Our fields look different, but there’s a method to our madness.

August 05, 2017

Our fields look different, but there’s a method to our madness.

We are always trying something new on our farm. This year, we are using one of our fields to try a combination of two different farming methods: intercropping and relay cropping.

INTERCROPPING 

Growing a crop among plants of a different kind in the space between rows

Why: Intercropping is all about growing compatible plants in the same space to increase biodiversity by creating a habitat that encourages insect and soil organism growth. The soil environment created by a single crop isn’t doing that for us. Those brown and green strips? That is where we tried intercropping soybeans into wheat. The wheat was planted last fall and the soybeans were planted in between those rows this spring. In this picture, the wheat has been harvested – the soybeans will continue to grow and be harvested in the fall.

Results: We haven’t seen an increase in yield by using this method yet, but it does help our farm increase biodiversity and keep our soil healthy.

RELAY CROPPING 

Growing of two or more crops on the same field in alternating sections

From one end of the field to the other, we alternated planting a strip of corn and then a strip of the wheat and soybeans every 20 feet.

Why: To maximize sunlight on the rows of corn during the day and cool down at night during pollination. In our full fields of corn, we see higher yields on the outside rows because they have greater access to sunlight during the day and can cool down easier at night. We’re trying to provide all of our corn with that optimal growing environment.

Results: We have seen 15% higher corn yield in this field than in any of our other corn fields.

At the end of the day, we’re doing all of this to learn how we can do our job better. We’ll keep the methods that help our land and farm and continue to tweak and perfect the rest.

Trent Sanderson

Trent farms with his family in northern Illinois He also enjoys learning and educating other farmers about the environmental benefits of cover crops. He lives near the farm with his wife Elizabeth and their son Owen.


 

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