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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Swallow

Below is an excerpt from Farm Economy: Twelve Courses in Agriculture, published in 1916, explaining the merits of rotating crops.

“Introduction – Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes. For many years this was attributed to soil exhaustion- to the actual using up of the elements of fertility in the soil. We now know that this deterioration is not due to soil depletion alone, but to the attacks of fungi and moulds also.

Potatoes grown continuously on the same soil become infected with potato scab and all the various kinds of rots. These rots and scab organisms live through the winter in the soil and multiply with every crop until at length the field must be given up. So wheat and barley and oats transmit many similar moulds and fungi to the soil, where they live and multiply with each succeeding crop.

Some fungi rot away the roots of the grain plant so that when the hot winds come in heading time, there are no roots left to carry water to the grain heads. These heads cannot then fill out properly, the tip becoming shriveled and shrunken. In the first wind storm, the straw, having no anchoring roots left, crinkles over to the ground. These fungi are the true cause of blights.

Other fungi content themselves with entering the plant and robbing it of the food which it has stored up for itself. The plant, thus deprived of its proper nourishment, cannot grow to its full size, or reach full maturity. The fungi which produce this stunted growth are called canker fungi, and a plant attacked by them is “cankered.”

In time the field becomes infested with thousands of these different fungi which lie, literally, in ambush in the old stubble and attack the young grain plants as soon as they emerge from their protecting seed-coats.

Blight

The Principle of Rotation – Where the fields are only moderately infected with fungi, moulds, and rusts, the best method of combating them is by crop rotation.

Fortunately for the farmer a given fungus can live only on its host, the plant upon which it is accustomed to feed. Very few fungi can attack more than one kind of a plant, and those which can are confined to close relationship with the host plant. Potato scab fungi cannot affect wheat; wheat fungi cannot affect corn; corn rot fungi cannot affect cotton. It is possible for some fungi to attack both wheat and barley, because they are rather closely related and their growth habits are similar. This knowledge gives us a good method for controlling diseases.

We have only to starve the fungi out by planting in succession a number of totally different crops. Very few fungi can live more than a year without their host, and if we keep their particular host plant off the field for two or three years by substituting other crops for it, their destruction is certain. Of course these other crops bring in their particular fungi, but these are starved out in the same manner.

Thus, if we plant corn on a field which has been devoted to clover, the clover fungi cannot live on the corn plants and so die. If we follow corn with a crop of wheat, the corn fungi cannot live on the wheat and so must die. If now we return to clover, the wheat fungi cannot live. The interval of three years between each successive crop insures in most cases the death of all its particular moulds and fungi. The greater the number of different crops in a rotation, the more completely are the fungi destroyed.

Profitable Rotations – Rotations, however, must be composed of profitable crops for the locality. Otherwise the prevention is rendered useless. As a general rule a complete rotation should consist of a year of cultivated crops to get rid of weeds and insects, and a year in grain. On heavy soils, the rotation should include a forage crop to be plowed under in the fall. On sandy soils, clovers, alfalfa, soy beans, vetch, or some similar legume should be given precedence in building up the soil. Cultivated crops can usually be grown for two successive years where profitable, because cultivation holds the fungi in check for a time and cleans the land of weeds. A four or five-year rotation of profitable crops, carefully handles, will improve the quality of all. More than this, is a legume is included, the crop fed on the farm, and the manure carefully handled, the soil will be build up rather than depleted, and the use of commercial fertilizer rendered almost unnecessary.

One of the most common ways of making rotation useless is by being careless about the straw used in manure. We cannot expect to rid our fields of wheat fungi if we spread wheat straw manure over the rest of the rotation. The same is true for all our grains. Do not put manure made from a certain kind of straw upon a field that is to produce that same crop, but put the manure on a field that is to grow some entirely different crop.”

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

What We've Learned From Compost

What We’ve Learned From Compost

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Our compost piles will age for at least a year before being added to the garden. We have learned that the slow aging is more beneficial to the decomposition process as well as not losing nearly as much nitrogen to off-gassing as happens with the hot and fast methods. Another benefit is the decomposition is much more thorough, destroying weed seeds, pathogens and any unwanted chemicals much better in a slower composting setup.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

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Heretofore potato production in this country has been conducted along extensive rather than intensive lines. In other words, we have been satisfied to plant twice as many acres as should have been necessary to produce a sufficient quantity of potatoes for our food requirements. Present economic conditions compel the grower to consider more seriously the desirability of reducing the cost of production by increasing the yield per acre.

Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

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We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

Mullein Indigenous Friend to All

Mullein: Indigenous Friend to All

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Mullein is a hardy native, soft and sturdy requiring no extra effort to thrive on your part. Whether you care to make your own medicines or not, consider mullein’s value to bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, who are needing nectar and nourishment that is toxin free and safe to consume. In this case, all you have to do is… nothing. What could be simpler?

Walki Biodegradable Mulching Paper

New Biodegradable Mulching Paper

Views of any and all modern farming stir questions for me. The most common wonder for me has been ‘how come we haven’t come up with a something to replace plastic?’ It’s used for cold frames, hotbeds, greenhouses, silage and haylage bagging and it is used for mulch. That’s why when I read of this new Swedish innovation in specialized paper mulching I got the itch to scratch and learn more. What follows is what we know. We’d like to know more. LRM

Bamboo A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

Bamboo: A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

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The bamboos are gaining increased attention as an alternative crop with multiple uses and benefits: 1) domestic use around the farm (e.g., vegetable stakes, trellis poles, shade laths); 2) commercial production for use in construction, food, and the arts (e.g., concrete reinforcement, fishing poles, furniture, crafts, edible bamboo shoots, musical instruments); and 3) ornamental, landscape, and conservation uses (e.g., specimen plants, screens, hedges, riparian buffer zone).

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Concerning the Bioextensive Market Garden

One of our goals when we first started farming here was to develop the farm as a self-contained nutrient system. Unlike the almost complete recycling of nutrients which can take place on a livestock operation, we are always amazed – even a little disturbed – to see how many tons of fertility and organic matter leave the market garden each year with so little returned to the good earth.

Carrots and Beets The Roots of Our Garden

Carrots & Beets – The Roots of Our Garden

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Carrots and beets are some of the vegetables that are easy to kill with kindness. They’re little gluttons for space and nutrients, and must be handled with an iron fist to make them grow straight and strong. Give the buggers no slack at all! Your motto should be – “If in doubt, yank it out!” I pinch out a finger full (maybe 3/4” wide) and skip a finger width. Pinch and skip, pinch and skip, working with existing gaps and rooting out particularly thick clumps.

Onion Culture

Onion Culture

The essential requirements of a soil upon which to grow onions profitably are a high state of fertility, good mechanical condition, properties – that is, if it contains sufficient sand and humus to be easily worked, is retentive of moisture and fertilizers, and is capable of drainage – all other requirements can be met.

Peach

Peach

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The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT