Friday, July 5, 2013

Fertile ground & corn

I have two corn crops on my land this year; a conventionally managed crop of cow corn, destined to be chopped up for corn silage, and the other is a crop of sweet corn I put in to see how it would do, mostly. 
The silage corn, with an appreciative customer
The silage corn is a crop put in by a local farmer who leased the ground for me for this season.  I've been watching his technique for putting in the corn and the steps he takes to manage it.  How many passes with a tractor, which implements, and the rough timing of when things were done and what was done.    After planting, it was sprayed down with an herbicide which killed nearly all the weeds.  You can't see it, but below that sea of green it's pretty much weed free. 

Contrast that to the sweet corn, which cannot be sprayed.    The picture below is the sweet corn field.  Having trouble seeing the corn?  So am I.  So I'm running a walk-behind cultivator between the rows to weed them.  Each row is about 900' long, so it takes a few hours every day to get every row. 
 This mechanical tilling removes the weeds in between the rows of corn, but doesn't remove the weeds in the corn row itself -- that's something I'm going to have to do by hand.  My new hobby. 
 Some parts of the field have had different experiences -- the corn managed to outgrow the weeds, mostly by luck.  The majority of the field has so many millions of seeds in it that anytime the ground is tilled and the weather is right, hundreds of thousands of plants will sprout and grow. 

So many plants it looks like I've intentionally planted salad mix.  Here's an example:
This is not salad mix.  it's volunteer weeds
If I grow sweet corn in any quantity I've got to figure out what the big growers use for cultivation.  There has to be a better way. 
One row tilled, 78 more to go.  This row goes to the red barn in the distance; about 900'


George said...

I use a Kovar wire weeder until the korn is about a foot tall. After that a rotary cultivator equipped w/ sweeps for behind the tractor wheel.

The in row weeds are best knocked down while small w/ the Kovar. Once they are established in row... it is difficult to remove them in a field of any real size (much as you've found out !)

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

You might want to try a bare fallow and cover crop in rotation with your crops to mine out that weed seed cache you have. That means some of your land is always out of production, but if you think of it as a savings in cultivation time and labor it is well worth it in the long run.

The Nordell's have the best approach I've seen for small farms. Of course, they are doing it in small bites because they use horses instead of tractors which only means it would only be easier to scale up the size with equipment. Their Weed the Soil, Not the Crop booklet is priceless.

That Jersey looks pretty smug in that corn ;)

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

You might want to try bare fallow and cover cropping in rotation with your crops. It may seem counterproductive to be using to ground to grow weeds, but mining out the weed seed bank is very helpful down the road.

The Nordell's in PA have written up the best articles on this subject and it's the method they use on their farm. They are horsepowered but scaling up to tractor size fields is not hard. I think they do about 6 acres in vegetable crops with 3 being fallow for part of the season. So maybe the scale is the same as what you're thinking...

Nordell's booklet, Weed the Soil, Not the Crop is priceless and available through them or the Small Farmers Journal.

That Jersey looks pretty smug out there in that corn ;)