The Berning farm is a well diversified grain-livestock operation. Total acres are 1500 that are farmed continuously or summer fallowed. Crops farmed are either certified organic or conventionally farmed with chemical inputs. Organic crops grown consist of blue corn, soybeans, wheat, and various other seeds. Conventional crops are corn, milo, wheat, and soybeans. Livestock consists of a small cow-calf operation and a small sheep flock.
Cropping systems include summer fallow which is stubble mulched with a sweep-plow, then planted to wheat, followed by soybeans than corn. Also some corn-fallow-corn is planted.
All operation done are by family members and little by hired help. Custom operations hired are for manure spreading and fertilizer-chemical applications.
Organic farming has been in practice on portions of this farm for eight years. Every year, more acres are converted to organic and less used for chemical farming.
Seeds for the trial were purchased from a seed company except for yellow clover which was donated from the Kansas State Extension Branch. Also, conversation and advise were given from K-State personnel.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
One of the largest obstacles in organic farming is weed control. Since the use of artificial chemicals is prohibited, weed control has to be done by other means. Cultivation and rotary hoeing are of great benefit but more is generally needed. Hand rouging can be done, but another way would be to use a smother crop to compete with the weeds.
The tests done on my farm in 1994 consisted of planting a corn plot and than overseeding with various smother crops. Other operations done consisted of rotary hoeing, cultivating, and hand rouging.
First, the field was manure and prepared. Sixty inch beds were made and prewatered to obtain sufficient subsoil moisture. The beds were rod-weeded and the corn planted in thirty inch rows. Various seeds were hand sprinkled over the corn rows and raked into the top one-half inch of soil.
The weather after planning was very dry. None of the cover crop seeds germinated until rain arrived. Then came some of the seeds but also an abundant amount of weeds. The trial plot was severely infested with pigweed and kocia. The preceding crop was feed that was pastured and went to weeds.
Cover crop seeds used in this trial were: yellow clover, hairy vetch, crown vetch, lespedeza, turnip, rape, and buckwheat. Not all seeds had a good stand. Germination of the seeds were not tested. Crusting of the soil contributed to the poor stand.
Since the plot had poor cover crops and high weed pressure, the smother effect was not adequate. The use of the rotary hoe was very efficient to help remove weeds in the corn row.
The big downfall was planting the plot on ground with high weed history. Time permitting, other smother crops will be researched and implemented in an ongoing research.