PDF FARM EXPERIMENTS
As always click on any photo to see it larger….use your browser back button to return to the blog.
I liked the new letterhead that I made for the OP-ED article so I am going to use it again…The mule is my good friend Stewarts good little mule Dancehall Dixie….The jackass riding the mule is yours truly.
I have a lot of photos I took of various things this morning as I was working. The photos are from the cell phone and I cannot see to aim the thing in the sunlight so the photos are not as good as my regular camera. The phone camera is just as high a quality but if you cannot see to aim it the photography suffers.
This is the mornings work area…the three pvc pipes are the left hand boundary of the two lots grazed by the heifers this past week…this area will be broadcast to cool season seed mix and bushoged and closed off while the cattle move to the next lots up the hill.
In sowing yesterdays lot my shoulder bag seeder when kaput….so while I was out yesterday afternoon I stopped by home depot to get one they advertised on line….but they failed to have one in the store….
So I stopped at tractor supply and found this one for a little more than half the price and I think I am going to like this one.
Metal gears that are exposed and can be lubricated. Metal seed opening adjustment.
Real good seed distribution. Easy adjustment for volume and easy cranking….
Below is a step that I got behind on this year…and I have been paying the price. I did not trim under the electric fences the first time we grazed and then the crops got over them and I have been trimming fences ever since…this works for me as well as anything…a mower with the wheels set as high as I can set them….lot easier than a string trimmer..I have a wheeled string trimmer and it is worthless. This little mower handles blackberries and small trees and poke berries and the residue. More on residue to follow….residue is important…Part of what I want to illustrate is the amount of residue I am leaving….in this paddock the residue probably averages 8 inches high or more…I could make them eat more…
But that does not leave anything for the livestock underground….building the soil microbia is a key component to building the soil….this takes underground roots and surface residue…my goal is for the livestock to take half and leave half and I think we have come closer to it this year than any year in the past….a good part of the credit must go to the timely rains we have had most of the summer….water is the most important nutrient.
I have learned some things this year…It is not awful for grasses to go to seed. I have a couple of wet paddocks that I could not get into to seed or bushog after grazing….these paddocks had a pretty good mat of walked down residue and I wondered how it was going to affect the grass…the orchard grass and fescue had put up seed heads and they had matured before it got dry enough to even let the horses in that area. Now a month or so after grazing I have new grass showing all over the lot. Natural reseeding. I am also seeing increased red clover in areas where I have not seeded red clover in a couple of years. In addition if the livestock grazed those seed heads they help with the reseeding. Yes I get a few weeds but weeds have some value as long as they do not take over…bush hogging after grazing will control the weeds. I actually need more goats to graze with the cattle for better weed utilization. My lazy goats are not hungry and lay about the barn most of the day.
The morning light was not the best for the photo below. It shows the stages of the lots mown and sown the last three weeks. Last weeks has barley up about three inches tall today. The grasses are too fine to see. Clover is starting to become apparent.
I mentioned above that I have lots that did fine without mowing…the only reason I mow regularly after grazing is for weed control and to suppress the existing vegetation to allow the new seed to get established. A good grass stand will not allow much competition to get established.
Below is where I will talk about what I learned about quantifying the value of residue just this weekend. Some background is in order.
A couple of years ago I attempted to set up an aquaculture experiment…raising fish in rain water tanks and using plants grown in gravel to filter the water and fertilize the plants…My experiment did not work because I could not find an economical 12 volt pumping system…small pumps would not pump enough water and the fish did not get enough aeration, and pumps of sufficient volume killed the battery beyond solar charging capacity. So for a couple of seasons now I have just scattered seed in the tubs full of gravel and observed what would grow. Last summer I dropped some improved crab grass seed in these tubs and grew a whale of a crop….no nutrients just kept it watered growing in pea gravel. In the fall I dropped some cool season cover in it and had a decent spring cover crop, again just gravel and water….when the cover crop faded with summer heat the crab grass came back,,,naturally reseeded…I normally water my cover crop buckets daily and also water these tubs…
Now, these tubs have a valve system to keep them from getting water logged and if full, the drain opens and drains the tub…sometimes a heavy rain will trigger the valve and I have to refill them…so I check the water about every day….Normal transpiration will use about two to three quarts of water per day.
I decided to drop some cover crop seed in the gravel again this fall…the crab grass and buckwheat had overgrown the walking area so I decided to cut it back…I took some shears and cut it back to about six inches and generated a pile of residue. After I generated the pile of residue….I thought why not chop this up and mulch the seed with it…the second tub I did not cut as it was not in my walking area. The residue I took off when chopped up made about a five gallon bucket of mulch….I put it on the seed and it made a layer at least six inches thick….All this was late Friday afternoon. I did my regular watering during that evenings chores. Saturday afternoon the tub with no mulch required the regular two quarts of water. The tub with the mulch require 1 pint of water….only one quarter of the normal amount. I will try to see how long the effect lasts. Same on Sunday….two quarts in the tub with no mulch and about a pint to the tub with the mulch.
Photo below is the mulched tub and then the two tubs side by side.
the mulch tub is still only using about a pint or less of water per day…..the unmulched tub is using a quart and a half to two quarts depending on the heat of the day. the fall cover crop is coming up in both….more easily seen in the unmulched tub but the cover is coming up through the mulch in the mulched tub. will try to get some new photos