I own 600 acres in Marion County. Wheat is on 200 acres, milo is on 150 acres, alfalfa/red clover is on 100 acre, native and tame grasses are on 150 acres. Cow/calf operation with 50 Polled Hereford cows/Salers calves.
Before receiving this grant, I was involved in sustainable practices in the following ways: 1) in 1990, I switched to red clover/wheat rotation rather than alfalfa/wheat because of a shorter rotation cycle and the elimination of alfalfa weevil problems, 2) I do not implant growth hormones in any of my calves, and 3) over the year I have tried to decrease fertilizer expenses while maintaining crop yields and income. Using sustainable practices continued to improve soil fertility, making this possible.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
The object of this project is to seed nitrogen fixing legumes (hairy vetch, Austrian winter peas) into growing milo in late summer (early August) to be turned under the following spring for the next year’s milo crop.
The steps involved in conducting the project were dictated by my own “practical” logic: a) I took stock of my own obsolete but usable equipment, b) I watched for private sales and auctions of possible equipment that would fit, and c) I purchased an old JD drill for $100, a worn 3-pt. rotary hoe for $200, and twelve used but good double disk furrow openers with dept control press wheels (found these in Oklahoma) for $1200 (new set would have cost $1800).
Kevin Jost, a neighbor who operates Jost Welding and Repair, built the inter row seeder in his shop. I had dismantled the pieces of obsolete equipment. The two of us worked together for four days (32 hours) to create this implement.
The machine works. The vetch, planted in mid-August is growing. It’s too soon to determine yields, field analyses, and related data. Had I used a conventional no till drill, I could not have planted until mid-November following milo harvest. What would I do differently? The possibility exists that his could be built on a highboy machine?
A face to face discussion with an interested producer is preferable to a written discussion, but what have I learned? Building/creating a new piece of equipment is challenging. The idea can be used in a variety of sustainable farming situations. A new problem emerged – almost no vetch seed was available this year. In the future I will need to raise my own seed.
Another problem I foresee is the short time window between incorporating (destroying) the cover crop and optimal planting dates for grain sorghum. In this part of east central Kansas, we normally have a surplus of rain in May and June. A very wet May could stall this procedure or an unusually dry period during this time could hinder our ability to work a proper seedbed. We learn from each situation each new year.
I belong to one of the Kansas Heartland Cluster groups, ours is called Covered Acers and includes 12 families who live within a 30 mile radius. I host at least one meeting per year, usually the August meeting. From the very beginning of this project, I kept this group informed.
I also had a letter from a farmer in Illinois, asking about this machine. I told him all I could. I’m sure there will be more questions as this project progresses.