Professor Jacob Weiner, University of Copenhagen: 10th of June 2016

This was my last visit on my foreign part of my Nuffield travels. I have one more visit in the UK planned and then I need to knuckle down to write my report. Jacob had the honour of being my last foreign visit. Jacob is an American who has worked all around the world but has now settled in Denmark. He has done work on intercropping and companion planting. Recently he has been working in China ( more research money there). His colleagues in China have had great results with intercropping and got very large yield increases. They have poor Loess soils and this is why he thinks they get advantages through intercropping. Jacob not so sure in the West we will see the large yield increases but we will see many other advantages especially of lowering inputs and safeguarding the environment.

Recently Jacob has been working on the OSCAR project which is a European wide research project into cover cropping and intercropping: http://web3.wzw.tum.de/oscar/index.php?id=2

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Jacob was specifically looking at the use of Subterreanean Clover in cereals in the Mediterranean. Sub-clover is very interesting as it is low growing and seeds underground. Ideal as a companion. The problem is it is difficult to establish and needs water otherwise it competes too much with the main crop. Also we need new varieties which are suited better to the UK climate.

The other research Jacob has been doing is looking into seeding patterns and its effects on weeds. This work is the reason I contacted him as I saw a feature in “The Furrow” magazine. Jacob has been looking at inter row spacing and intra row spacing. Ideally the distances want to be 45mm for both. This means the need for more precise seeding technology and also a doubling of seed rates. He has had some great results. In the trials they planted their weed (WOSR) and did different seed rates and seeding patterns. The results can be seen below:

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He has got 72% weed control from both high seed rates and uniform seeding. The uniform seeding alone gave an 30% advantage in weed control.

The final idea we discussed was “evolutionary theory in agriculture “. Basically evolution is not necessarily the best thing for agriculture. In a field of wheat for example you don’t necessarily want the best yielding individual plants as they can disadvantage their neighbours, you want the plants that work best as a community. You want the best yield per hectare not yield per plant. This goes against most thinking in plant breeding and is not a popular idea with his peers. It also has repercussions for varietal mixtures and intercropping. The best varities for intercropping will not necessarily be the highest yielding, they need to be social plant. Also this theory applies to managing varietal mixtures. You do not want to leave them to evolve to selfish individuals. You want to add new genetics to stop the gene pool of the mixtures narrowing.

After seeing Jacob we went to the Inaugural lecture of a new professor here looking at biological time machines

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The proffesor was working on climate change. The was trying to look into the future effects of changing temperatures, rainfall and CO2 through outdoor experiments to try to predict the ecosystem effects of climate change into the future and the effects on plant communities. He was saying it is hard to work with a multi factorial, outdoor environment which is changes each year, he should try FARMING!

After the lecture we had a free lunch and drinks reception and then my last foreign visit was over. I have had an amazing time on my travels and learnt so much. The best things has been meeting new contacts and making new friends which is invaluable. Anyone thinking of applying for a Nuffield Scholarship “just do it!”

 

 

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Gothia Redskap,Ostergotland, Sweden – 8th of June 2016

After seeing the crops at Josef and Joel that had been planted using the System Cameleon, I decided to go and meet the company themselves and so drove 4 hours north.

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The company Gothia Redskap is owned and run by the Askling family with Lars Askling at the helm. Lars is a second generation farmer as his father started farming in the area in the mid seventies. He started farming biodynamically and today the farm is still organic. It is now a group of three organic farmers working together covering 800ha.

My day started with a tour of the factory with Johan Hedestad

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Johan was my guide for the day and kindly organised everything for me. He has started working for the company fairly recently to help with the fast expansion that is happening at Gothia Redskap. Not only do they build the System Cameleon but also wheel lifters for removing large tyres

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They had a patent for these for 18 years. Once the patent lapsed the Chinese copied it and sold it for half the price and Gothia’s sales halved. The copies though fell apart and so people are returning to the quality Swedish Product. We have one at home but I think it may be one of the cheap copies, so hopefully it won’t fall apart with a combine tyre inside!

Their main manufacturing is of the System Cameleon which is a seeder, inter row hoe and fertiliser application tool all in one. Lars built one for himself in around 2009 as he had problems with thistles and no tool available to deal with them. Then he sold the first one in around 2010 and now this year so far they have sold twenty and their goal is to sell 80 per year by 2020. A hundred machines in total have been sold. This will mean they will need to expand their factory and plans are underway. At the moment there are three sections to the build. First they put the frame together

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Then they add the electric and hydraulics etc.

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Then you get the finished product

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After the factory tour I went out to a field with Lars’s son “to pretend” to hoe a crop

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You have to measure the crop so you can calibrate the camera on the machine so it hoes accurately

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The divider on the front splits the rows so the camera can see better when the crop gets taller. This crop was drilled by this machine and hoed by this machine and fertilised by this machine, as you can see looks excellent. The hoe covers 75% of the field so will kill 75% of the weeds (kind of). More control than you get from Atlantis on Blackgrass. The great thing about this machine is while you are hoeing you can place solid or liquid fertiliser in the ground and you can also seed another crop at the same time. The camera has the ability to shift the machine 25cms sideways (12.5cms either side). It needs a 2cm safe area so it doesn’t hoe the crop.

After lunch I went around the farm with Lars. On the farm he grows Winter Wheat, Spelt Wheat, WOSR, grass seed, Spring Oats, white clover and Spring beans. Lars also does lots of trials on the farm to try out new ideas. One trial was on trying not to plough ( which is the norm)

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Above is Spring beans drilled between the 3 yr grass seed stand. This is the sixth year. The first year it was winter wheat which was then undersown with WOSR and the grass. Then the next year they harvested the OSR with the grass growing in the bottom, followed by 3yrs grass seed, and now beans, genius! The beans were a little bit water stressed as it is a dry year and the grass’ large root system was taking the water.

Another trial area was looking at seeding band width and row width.

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You can change the row width easily on the machine from 25cm to 33cm to 50cm. Lars thinks at the moment the wide row spacing and wide band width is best. Most weeds come in the band so he wants to seed a wider band of crop to compete with the weeds in the row and then hoe out the outside of the band the first time they go through.

After the crop tour we met a group of farm managers from around the world. A Danish farming company had bought all their managers together and were visiting Lars.

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Lars explained to them and me all the different coulter options there are and what the machine can do (there are many!) I had a really great time with Lars and Johan and came away with a much better understanding of the machine and its potential. They are constantly adding more options and are getting more enquiries from conventional and no till farmers and have exciting developments to cater for these new customers. In a modern farming world where we have to produce more crops with less artificial inputs, I think the System Cameleon has an exciting future and Lars and the team are going to be very busy!!

Proffesor Erik Steen Jensen, SLU, Alnarp, Sweden: 7th of June 2016

Today I met with Erik Steen Jensen and Georg Carlsson at the Swedish University for Agricultural Science.

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Erik had been recommended to me by Josef. He has had experience with intercropping  since the 1980’s and so was someone key for me to meet. There are various trials going on at the moment and the first ones we looked at were in the LEGATO project which is looking at legumes.

 

Here they had mixes of different varieties of peas and beans in different proportions with different cereals. There were many combinations so I will only show a few. They are looking total yield, standing ability, shading and competition with weeds.

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Above is wheat with both leafed and semi leafless peas at 50:25:25 seed rates

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Above is wheat at 50% seed rate and semi leafless at 100%

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Above there was a problem with fat hen. Interestingly there was less weeds in the wheat bean intercrop compared to the bean sole crop.

They are also looking at mixing in perennial legumes too

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Above is wheat, bean and Lucerne. They get better establishment of the Lucerne when in a mix and Lucerne competes with the weeds and fixes N.

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Above is bean/ oats and red clover. Red clover is less competitive than Lucerne apparently. Today we also had a new intern touring around with us. She is from France and is here to work in the trials with Erik and Georg and also learn English, a big day for her too!

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The next project we looked at is a new long term project called SAFE. It is looking at four different cropping systems and measuring various parameters. The first system is the normal conventional system from the area which is Winter wheat, sugar beet, WOSR and Spring barley. The second system is an organic system growing eight crops. The third system is with Kernza (perennial wheat) and the fourth system is Agroforestry with the normal organic rotation.

They first grew the Perennial wheat last year

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The wheat is not commercialised yet and only yielded 0.8t/ha of wheat last year. They are wanting to trial it so they can understand the effect it has on soils, ecosystems and the environment. They are also wanting to intercrop with it:

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Above is newly planted Kernza with Lucerne

The last project we saw was FIOL (Focus on intercropping on organic legumes) This is part of the same project I saw in Joel’s field and is led in conjunction with local organic farmers who give suggestions and also trial themselves. Again there were many different combinations. Below are a few:

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Above is peas and lupins. This was a suggestion by a farmer as it would be a good animal feed and reduce risks at harvest. The lupins are determinate and so harvest earlier than the indeterminate normal lupins.

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Above is oat and lupin. Lupins are strong competitors for soil N and water and so may not be a great intercrop with cereals.

I had a fabulous day and saw and learnt a huge amount. They really are doing some great work here at SLU.

Joel Mansson, nr Lund, Sweden – 6th of June 2016

I was very fortunate that Joel Mansson, another Twitter friend lived very close to Josef and they know each other. So later in the afternoon we went to look at Joel’s farm

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Joel has 125 organic hectares and 120ha conventional. On the conventional they grow W Wheat, Sugar Beet and WOSR. On the organic they grow lots of crops including vegetables, which Joel has started this recently. We are standing in organic oats and lentils, which looked excellent. Lentils are the main crop and the oats are a trellis to stop the lentils lodging.

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The lentils had plenty of nodules and a good root system

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In the middle of one of Joel’ organic pea fields he had some trial plots for intercropping which is done in conjunction with Georg Carlsson at SLU. It is a program where they put plots on ten farmers fields so they can see how they work themselves and also gives Georg good feedback and farmer involvement.

In the plots were:

peas/lupin

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Peas/barley

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Barley/Lupins

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Lupin/oats

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Also lentil plus oats which Joel has a field off. He also tried oats/peas last year and where he had oats he had a lot less lodging in the peas

Joel’s organic winter wheat yields between 5-6t/ha. On the wheat he adds organic fertiliser with the Chameleon and also chicken manure. He believes he can increase his yield if he gets fertiliser on the wheat earlier and is looking to build a machine to inject liquid sow manure into the wheat.

Like Josef, Joel is always trying something different. Below he planted some vetch in the autumn. Then he planted Spring Barley into the vetch direct. He was hoping rolling the vetch would kill it and the barley grow through. The problem is that the ideal time for rolling is at flowering , which is now and this is too late as the vetch has smothered the barley.

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He will plant red beet into this later. It should provide a lot of nitrogen.

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He also grows fescue for seed and Spring beans organically

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His organic linseed looked great

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We then moved onto look at his organic vegetables which Joel has started recently. I think last year was his first year. He grows lettuce, squash, celeriac, red beet, potatoes and probably others I have forgotten. A fascinating trial he had done this year was growing lettuce and squash direct into his white clover crop

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He rotavated the strips twice and transplanted straight into the strips. The idea is the clover would be a weed mulch, reduce soil erosion and provide N. Interestingly this lettuce looked better than his tilled monocrop lettuce. A great trial.

Joel is very wise for his young age and is very innovative. It was fascinating to have a look around his farm. Thank you Joel.

Josef Appell, Gardstanga, Sweden – 6th of June 2016

So today, as all days in Josef’s working life, we started with a crop tour of the farm in a helicopter.

Sweden being a highly developed country allows them to highly subsidise farmers for Cover crops, organic farming and helicopters. Josef uses his helicopter to keep and eye on his spray operators and tractor drivers and if they stray off his 9m CTF tracks they will get the sack immediately by text from the helicopter! He can also see how well the glyphosate is working on his organic land.

Obviously most of the above is not true but we did get an unexpected helicopter ride this morning. Quite normal for Nuffield!

Josef manages a farm in the South of Sweden. He has a very interesting operation as he has 565ha conventional farm which grows Winter Wheat, Sugar Beet, Spring Barley and Winter Oilseed Rape but he also has 315ha of organic land which grows Peas, Spring Oats, White clover, Fescue and Winter Oilseed Rape. Josef is very keen on soil health and tries to improve the farms soils whenever possible, this is in the conventional and organic side of the farm and these complement each other. The organic sector is growing fast and is supported by the government here in Sweden. Every farmer gets paid the Basic Payment for each hectare of £180/ha. If you grow a Cover crop (no legumes) which you kill before the 20th of October , you get £110/ha. If you keep the cover crop until January you get £170/ha. If you are organic you get an additional £150/ha. If you grow organic vegetables you get £500/ha. So you can see cover crops and organic farming are pushed by the government. This is why Josef started to convert parts of the farm 3 years ago, as he could se an added value growing market.

After our helicopter ride we went to look around the crops (by car).

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We first looked at Josef’s strip till sugar beet. He was the first to do this around here and some others are now starting to follow. Josef likes strip till beet as the land can hold the harvester in the autumn and the harvester does not make a mess.  This means he can get a crop planted straight into the sugar beet stubble. This field was last year winter wheat which was followed by a rye cover crop. Josef then made the strips in the autumn when he adds P and K at the same time. The beet is then drilled into the cover crop and ready made strip. For next year Josef wants to plant a cover crop such as field beans in the strip in the autumn. This will improve soil structure and hopefully fix him some nitrogen.image

Afterwards we looked as his conventional winter wheat. This area normally gets 650-700mm of rain but this year May has been very hot and dry. This means the crops are running out of water fast and are coming into head very early. The wheat is flowering the same as home but here we are a couple of hundred miles further north. Normally the wheat would be at least a couple of weeks behind. This crop will be followed by a cover crop of Rye and then put into Spring beans.

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The next crop was organic peas for seed drilled into conventional fescue. This is first year organic so the fescue was sprayed off and then the peas were planted. There were very few weeds, the fescue residue made a very good weed mulch. The peas looked excellent. This will be a radish and oat cover crop followed by spring wheat for seed next year.

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Next a great 3rd year organic Spring oat crop that had been hoed with the Chameleon. Very clean and healthy, just a bit thirsty!

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Next we saw organic white clover for seed. This was undersown into Spring Barley with the Chameleon last year and will be seed for 2-3 years, then followed by organic WOSR. The clover leaves a lot of nitrogen for the WOSR. The clover was grazed recently, Josef has a Joint Venture with a sheep farmer and finds the sheep very useful in organic farming especially for weed control. Bees are also very important for white clover. They are the biggest return on investment in this crop. The clover will be cut by the double knife four days before harvest.

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The double knife is above. This is also used for weed control. It is 9m wide and you can drive very fast. Josef is also now a distributor. Then he will harvest the clover with his stripper header.

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Above is organic fescue for seed. He will use the residue in his straw burner.

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Josef is always trying something new. Above is a trial in organic spring oats where he drilled directly into the white clover. He was hoping the clover would suppress weeds and give him a very clean oat crop with no need to inter-row hoe. Unfortunately the clover has competed with the oats and reduced their growth.

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Josef is the kind of farmer who will buy a machine then spend the winter cutting it up, welding it back together and adding bits. He uses the System Chameleon from Gothia Redskap to drill and hoe his crops. He has changed the seed hopper into a fertiliser hopper, added a front seed tank to the tractor, added a bio-drill to the back of his drill for small seeds and slug pellets and also added discs in front of the coulters for when drilling into residue!

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Josef is a real innovator and forward thinking farmer and has also been a great host looking after me for two nights and helping organise my few days in Sweden. Thank you Josef, see you again soon.

 

 

John Pawsey, Shimpling Park Farm, Suffolk – 13th of May 2016

The second visit of my UK Nuffield mini trip was to see John Pawsey

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John farms about 3500 acres organically. He converted to organic in 1999 and grows Winter wheat, Spring Oats, winter beans and Spring Barley undersown with a 2 year ley which he now grazes with sheep, a new edition to the farm this year. The other new edition to John’s farm, the System Cameleon, is one of the reasons I wanted to see John.

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This is the first such machine to be imported into the UK. What makes it unique is that it is a drill and also a inter row hoe. John runs an 8.8m CTF which fits the Cameleon in perfectly. When I got there the machine was busy hoeing

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Above is the coulter that drills and hoes. It drills in 25cm rows and the hoe covers 80% of the ground

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It really is an impressive machine and does a very accurate job of hoeing. John bought it for a couple of reasons. Firstly as a drill it has a consistent seeding depth, unlike his horsch. This means that when he blind weeds he doesn’t pull out the shallow seeded plants. Also as a hoe it manages to enter the ground in any condition due to the tungsten tip unlike the Garford. As it is so accurate as a hoe it also means it opens up many opportunities for undersowing consistently, intercropping, relay cropping etc.

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John has become the distributor for the System Cameleon in the UK. If I was ever to convert to organic (no plans😀) this would be the first bit of equipment I would buy.

On John’s farm he is also hosting a field lab which is looking at Black Grass control in cereals through sheep grazing

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Above at the top and bottom of the picture has been grazed at GS30-31 by sheep and the middle has not. As can be seen the middle had a lot of BG in head and looks worse than the other. From a quick inspection it seems a success but it looks like the BG in the grazed area is just delayed not killed. They were doing plant counts the day I was there so the results are not known yet. Whether the delayed grass BG produced less seed, I am not sure.

John’s other recent addition to the farm is a flock of New Zealand Romney sheep. These have been introduced to make use of the 2yr leys in the rotation, aid soil health and add diversity to the farm

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I really enjoyed my morning with John. He is someone who is always looking at ways to improve and is not afraid to try something different. I was really impressed with the farm and the crops. Thank you John.

Stephen Briggs, Peterborough, UK: 12th a May 2016

It’s been over three months since my last post. Nuffield travels have been put on hold until spring work had been completed on the farm. We are a bit quieter now with everything planted so I took the opportunity to make a couple of visits in the UK. My first visit was to Stephen Briggs.

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Stephen is a 2011 UK Nuffield ( and also didn’t realise I was taking a photo, not my best shot!). He did his Scholarship on Agroforestry, which is growing trees and annual crops and/or livestock together. Stephen’s home farm is 250 acres and is a council farm. Stephen is a first generation farmer and spent a while trying to get a tenancy and eventually landed Whitehall farm. As the farm is only 250 acres he felt he had to do something different to make it viable, add value and add income streams. This meant converting to organic and 6 1/2 years ago planting apples trees on 52 ha of his arable fields

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The trees are 13 different varieties of which around half are heritage varieties. They are planted on 3m strips of pollen and nectar mix which is in HLS. The apples are currently used to make apple juice. They receive no inputs apart from pruning. Last year he grew 25t of apples and hopes this yield keeps improving as the trees matures. Currently Stephen thinks he gets 10% extra produce from the farm compared to arable cropping alone and this should keep increasing

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There is 24m of arable crops between the trees. This fits well with his machinery sizes. He is on a 6m CTF including a Tyne drill:

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A camera guided Garford inter row hoe:

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Stephen soil is incredible:

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It has Soil Organic Matter of 23% and releases about 150kg/N per ha. It has a couple of downfalls though: it is very prone to wind erosion and due to root crops being grown intensively before, it is now structureless. Stephen hopes the trees will help solve both those issues.

In his crop rotation he grows oats and wheat. Sometimes he also grows vegeltables such as broccoli and beetroot. His crops looked very clean and healthy. Below are oats:

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Not satisfied with just Agroforestry, Stephen is hoping to build a farm shop and education centre soon. In his spare time he also consults for other organic farmers and also found time to write a book. I had a very interesting afternoon with Stephen and his set up makes you think of the possibilities at home.

Stephen thank you for your time and good luck!

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.

Dr Martin Entz , Day Two – 30th June 2015

So my second day with Martin’s team started at the the Glenlea trial site with Keith Banford. These rotational trials started in 1992 and are comparing a conventional rotation, an organic annual rotation and an organic perennial rotation.

The conventional rotation is wheat, flax, oats and soyabeans

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The main weed here is wild oats and it has survived being sprayed in the flax

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The above flax had lots of wild oats but below in the round up ready soyabeans it has been controlled.

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Conventional wheat below

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Then we looked at the Annual Organic Rotation with consists of oats, green manure (vetch), wheat and flax. Below is hairy vetch into one half of the plots which will be rolled into and drilled with wheat. This allows for two years with out tillage.

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Below is the organic flax. Not easy to see on the photo but they have added manure to the other half of the plot. Only about 4-5 tonnes per hectare of composted manure once in the rotation but it has had a dramatic effect. The crop where it has had manure is stronger but also has more weeds.

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The oats were running out of nitrogen.

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They have found that the organic rotation is losing carbon at depth because the crops are poorer and so have poorer roots which are not replenishing the carbon.

The perennial rotation is alfalfa for two years, wheat and flax. The alfalfa is planted with Timothy and Red Clover when established. The alfalfa showed a marked response in yield to the manure but also weeds

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This picture shows the difference clearly between manured and unmanured ( far end) in the flax

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Below also shows the wheat development differences in the matured parts

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The far end is coming out into ear.

After seeing these plots I was picked up by Christine Rawluk, she works in the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment. Firstly we went to the Trace gas site

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Here they can measure out in the field emissions of CO2, NO2, NH4 all year round and compare four different treatments. They have in the past compared emissions from annual and perennial systems and also tillage effects. They have also tested the effects of different nitrogen fertilisers and inhibitors.

We then went to see the Byproduct processing plant. Manitoba has a problem with nutrient enrichment of their lakes due mainly to Phosphate run off. This has led to strict rules. No new hog barns are allowed to be built unless they have proven technology to deal with the waste. Also they are not allowed to spread waste if the soil test does not suggest a need. This means hog barns have a lot of waste they don’t know what to do with as most soils around barns are high in P. All waste is spread in the fall just before freeze up and then at spring thaw some of the waste is in soluble form and gets washed off into the water course. The University of Manitoba is trying to find ways of getting around this problem.

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Inside this barn is a centrifuge which separates the soils from the liquid

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This means they have less manure to deal with but not sure still what to do with the solid, pelletise maybe but expensive. Anaerobic digestion has been tried but it needs to be kept warm in the winter so is uneconomical. There does not seem to be a cheap answer to deal with the hog waste from these barns. I just kept thinking as we went round why don’t you just put the pigs outside in the field and they will poop where you want it and you won’t have to worry about the waste!

In the field they have also had a large trial looking at the effect of different manures on soils in an annual and perennial system. The trial has been going for 8 years and looks at solid dairy manure, solid pig manure, liquid manure and synthetic fertilisers.

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They are looking at how phosphate acts in the soil under different conditions and looking at P build up. P in dairy manure acts differently to pig manure. They have found that the liquid pig manure gives same yield as synthetic fertilisers but the P is building up.

After lunch we had a look around the Universities Discovery Centre which is open to school children to look around and learn about farming.

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They have viewing areas where they can look into a hog barn

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After looking around the centre Christine took me to meet a couple of academics at the University

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The first person I met was Dr. Rob Gulden. He is a weed scientist. We had an interesting discussion about herbicide tolerance and resistance. He thinks GMO canola has only managed to stay relatively free of weed resistance because there are different strains of herbicide tolerance and not reliance on just one. He worries about the increase of Round Up ready corn and soyabeans being grown in the area as they only rely on one mode of resistance and worries that Canada will soon catch up with the U.S. with the number of resistant weeds. He also is worried about the increase in row crops as the wide row spacing is terrible from a weed completion point of view as it gives space to weeds. He also mentioned that corn has become so highly domesticated that it can’t compete against weeds or compete in row against itself. He thinks we need to re think crop spatial arrangement. Even narrow row crops are not ideal. His predecessor had also done work on intercropping and found a 20% yield increase but the work is back on the shelf for now.

Next I went to see Dr Yvonne Lawley who is trying to get academics and farmers interested in Cover crops in Manitoba. A tough sell it seems. They have a very short growing season here in Manitoba and also low precipitation which makes it difficult to adopt them but as she says definitely not impossible.

Many thanks to Martin and his team for the couple of days in Winnipeg. I have seen a lot of interesting  things.

Dr Martin Entz, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg – 29th June 2015

So after a whirlwind two weeks dashing around the US, I finally crossed the border to Canada on Friday evening. This weekend I spent relaxing at my Uncle’s Lakeside cabin in Manitoba. Yes it was tough! Golf, swimming, kayaking, boating and some catching up on sleep.

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After a relaxing weekend I was ready for my first Canadian visit. I was supposed to be spending two days with Dr Martin Entz. Unfortunately he was unable to make it but I was well looked after by his team today. Hopefully I will catch up with Dr Entz on Friday.

This morning I was looked after by Bailey and Michelle.

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Michelle is doing trials on organic Soyabean varities. Soya beans a becoming more popular up here but there are very few non GMO varities and little info on how they behave this far north.

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The flags above are where she has manually removed weeds to measure how well they compete with weeds to give her a control. She is also looking at the early biomass production, seeding rates and yield. Trying to see if higher seeding rates for better weed control gives yield benefit to cover extra seed costs. Bailey is helping out for the summer on the organic oat trials looking at yield, disease and lodging and other factors.

Then after lunch I spent a couple of hours looking at various trials Iris is overlooking.

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Iris is looking at inter seeding Camelina and conventional soybeans and looking at the impacts and also soyabeans interseeded with radish below.

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She is also looking at strip till soyabeans into rolled Rye and also doing a Rye fertiliser and seed rate trial.

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Interestingly all the weeds are in the moved strip.

She is also looking at inter seeding corn with mixtures of peas, radish and rape

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She is has trials looking at vetch and peas in the row of corn with Italian Ryegrass in between.

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The vetch and peas in the row looked excellent and would compete well with weeds.

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Above is 60 inch corn rows with alternating rows of flax, radish and soyabeans.

After spending time with Iris I was looked after by Keith Banford

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Keith is standing in a perennial wheat grass trial. They are trying to breed perennial wheat and work out the system. They were looking at mixing the wheat grass with alfalfa and also different clovers

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We then went to see a local organic farmer who was experimenting with intercropping.

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The first field was mustard and peas with clover. The mustard with go for food and peas too.

The second field is mustard, edible beans and clover.

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Both these crops had been weeded by the Garford Robocrop which is an inter row hoe. This had been used twice on these fields plus two previous cultivations. The Garford is a new machine for this farmer and is working on 6.5 inch rows spacing. We also looked at some wheat which had been inter row hoed

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This crop also had three types of clovers undersown with it. Unfortunately it seemed to have quite a few wild oats too which seems to be Canada’s biggest grass weed issue.

It was an action packed first day with Martin’s team and thanks to everyone for showing me around and I am looking forward to day two!