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Farm Scale Study: Planting

June 5, 2009
Moises Hernandez (foreground) and Brian Geier transplant sweet potato starts into a biointensive plot. All management in the biointensive plots is conducted by hand.

Moises Hernandez (foreground) and Brian Geier transplant sweet potato starts into a biointensive plot. All management in the biointensive plots is conducted by hand.

Almost all of our crops are in the ground for the second year of our farm scale study. Kentucky has had a wet spring, so everything is growing like mad, but soggy soil has delayed some planting.

Last year we had relatively poor establishment of our direct-seeded crops in the biointensive plots.  This year we transplanted everything into the biointensive plots. The soil preparation in the biointensive plots was conducted with hand tools. We cut the cover crop with scythes, and incorporated it, along with some aged horse manure, using spading forks and a broadfork. The manure was not composted according to organic requirements, so we will have to wait 120 days after its incorporation to harvest the sweet potatoes, and 90 days to harvest the other crops.

We used a roto-tiller attached to a walk-behind tractor to prepare the soil in the market garden plots, and a plow and roto-tiller pulled by a conventional 4-wheeled tractor in the small farm plots.

John Rodgers (foreground) cultivates a market garden plot using a walk-behind tractor while Tony Silvernail performs the same task in a small farm plot with a 4-wheeled tractor.

John Rodgers (foreground) cultivates a market garden plot using a walk-behind tractor while Tony Silvernail performs the same task in a small farm plot with a 4-wheeled tractor.

Moises Hernandez direct-seeds a market garden plot. The market garden scale plots use no fossil fuel machinery larger than a walk-behind tractor.

Moises Hernandez direct-seeds a market garden plot. The market garden scale plots use no fossil fuel machinery larger than a walk-behind tractor.

Tony Silvernail direct-seeds a small farm plot using a Tye seeder pulled by a coventional 4-wheeled tractor.

Tony Silvernail direct-seeds a small farm plot using a Tye seeder pulled by a coventional 4-wheeled tractor.

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We direct-seeded the corn, sweet sorghum and soybean into our market garden plots using an Earthway seeder. We direct- seeded these same crops into the small farm plots using a tractor-pulled seeder.

Of course we kept track of all of the time and fossil fuel used to conduct these operations at each of the farm scales.

Tony Silvernail uses a graduated cylinder to measure the amount of diesel fuel needed to top off the tractor's tank after a field operation.

Tony Silvernail uses a graduated cylinder to measure the amount of diesel fuel needed to top off the tractor's tank after a field operation..

It feels like we’re off to a good start for the season, but yesterday we had to say good-bye to Moises Hernandez who is returning to Mexico after studying at Kentucky State University for the past two years. He plans to start an organic agriculture project in his hometown when he returns. We’ll miss the contributions he made to our project, but look forward to hearing about his future adventures.

The gallery below shows some more pictures of spring on the Kentucky State University research farm.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2009 10:46 pm

    I’m curious to know a little more about your seeding technique for cover crops. With the Tye seeder you use, can you plant a mix of seeds or does it just allow a single variety each pass? Can it overseed into established cover crops to diversify cover crop varieties? Which Tye model is it? (I’m looking at buying a Tye ‘Cover Cropper’ made in 1990 and can’t find much info about it).

    Thanks for any help!

    Kevin

    • June 15, 2009 9:23 am

      We use a Tye “Pasture Pleaser” grain drill. It is suitable for no-till planting, and could overseed into established cover crops. It has a small seed bin and a large seed bin. You can put a mix of similarly-sized seeds into either bin, or use both bins simultaneously to plant a mix of small and large-seeded crops, like grains and legumes.

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