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Sustainable Practices


Adam and Laura’s cover cropping and fertility practices are integrated into their crop rotation system. They try to maintain at least three years between the same crop families in a given location to prevent soil-borne disease and insect pressure. Although they are still learning about the complex relationship between fertility, cover cropping, and crop rotations and determining what works best for them, they currently have three basic rotations in use. An example of one of them is given in the sidebar. Numerous factors affect their decisions about which rotation to use on a given field, including ease of irrigation.

At A Glance: Crop Rotation

An example of one of Adam and Laura’s three basic rotations is described below.

Year 1

Composted dairy manure is applied pre-planting at about 5-10 tons per acre to a specific field and disced in the spring. Early broccoli is planted in May and sidedressed two weeks later with Sustane 4-6-4 at 25 lbs per 300 row-feet. After the crop is harvested, oats and peas are planted in August for a fall cover crop. The oats and peas winterkill at the first hard frost and cover the soil for the winter.

Year 2

Green beans are grown with a fall cover crop of nitrogen-fixing hairy vetch.

Year 3

Peppers and eggplant are grown. Crop residue is mowed in the fall.

Year 4

Composted dairy manure is applied pre-planting at similar rates to Year 1 in preparation for planting cucumbers. Sustane is also applied at the standard rate. Cucumbers are planted on silver plastic mulch, and rye grass/red clover are seeded between the rows as a living mulch. After cucumber harvest, the red clover is allowed to continue growing throughout the fall.

Year 5

Red clover remains on the field as a cover crop/green manure.

Another example of crop rotation is available from Riverbend Farm, one of the farms where Laura gained farming experience.

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