticed that the clovers did not look very happy.

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So we dug around and could not find one single legume that had nodulated! I have never seen this before, there must be a serious problem out there. Apparently it has been flooded a few times recently so this could be a reason.The crop apparently was very good and had few weeds.

The second field was a pea and canola intercrop.

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Well actually it was now more a pea crop. Apart from some of the low places the rest was killed by a late frost that killed a million acres of Canola in Manitoba.

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He though has a very good crop of peas which is an upside of intercropping that you spread your risk. The down side in Manitoba is that it confuses the insurance companies so they won’t insure it.

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We found excellent nodulation out here and good rooting. This is a conventional crop. below is a picture of the two crop intertwined and growing well together

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The Canola is holding up the peas. The roots below were intertwined too with large amount of nodules next to the rape roots

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The third field we went to was an organic field of peas. It was not the field we were supposed to be in! The peas looked terrible and had poor rooting. The soil was very compacted.

Then we went to a field of Cameoina and Peas.

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This field was organic a looked like a bit of a disaster. It was full of Lambsquarter and French Stinkweed. Not only will these crops compete with the main crop they will possibly taint the Camelina oil as they are a similar size seed.

The next field we went to was organic too and the same farmer as above and just so you don’t think I am downing organics it looked very well.

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It was a field of mustard, peas and alfalfa. He will harvest the mustard and peas and then will have a stand of alfalfa. I think adding the Alfalfa is a great idea and helps keep weeds down and again spreads your risk even more. The mustard was short of nitrogen though and this is because the field needs a fertility break. It was also very compacted.

We then went to another field of the same farmer. It was organic mustard after 5 years of alfalfa.

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This crop was excellent and was virtually weed free apart from some alfalfa coming back. You could tell the difference in the mustard compared to the other field. It was not short of anything. Organic mustard is very sort after so he is a happy farmer.

His field next door was sweet clover and he was taking this to seed.

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I have never seen so many bees and insect in one field. It was alive. His friend the bee keeper was very happy!

I had a good couple of days with Scott and saw lots out in the field which was great. Thank you Scott for giving me your time.

Scott Chalmers, WADO, Melita, Manitoba – Day 1 – 2nd July 2015

After a couple of hours in the car I arrived with Scott in Melita. Scott works for WADO which is a government funded research organisation which does the research agribusiness aren’t interested in, as they won’t make a buck!

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I was was intersted in meeting Scott as he has done a lot of trial work on pea and canola intercrop.

When we first arrived we looked around his workshop. Scott has lots of trial plot machinery

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This planter had been donated by the Manitoba corn Growers Organisation so he can trial corn (because the world doesn’t have enough corn!) it is all very computerised and almost drives itself.

Then we went to his plot site. The first plot was looking at the effect of residue on soyabeans.

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Manitoba farmers are still allowed to burn crops, which I found hard to believe as the country is currently alight with forest fires, I would have thought the last thing they would want to do is burn the fields too! They do it because the residue is supposed to keep the ground cool in the spring. Though Scott thinks this practice will be banned and they need to learn how to deal with residue.

Scott had a plot of Rye and Hairy vetch which he was wanting to save vetch seed from.

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He also had some peas and canola plots which he was planning to look into the effect of phosphate on them. Phosphate is a problem here as the soils are very alkali so it is locked up. The problem is his intern used the wrong herbicide and has pretty well killed all the Canola!

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He also had some trials on sunflower and vetch together. They have found that the companion crop increases soil organic matter by 0.25% more than the control in one year which is a lot.

We then went out to a farmer who had planted sunflower for the first time this year and decided to companion crop with vetch too. Going in with two feet first!

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It seems to have worked well! About 25kg/ha was broadcast after planting with some fertiliser

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It will be interesting at harvest. I hope he can get his header high enough! Scott has found no yield deficit from Sunflower/vetch. It though improved weed control by over 80% over the control. The problem of growing sunflowers and canola in the same rotation is schlerotinia, though Scott thinks the mat of vetch my deflect the spores preventing them becoming airborne.

The same farmer had also planted vetch with his corn.

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The farmer had given the corn three doses of glyphosate and it had killed all the weeds but not the vetch. It was struggling but was going to recover. He has found Round Up ready Vetch. Monsanto will be patenting that tomorrow!

It was a interesting first day with Scott.