Greentan Farm encompasses 5-acres of lightly rolling pasture located on top of a ridge. The farm had been utilized primarily for boarding horses, with two main pastures and 6-stall horse barn. Both pastures were mowed and hay baled in the summer. We have a pond that is groundwater supplied and with over-flow drainage, that is fairly well-balanced with natural filtration with lotus plants and water lilies.
Our vision is to develop the family farm to be self-sufficient, “green” organic and energy sustainable fitting the principles of permaculture. At the present time, we have a horse and a donkey. We wanted to find a way to recycle/reuse the not insignificant amount of horse/donkey manure generated, and felt composting was an economical option.
The plan is to determine the effectiveness to use the horse manure compost to amend soil for growing lavender plants. There has been reported anecdotal observations that horse manure compost amended soil may prevent lavender plant root rot due to Phytophthora spp reported to affect lavender farms in the local region here in Ohio. The objective of this proposal is to determine the efficacy of horse manure compost in controlling Phytophthora spp in lavender plants.
Using recycled wood pallets, we built a four compartment compost bin system and started making horse/donkey manure compost with 50:50 mixture of horse/donkey manure with grass clippings and stall bedding straw/hay. We started two compost piles in first week October 2016 utilizing the multiple bin system and targeting a 30-50:1 C:N ratio as described in Manure and Pasture Management for Horse Owners (by Dr. Lori K. Warren and Christine Sweet, 2003, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development). The composting process is designed for a small operation in size with the modified passive-turned piles system over a minimum of 4-6 months duration.
Project will investigate how to solve two problems in one study:
(1) Appropriate disposal of animal wastes on a small farm, while producing a stable and consistent compost;
(2) Effective biocontrol of Phytophthora spp in young lavender plants grown in the local region farms
- Establish consistent protocol for making horse/donkey manure compost by using template from Manure and Pasture Management for Horse Owners (by Dr. Lori K. Warren and Christine Sweet, 2003, Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development).
- Process designed for small operation in size with the modified passive-turned piles system over a minimum 4-6 months duration. Initial batches started in October 2016 (50:50 mixture of horse/donkey manure with grass clippings and stall bedding straw/hay; targeting 30-50:1 C:N ratio), will be ready for use by spring 2017.
- Multiple bin system was built using recycled wood pallets and minimal cost. Costs documented and monitored for later comparison to using commercial biofungicides vs farm made compost
- Determine the efficacy of horse/donkey manure compost in controlling lavender root rot
- Prepare horse/donkey manure compost (in process described above)
- Plant lavender younglings** spring/summer 2017 (test negative for Phytophthora)
- Five (5) treatment Groups (n=24 plants per group)
a. Control – no horse/donkey manure (0%)
b. Horse/donkey manure (10-20%)
c. Horse/donkey manure (25-50%)
d. Horse/donkey manure (25-50%) + infected plants soil
e. No horse/donkey manure (0%) + infected plants soil
** (source from Onederings Farm)
- Measure survival of lavender plants in first year; document injury/loss due to root rot; test for root rot
Phase I Ground Preparation – June 10-16, 2017: The designated lavender plot was measured and marked to create 10 rows, and for digging the trenches for French drainage system under the rows. Equipment was rented for the tasks. We used a sodcutter to first remove the top layer sod which was rolled and reserved for compost. Trenches were then dug with the excavator and soil placed to the side for mixing later. The trenches were dug to be a contiguous pattern (see Fig. q) with rows following gentle slope such that there’s minimal chance for cross contamination of run-off between rows.
Mixture of gravel and sand were then used to fill the trenches to build the French drain system below the raised mounds of amended soil and compost. The design with rows following the gentle slope to ensure minimal cross contamination between rows. Irrigation pipes were placed below the gravel/sand with connectors at the ends of every row. All pipes lead to central control box placed near middle north side. Drip tubes then hooked onto pipes will be placed on top of each row. Weed cover was applied and tacked down with the pins, and plant positions were measured and marked again.
Soil was then mixed with compost according to study design. Rows were randomly assigned to each treatment group and amendments mixed using buckets and shovel. Handful measures were utilized when planting to match the respective treatment group for each row.
PHASE II Lavender Planting – June 17 – July 22, 2017: Batches of 12-24 lavender suckers were collected and planted in random order of rows. First, x-shaped slits were cut using scissors in the flagged spot and flaps of weed cover folded underneath. In the roughly 3″x3″ square opening, dirt was loosened by hand, any appropriate soil compost treatment applied, small hole made by hand, and lavender sucker roots gently worked into hole, and covered. The plant then watered generously. Drip tubing aligned with the plants to ensure watering.
Over the next 8 weeks, we monitored the plants and replaced the ones that did not survive. These were the ones that turned grey, dry, brittle and did not show any young green buds growing from the stems. Replacement followed the same process as planting described above. At the start of winter (end November 2017), we had 120 healthy lavender plants growing – 12 plants in each of the 10 rows.
The plan is to evaluate the plants after winter for survival rate, and replace any needed prior to beginning the infection phase of the research study.
Educational & Outreach Activities
A. We took guests/participants to tour the farm, with particular focus on the lavender project field. Participants learned about the French drainage system beneath the mounded rows of lavender plants. Demonstrated the drip irrigation system and discussed the research study design and rationale behind the treatment groups.
B. We shared research objectives and goals with Onederings Farm and consulted with them. We compared experiences and learnings regarding lavender plants specifically. We shared the idea and concept behind the use of horse/donkey manure compost as a natural biofungicide, something Onederings Farm is interested to try.