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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 PST

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

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

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from issue:

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.

An Introduction Into Plant Polyculture

An excerpt from What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden
Companion Planting for Beginners

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

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from issue:

Any claim about winter production of fresh vegetables, with minimal or no heating or heat storage systems, seems highly improbable. The weather is too cold and the days are too short. Low winter temperatures, however, are not an insurmountable barrier. Nor is winter day-length the barrier it may appear to be. In fact most of the continental US has far more winter sunshine than parts of the world where, due to milder temperatures, fresh winter vegetable production has a long tradition.

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

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from issue:

Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Marketable Cover Crops

Marketable Cover Crops

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Our cover crops have to provide the benefits of smothering weeds, improving soil structure, and replenishing organic matter. They also have to produce some income. For these purposes, we use turnips, mustard and lettuce within our plant successions. I broadcast these seeds thickly on areas where cover crops are necessary and let them do their work.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

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from issue:

The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate Part 2

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 2

Finding just the right cover crop-tillage combination for crops planted the last half of June has always been a real challenge in our location. While surface-tilling mature rye and vetch in May works well for fall crops established in July and August, this cover crop-tillage combo does not allow enough time for decomposition and moisture accumulation for end-of-June plantings.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Starting Seeds

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

Fjordworks Horse Powered Potatoes Part 2

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes Part Two

These types of team implements for digging potatoes were the first big innovation in horse powered potato harvesting in the mid-19th century. Prior to the horse drawn digger the limitation on how many potatoes a farmer could plant was how many the farm crew could dig by hand. The basic design of these early diggers works so well that new models of this type of digger are once again being manufactured by contemporary horse drawn equipment suppliers.

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.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

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The old way of selecting seed from open-pollinated corn involved selecting the best ears from the poorest ground. I have tried to select perfect ears based on the open-pollinated seed corn standards of the past. I learned these standards from old agricultural texts. The chosen ears of Reid’s average from 9 to 10.5 inches long and have smooth, well-formed grains in straight rows. I try to select ears with grains that extend to the end of the cob.

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.

Peach

Peach

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from issue:

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.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

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