Workshop discusses no-till equipment
PITTSTOWN — “Patience is the key to success,” is how farmer Jeff Bowlby of Frenchtown characterizes farming.
Bowlby attended a morning-long workshop on equipment used for planting with cover crops held at Tom Meyers’ farm here.
Bowlby uses wheat and crimson clover and till radishes as cover crops on his farm which he said is over top of a lot of shale. He said each field has its own personality.
“You can’t just set a plant and go,” he said. “Don’t try to set any land speed records,” He did acknowledge he didn’t always feel that way. “Until this spring, if dust ain’t flyin’, I’m not going.”
Since he learned patience, he waits for the ground to be ready.
Bowlby was one of the more talkative farmers the workshop, which was a service of North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development.
RC&D staff used the opportunity to remind farmers it has money available for education.
Bridgett Hilshey said the fund can be used in the Neshanic, Readington and Musconetcong regions. She also said RC&D is looking for summer interns with a farming background. Wages are $14 an hour.
The RC&D invited Hunterdon County farmer and tool designer John Nance and Charlie Martin “the God of Green Planting,” a farmer and innovator from Perry County, Pa., to share how successful cover crops make for a successful harvest.
Various no-till practices involving drills and discs can lead to good outcomes, but farmers need to remain aware of topography and soil conditions. Meyers is a fan of green planting for environmental and physical reasons, he said. “Planting green keeps slugs down,” he said.
Nance warned against allowing the planters to loosen up to the point they kick up seed on slopes or place double or triple seed or skip a spot altogether on hard soil. He said disassembling the seed units annually will take the pressure off and help with this.
Planting when the soil is too wet can result in “rootless” corn. The roots do not form in a center mass but spread out near the surface. Spreading roots don’t get water once the soil turns dry, Nance said.
Martin reminded the farmers when the cover crop reaches one inch, a decision needs to be made about cutting, rolling or spraying. If the cover crop grows too tall and gets wet it will stay wet a long time.
While Bowlby and many farmers in the northwest have challenges involved trying to farm in the Slate Belt, farmers father south find themselves dealing with clay which can also be stubborn in wet seasons and can influence the choice of planters and drills.
Killing off the cover crop can be a challenge as well. Small grains can be killed off with glyphosate after they are rolled down.
Martin suggested Dicamba for vetch, but Bowlby noted he is surrounded by grapes so he doesn’t dare spray with that.
“I haven’t used Atrazine in years,” Martin said, noting his use of herbicides has dropped since he has rolled the crop. “If stalks are still standing the disc just pushes through them,” Martin said.
Cover crops can change the balance of fertilizer needed, Nance said. “Cover crop uses up all the nitrogen and potassium,” he said. Martin said he doesn’t use more nitrogen, but he adds it to the crop up front.
He noted potassium is needed for seed corn.
The farmers had plenty of opportunity to discuss the methods they use and to consult with representatives of Hoober Inc. about equipment choices.
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