Three Heart Farm is an 80-acre organic operation producing organic free-range chicken eggs, hay, heirloom garlic, apples and honey. The farm has been operating since 2006 and was also organic during the preceding five years. Since 2006, organic weed control techniques have been utilized with hand weeding and mowing. Natural grasses and clover are encouraged to reseed.
Chicory has grown in Lawrence County, South Dakota since at least the late 1800’s. Originally grown by European immigrants, chicory seeds were transported across the prairie for landscaping and homemade chicory root coffee. Today, chicory is a cash crop in other areas of the country and the root is ground for human consumption in coffee, cereals, and nutrition bars.
From 2001 – 2018, Lawrence County, SD experienced nine years of extreme drought or below-normal precipitation. Chicory is drought tolerant with a deep tap root. In 2019, chicory was placed on the Lawrence County, South Dakota, noxious weeds list. In the valley where Three Heart Farm sits, the weed board’s concern is that the broad leaf plant is not native to the area and competes with other forages. Listed as a noxious weed prohibits the sale of hay containing seeded chicory. Other neighboring farms have annually applied post emergence herbicides which have been ineffective.
Three Heart Farm is an organic setting where alternative sustainable organic methods can be researched as positive alternatives to continuous ineffective herbicide applications. Using a variety of organic weed control strategies, this project will demonstrate the most advantageous option(s) to sustaining the integrity of the prairie while meeting the state requirements of preventing noxious weeds from seeding.
- Apply and evaluate Integrated Weed Management practices to control chicory via methods that are readilyachievable by small agriculture producers who do not want to apply herbicide to their land.
- Three Heart Farm remains committed to long-term sustainable organic farming practices while complying with the state laws regarding the control of county noxious weeds.
- Three Heart Farm will mow test plots at specific intervals and photograph/document chicory within each test plot.
- Three Heart Farm will monitor the clover test plot and hand pull chicory growth for second year comparisons
- Three Heart Farm will seed specific test plots with grass/clover/alfalfa to analyze the new growth and how it influences the growth of chicory.
- Document livestock and free-range chicken foraging effects on chicory and the surrounding area.
- The findings will be shared through social media and the education of agri-tourist guests.
Chicory is a two year plant with one long taproot. The plant spreads via seed, so the ultimate goal of the project is to control seed production. Specific mowing and native grass seeding practices were performed in 2019 and will continue for 2020 to compare results for more effective and efficient control of chicory. In 2019, 8 plots were identified. Each plot was flagged and then cut at different heights and intervals throughout the summer. The cutting ranged from monthly to weekly. Additionally, in late 2019, sections were no-till seeded with native prairie grasses. We used Millborn Seed Economy Dryland Pasture Mix, consisting of 25% each Pubescent Wheatgrass, Intermediate Wheatgrass, and Crested Wheatgrass. Additionally, the blend contains 15% Smooth Brome and 10% Forage Perennial Ryegrass. Since chicory is a biennial plant, the results will be most definitive as time progresses. The strongest lesson learned from 2019 is that the plots which were cut frequently and at low levels did not kill the chicory plant and a negative side effect was prairie grasses being weakened by frequent cutting.
Using the map below, you can see that 2 additional plots were identified during the season. Initial plans included cutting with sickle at following heights and intervals:
Plot 1- cut at 8” every 2 weeks beginning 16 June
Plot 2- cut at 8” every 4 weeks beginning 16 June
Plot 3- cut at 4” every 2 weeks beginning 16 June
Plot 4- cut at 4” every 2 weeks beginning 16 June
Plot 5- cut at 8”, two times during season, starting just before first flower, did not rake
Plot 6- cut at 4”, two times during season, starting just before first flower, did not rake
Plot 7- cut at 8”, one time during season, starting just before first flower
Plot 8- cut at 4”, one time during season, starting just before first flower
Plot 9- dense growth of wild clover, pulled chicory by hand one time during season. This took approximately 8 labor hours (4 persons x 2 hours).
Plot 10- Cut once in these draws, shortly after first flower. Did not rake.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Created and maintained social media page where project goals, methods, and outcomes are communicated and shared publicly.
1. When frequently cut, throughout the season, chicory adapts by flowering at progressively lower stalk heights. The cutting resulted in fewer flowers per plant but did not seem to deplete energy reserves (the root) during the first year of the project.
Adaptation for 2020: Adapt cutting heights to highest possible to prevent flowers from maturing while maintaining minimal impact on native and sowed grasses. Explore and refine optimal cutting periods and heights.
2. Chicory does not like to compete with other tap-root plants. This year, areas of dense clover thrived, preventing all but a few chicory from emerging within these plots.
Adaptation for 2020: Avoid cutting areas of dense, native clover growth. Hand-weed within these plots as needed.
3. Chicory does not like to grow in thick cover. Test-plots where native grass was sickle-cut but not raked kept chicory from growing until late in the season.
Adaptation for 2020: Identify test plots to continue cutting and not raking. Identify potential areas not needed for hay production for the same.