Growing Commercial Cabbage in Heavy Loam Soils in Northern North Dakota
Mike Johnston, Mike Parker, and Danny Olson all of Cando, ND received a 2001 SARE grant to help increase crop diversification in their region. These farms have conventionally raised wheat, durum, barley oats, sunflowers, dry beans, flax and corn. They have also grown vegetables, mushrooms, marigolds and basil on trial acreages over the last several years. The farms range from 800 acres to 1400 of small grains and row crops. This project was an effort to move toward a more commercial production on larger areas of land.
The objective of this project was to expand on the diversification of crops and create a better way of utilizing the resources in the region. The new crops would allow a break in the disease cycles and also create more economic activity for farmers in the area. The results from past trials of cabbage, carrots and onions have shown that these vegetables can be produced at a high quality and also contain high yields.
This project focused primarily on the production and marketing of cabbage since it seemed to grow well in North Dakota’s climate. This SARE grant helped them obtain the information and equipment that was necessary in order to begin their project. Since the area has medium to heavy loam soils they decided to use a raised bed system so that there is a place for the excess water and to also to make the harvesters jobs easier. They used both transplants and seeds in order to increase the length of time that they would be able to harvest and sell the cabbage.
Pre-emerge and post-emerge herbicides were used to help control the amount of grasses in the cabbage, but they had difficulties with the amount of weeds in their production due to not finding a herbicide for the seeded cabbage. The weed strain could result in lower yields and cause difficulty with the harvest if they were not controlled manually. They used both drip and overhead sprinkler systems in the first year of operation, but found that the drip system provided less germination.
Throughout this process they learned a lot about the ups and downs of cabbage production, but were successful in completing several of the goals they set out for this project. They found that the cabbage grows well in the region and were successful in marketing the “locally grown” produce. “This project provided evidence that this type of crop could be an alternative crop enterprise to augment existing farm operations and assist new small farm operations,” explained Johnston. They shared the success of their SARE project through various presentations, tours and field days.