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Archive | March, 2015

Meet an Eco-Farmer: Apple Ridge Farm

Apple Ridge Farm Eco-Farmers

Brian & Lisa Bruno, Apple Ridge Farm

Why did you begin farming?

I started farming while in college to make a little extra money one summer and caught the bug.

Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change?

Yes, we’ve been farming sustainably since the beginning.

What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?

The biggest hurdle has been growing the business beyond my own capabilities by hiring employees and turning over some of the responsibilities of running the farm to them.

What do you enjoy most about farming?

I enjoy doing something real and feeding people truly good healthy food that was produced with no shortcuts.

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Smart Sowing for Natural Weed Control

weedy-wheatNew research results from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences report that weeds would have a tough time competing against crops such as corn, grains and beans if farmers were to alter their sowing patterns.

“Our results demonstrate that weed control in fields is aided by abandoning traditional seed sowing techniques. Farmers around the world generally sow their crops in rows. Our studies with wheat and corn show that tighter sowing in grid patterns suppresses weed growth. This provides increased crop yields in fields prone to heavy amounts of weeds,” said Professor Jacob Weiner, a University of Copenhagen plant ecologist.

Research studies performed in Danish wheat fields, together with recent studies in Colombian cornfields, demonstrate that modified sowing patterns and the nearer spacing of crops results in a reduction of total weed biomass. The amount of weeds was heavily reduced — by up to 72 percent — while grain yields increased by more than 45 percent in heavily weed-infested fields. The trick is to increase crop-weed competition and utilize the crop’s head start, so that it gains a large competitive advantage over the neighboring weeds. The research results from Colombia have been published in Weed Research. This encapsulation of the research is from the March 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Ordering Chicks: Tips for Adding the Right Birds to Your Flock

Chicks

The normal, as-hatched ratio is six cockerel chicks for every four pullet chicks hatched. Photo by Scott David Gordon

Ordering chicks, for most of us, means that spring comes early in the poultry world. Here in Missouri we start planning out the mating groups in the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The hatchery catalogs start arriving a week or so after Christmas. It was once tradition to start the pullet chicks in February to have them sorted and laying for the fall and winter months when eggs would normally post seasonal highs.

That box or two of chicks that arrives during the traditional hatching season, mid-February through early June, are so much more than the little bits of fluff they first appear to be. I sometimes wonder if everyone fully understands what awaits beneath the lids of such boxes.

Too many folks flip through a catalog or stand before the little pens at a farm supply store and buy some of those because they’re cute, some of the “funny” colored ones, and others because they recognize the breed name or because their grandparents had some of them. Bits and pieces are alright when piecing together a quilt, but a poultry flock, to be successful, must be built with a plan and a uniformity of vision. Continue Reading →

Humans Have Huge Impact on Soil Loss

Human impact on soil loss.A new University of Vermont study on soil loss reveals that removing native forest and starting intensive agriculture can accelerate erosion so dramatically that in a few decades soil loss is as high as would naturally occur over thousands of years. Along the southern Piedmont from Virginia to Alabama — that stretch of rolling terrain between the Appalachian Mountains and the coastal plain of the Atlantic Ocean — clay soils built up for many millennia. Then, in just a few decades of intensive logging and cotton and tobacco production, as much soil eroded as would have in a pre-human landscape over thousands of years, the scientists note. The study on soil loss was presented in the journal Geology and reported in the March 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Interview: SOS: Save our Soils — Dr. Christine Jones Explains the Life-Giving Link Between Carbon and Healthy Topsoil

Christine Jones Interview - carbon formation

Dr. Christine Jones

To the pressing worldwide challenge of restoring soil carbon and rebuilding topsoil, the Australian soil ecologist Dr. Christine Jones offers an accessible, revolutionary perspective for improving landscape health and farm productivity. For several decades, Jones has helped innovative farmers and ranchers implement regenerative agricultural systems that provide remarkable benefits for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, water management, and productivity. After a highly respected career in public sector research and extension, in 2001 Jones received a Community Fellowship Award from Land and Water Australia for “mobilizing the community to better manage their land, water, and vegetation.” Three years later she launched Amazing Carbon as a means to widely share her vision and inspire change. Jones has organized and presented workshops, field days, seminars, and conferences throughout Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Europe, the United States, and Canada. Last year, she gave presentations to American organizations and institutions as diverse as Arizona State University, the NRCS, the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance, the Massachusetts chapter of Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), the San Luis Valley Soil Health Group, and the Quivira Coalition. In 2015, Jones’ personal commitment to make the biggest possible impact globally will take her to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Kansas, New Mexico, California, Florida, Costa Rica, and South Africa, as well as many regions within Australia and New Zealand. In early March she travels to Western Australia, 2,500 miles from her home, to hold the first in a series of Soil Restoration Farming Forums, in which 11 farmers will receive monetary awards for reversing soil deterioration in dryland cropping systems through intercropping with perennial warm season grasses.

Interviewed by Tracy Frisch

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Biochar: Helping Everything from Soil Fertility to Odor Reduction

Biochar is a valuable soil amendment. It has gained much attention in recent years for its ability to boost soil fertility and microbiology, upgrade soil structure, and accelerate plant growth. Amid a rising tide of research and trials, what was once mostly fuel or water filtration media has suddenly sprouted dozens of innovative applications and benefits.

Biochar in Poultry Farming

Farmer Josh Frye with his gasifier.

Researchers and farmers are have discovered many new uses for biochar, including:
• Stormwater management and treatment
• Phosphorus traps to reduce water pollution
• Nitrogen traps to reduce ammonia and nitrate pollution
• Reclamation of mine tailings
• Building material blended with cement, mortar, plaster, etc.
• Electronic microwave shielding
• Electron storage and release as a “super-capacitor”

• Carbon fiber textiles for odor-absorbent clothing
• Carbon nanofibers to replace plastic and metal

Livestock farming is offering a new and growing area of unexpected uses for biochar. Animals from earthworms to chickens, cattle, and even monkeys show shrewd interest in biochar when it is added to their food. Farmers and scientists around the globe are investigating the use of biochar in livestock production. In the European Union, biochar is carefully defined and approved for use in agriculture, with most fed to livestock or spread on farmland with manure.

This article mainly addresses poultry production, but similar issues and opportunities face other livestock producers. Research from several countries shows that adding one to three percent biochar to cattle feed improves feed efficiency by 28 percent, reduces methane by 25 percent, and increases rate of weight gain by 20 percent.

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