Sunday, June 28, 2020

Garden Update

Most everything is established, including the weeds. I don't see a lot of pest pressure, though I'm going to put a floating row cover over the squash to hopefully keep away the squash vine borers.

Broccoli, garlic, radishes, mustard greens, collards, onions, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, corn, peppers, cilantro, parsley. I think that's everything.

Row Cultivating Organic Beans

This group of fields is a work in progress. There is fairly significant weed pressure - foxtail, canadian thistle, curly dock, white cockle, pigweed, lambsquarter - that I've been slowly removing over the last five years by my rotation and crop selection. Still, I need to produce a cash crop on this ground, so this year it's beans, Viking O.1202NP from Albert Lea Seed.

This is my first row cultivation pass, there will be at least one more, maybe two, before the beans canopy.

Modifying Deere RM6 Row Cultivator

In order to get the sweeps close enough to the crops in the row, I had to lengthen what Deere calls a "Crosshead Arm". It was 1.25" solid bar stock, with each row needing a different length welded on to it. (Part number 8 in the schematic below)

There is something off about this configuration of row cultivator and tractor. I could never get it to sit "right" on the row. I can only guess that something got bent before I owned them. This meant that I needed to make this last minute repair so that I could do my row cultivating. Fortunately it all worked out.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Going Over the Combine

Mowing Red Clover

In the spring of 2019 I drilled a nurse crop of oats, underseeded with medium red clover on this transitional (to USDA Organic) ground. The oats were mowed off, along with any weeds, last summer. The clover continued to grow and came back this spring. We're mowing it off again, to kill weeds, and to "feed" soil microbes. What those microbes "excrete" will then be the "food" for my future crop. Around the first of August, after mowing it again, I'll have 3 tons/acre of turkey litter spread on the stubble. Then disc that down, killing most of the clover. Into that I'll drill a tillage radish, with possibly some other species (oats,...?). That will winter kill. Next spring I'll disc again and then plant organic corn.

I've found this the best way to transition ground from conventional (aka chemical) to organic. The small amount of money I'd get from harvesting either the conventional oats or clover aren't worth what I'd lose in soil benefits for my future organic cash crop.

My dad is driving the tractor, a Deere 8100, that's pulling a Deere 520 flail mower. I like how it leaves an even layer of "mulch", with no windrowing.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Tine Weeding 2" Tall Soybeans

The main use of this tool is to get rid of any weeds smaller than the beans that are *in* the row of the crop without damaging the tiny cash crop. (more info here - It also does a great job of removing the little weeds in between the rows. 

I planted these organic beans 1.75" deep (Viking O1202-N) on June 1st and 2nd. Before they emerged I did the first pass with the weeder on June 5th - shown here I tine weeded them a second time, as shown in this video, June 17th. 

I set the angle of the tines about mid way on the "aggressiveness" angle. I also could only go about 3.5 mph. Any faster or more aggressive I start burying or tearing out too many beans. This ground has traditionally been very weedy. 

Every year I've done something long termish to try and reduce the weed pressure. I want to think I'm seeing an improvement year to year. It's going to be rainy for a week. Once it dries out I'll row cultivate them.

Row Cultivating Soybeans

Because I had the row cleaners on the planter too low, the beans were planted in a trench, making it impossible for the tine weeder to reach down in around the beans. I'm fixing that mistake by row cultivating very slow and burying any small weeds in the row of beans by covering the lower part of the bean with soil.

The glare from the sun made it impossible to see what I was shooting as I was doing it. I'm surprised the video turned out as well as it did. One thing that didn't come across is that the top of the beans is about an inch or two below the top of the dirt in between the rows. That's what I was trying to show, unsuccessfully, with my hand at the beginning.

Unfortunately my camera lost focus when I zoomed in. I got the cultivator just set right, going the right speed, to get the right amount of dirt to flow up against the sides of the bean plant. The idea is to bury any little weeds that I couldn't get with the tine weeder because I inadvertently planted my beans at the bottom of a shallow trench. (my row cleaners on the planter were too low.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Planting and Pre-Emerge Tine Weeding of Soybeans

In three days we planted about 15 million soybean seeds on a little less than 100 acres. 64 acres are certified USDA Organic, 32 acres are in their first year of transition to Organic.

The first tine weeding pass is done about an inch deep immediately after planting. I planted the beans approximately 1.75" deep, allowing the tine weeder to remove all the weeds that are in the top inch or so of soil. Most importantly those that are in the row of beans. I can't get at those weeds once the beans emerge. There will be one more pass with the tine weeder, when the beans are about 4" tall. Then there will be two passes with a row cultivator.

I'm finding out that the technology is good most of the time, but it can go wrong. For several logical reasons there is a mismatch between the movement of the tractor, where the GPS receiver is located and the planter where the seeds are placed in the row.  As a result, while the tractor is following a line I set to within 1/2 inch, the planted seeds can occasionally vary by 2-3 inches. This will become more of an issue when I row cultivate in the coming weeks.

The medium term low cost solution to this is installing a sliding hydraulic quick hitch that I can control from the cab. I'll need to put a camera on the area where the row cultivator is engaging with the soil/plant and then move the hitch digitally from the cab. New products and uses for them are coming out all the time but a single package that gives me what I need isn't here yet.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Machine Shed Going Up

It should be finished in about a week. It's 50' x 80' with 18' tall walls, which are needed so I can put my 15' tall combine inside.

I'd been taking pictures almost every day but when I uploaded them to my computer something went wrong and they're gone.