Thursday, January 22, 2009

The North Field

The North field is my no-till experiment. Last year I grew a sorghum x sudangrass cover crop to renovate the soil. The roots loosened the soil and the biomass boosted organic matter as expected. Optionally a legume cover crop could follow to complete the renovation but in this situation this step is unnecessary. Soil tests indicate the field is able to support a healthy corn stand.

The goals of the North field are to grow sweet corn, practice multi planting and manage disease and pests. There will be six varieties of sweet corn: early season bicolor se+ and sh2, mid season white se+ and sh2, and late season bicolor se+ and sh2. The early planting dates are dependent on seasonal field conditions such as water and temperature. The late planting dates are dependent on the anticipated end of the growing season. The early plantings are targeted for beginning of May. The late plantings are targeted for end of June. Plantings are spaced two weeks apart so there is plenty of cushion to account for expected problems such as weather delays and many unexpected problems too.

Another goal is to practice double planting and companion planting. The early season corn stands will be harvested then replanted to broccoli. The broccoli may be directly seeded or started in trays then transplanted after the first corn harvest. The broccoli can then grow deep into the fall because it is tolerant to frost damage. The mid and late season corn stands will be companion planted with carving pumpkins and winter squash. These stands will be harvested then the stalks will dry down exposing the pumpkins and squash. These hold well in the field so there is no pressure for a timely harvest.

The final goal is to manage disease and pests. These are standard goals; this field in particular will suffer from deer and earworm. The deer problem can be solved with a fence but this solution is too costly for a market scale field. So this is an opportunity to evaluate alternate methods. The most interesting challenge is corn earworm. These little buggers are insidious! They do not eat until they burrow through the silks into the ear rendering foliar sprays ineffective. Powdery mildew resistant pumpkin and squash varieties minimizes my disease concerns.

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