Eco Soil Building Panel
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Eco Soil Building Panel



Ulrich Hack, Hack Farm; Chris Boettcher, Bob Kerr, and Roger Rivest. Facilitated by Phillip Woodhouse ...

Ulrich Hack, Hack Farm; Chris Boettcher, Bob Kerr, and Roger Rivest. Facilitated by Phillip Woodhouse

“Don’t treat your dirt like dirt!!” These four organic producers, with a wealth of knowledge will discuss how to build the optimal soil. They will discuss healthy soils, soil structure, compost, cover crops, tillage systems; healthy eco-systems, and much more!



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  • Hack Farm <br />

Eco Soil Building Panel Eco Soil Building Panel Presentation Transcript

  • Ecological Day GBFW 14 Soil Building Panel  Participants: Ulrich Hach, Hack Farm Christian Bob Boettcher Kerr, Kerr Farms Roger Rivest, Keystone Grain Facilitated by Phillip Woodhouse
  • Hack Farm  The Farm is located near Kincardine and North of Hwy 9, an area that seems to miss a lot of summer rains due to the lake effect.  The Farm is 900 acres in 1 piece, plus some nearby rented fields.
  • Hack Farm Farm Situation  About 50% of the Farm are droughtprone sandy soils.  Being in the snowbelt translates into being in the rain-shade in summer (lake-effect).  Windy  Soil area due to the lake. prone to wind erosion.  Fertility challenges on sandy soils.
  • Hack Farm  The Farm is a cash crop operation, with a herd of 70 beef cows to help maintain fertility.  The Farm is Organic and Demeter certified and uses the biodynamic principle of the closed Farm organism.  That means we strife to produce all our fertility needs on the Farm.
  • Hack Farm 916 acres  Of crops and pasture  Crops  Hay, include: Spelt, Soybeans, Oats, ForagePeas, Rye, Green Peas, Millet, Flax, Corn, Clover-seed
  • Hack Farm Organic Since 1982  We came from a Demeter Farm in Germany, that was converted in 1967.  In 1982 we came to Canada and converted to organic and Demeter.  In 2004 we bought additional land and converted it.  The rented parcels were converted as we got them, starting in 2000.
  • Hack Farm Soil Health  Crop rotation and the green-manure crops are the main tools for soil health.  They get enhanced by the use of our homemade biodynamic Preparations.  The manure is composted prior to application  Animals are a big asset for longterm fertility
  • Hack Farm Green Manure  Red clover is best if sufficient moisture  If moisture is not sufficient, it can enhance Quackgrass population.  Oats and forage peas are an alternative, as they can still grow with cooler temperatures with the fall moisture
  • Hack Farm Green Manure Crops  Clover  Sweet clover  Rye  Oats  Peas  Tillage Radish or winter canola  Buckwheat
  • Hack Farm Green Manure Crops  Clover  Sweet -Beautiful soil structure Clover -Deep root  Rye -Low temperature growth  Buckwheat - Fast germinating when warm  Oats, Peas  Clover for seed to add fertility  Tillage Radish, Canola, Oilradish
  • Hack Farm Crop Rotation  Our crop rotation is not fixed, as the soils (sand to clay), drainage and weed pressure vary considerably
  • Hack Farm Crop Rotation  Hay Compost  Hay Compost  Hay Summer-fallow  Spelt Red Clover  Soybeans  Rye Red Clover Compost  Millet
  • Hack Farm Crop Rotation Continued  Spelt  Red Red Clover Compost Clover  Flax  Spelt Red Clover Compost Red Clover  Soybeans  Millet Clover?  Mixed Grain Underseeded to hay
  • Hack Farm Considered Changes  Red and Sweet clover, Ryegrass Tim.  Spelt Red clover  Soybeans Rye  Rye Seeded down  Red and Sweet clover, Ryegrass Tim.  Spelt Oats, Peas, Canola, Red Clover  Soybeans Rye, Oats  Millet Sweet Clover
  • Hack Farm Considered Changes Cont.  Barley Underseeded  Red and Sweet clover, Ryegrass Tim  Spelt Red Clover  Red Clover Rye, Oats  Soybeans Rye, Oats  Millet Sweet clover  Oats Underseeded
  • Hack Farm Avoid Compaction  Start working the soil shallow, and slowly go deeper 2 passes within 24 hours dries out the hair-roots of quackgrass  Plowed  Plowed clover leaves best seedbed ground has less weeds than chisel-plowed
  • Hack Farm Weed Control  Blind harrowing is most effective  Later harrowing mainly gets the smaller weeds  For scuffling row-crops, set the cultivator close to the row (from 12” down to 5”)  Front-mount  Mirror  Late makes control easier or guidance system for rear mount scuffling before canopy closes
  • Hack Farm
  • Hack Farm Rotate to Break Weed Cycles  Cool season annual  Warm season annual Mustard Velvetleaf  Biennial Peppergrass  Perennial Quackgrass  Mustard can not compete in wintergrain or hay fields
  • First cut hay
  • Hack Farm
  • Hack Farm
  • Hack Farm Mixed Grain
  • Hack Farm Soybeans
  • Rye
  • Hack Farm Red clover after Rye
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm  Located S/E of Brussels, Huron County on the edge of the Stratford plain.  Soil types range from: Perth Clay Loam Brookston Black  Have Clay Loam Muck in low lying areas farmed this land with his wife Gabriele and their 5 children since the early 1980’s.
  • Boettcher Family Farm  After a health crisis they switched from conventional agriculture to biodynamic/organic farming in the early 1990’s.  Lost faith in conventional agriculture.
  • Boettcher Family Farm  Run a 430 workable acre mixed operation.  Main livestock component is a flock of 400 breeding ewes and their +/- 600 lambs.  Crops – Grow spelt, soybeans, oats, rye, experiment with canola, and 5-8 acres of vegetables.
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm Crop Rotation  Was developed to balance the needs for the livestock, field crops, and soil building simultaneously.  To build up soil fertility and humus content, they grow 2 years of an 8 species forage mixture for grazing and hay production.
  • Boettcher Family Farm Crop Rotation Cont.  At the end of year two after a 5 T/acre compost application, the forage stand is worked in ahead of Fall Spelt seeding.  The third year spelt is underseededto double-cut red clover.  Fall of year three – lamb grazing
  • Boettcher Family Farm Crop Rotation Cont.  Year four produces a crop of oats/peas which is harvested.  Bin run oats is broadcast and disked into the year four oat stubble in August.  Green oats is grazed in the Fall.
  • Boettcher Family Farm Crop Rotation Cont.  Year five sees soya beans planted and grain rye seed is broadcast and disked into soy stubble in Fall of year five.  In year six, rye is underseeded in the Spring to an 8-way forage mix again.  In the Fall, this new forage seeding can be lightly grazed if needed.
  • Boettcher Family Farm Soil Health  Built up through crop rotation and is maintained by “thoughtful” tillage.  Overall diesel fuel consumption amounts to 16 litres/acre per year on all tillage and harvesting operations.
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm Soil Health cont.  Their principle: “Do everything to create soil biological activity and avoid everything that hinders this biological activity”
  • Boettcher Family Farm
  • Boettcher Family Farm Soil Health cont.  Through soil testing they can monitor biological activity in numbers.  Soil organic matter is steadily rising as is the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC).  The macro minerals are leveling off at medium to medium high and the micronutrients are bouncing back from his conventional days.
  • Boettcher Family Farm Soil Health cont.  Soil life is fed almost every season by sheep manure and inter crop roots.  Yields have increased steadily over time and are now equal to his conventional colleagues and neighbours.  Weed pressure, pests and diseases are decreasing. A good crop rotation can manage weeds.
  • Year Crop/Operation Comments Year 1 • Legume/grass mix • Building up fertility and humus • (3 legumes, 3 grasses) • One cutting for hay, one • Diversity in root species grazing with flock • Forage tops converted by ruminants into fertilizer • No tillage Year 2 • Legume/grass mix • Root mass to feed soil life • One cutting, one grazing • Maximum build-up of soil fertility • 5 tonnes/acre winter compost worked in • Disk and rip up forage stand • Spelt seeding Year 3 • Spelt for harvest • Spelt (mediocre root system) heavy user of fertility • Red clover underseeding • Grazing in • Red clover builds fertility back September/October up • 1-2 offset diskings
  • Year Year 4 Crop/Operation • Oats for harvest • After harvest: oats broadcasted and disked in • Green oats (or seed cocktail) for grazing in November/December Comments • Oats – medium fertility user with superb root system • Superior soil tilth (calcium, phosphorus and micronutrient accumulator • No fall tillage Year 5 • Broadcast and harrowed • Oats easy to undercut for soy in oats ahead of seeding • Soybeans for harvest • Superb tilth • Broadcast and light disk • High brix soybeans => aphid rye after soy harvest management Year 6 • Rye for harvest • Rye uses up remnant fertility • Legume/grass mix • Good weed suppression underseeding • Legume/grass mix provides • Light grazing in October diversity again • No tillage
  • Changes in Soil Fertility Over the Last 16 Years on our Farm Organic Matter .02% to .1% increase per year Cation Exchange Capacity No change or 10-15% increase in 20 years (CEC) PH Moving towards neutral Acid soluble test • • • • Magnesium – down Calcium – up Potassium – slightly down (H to M range) Phosphorus – slightly down (VH to H range) Water soluble test • • • • • • • Calcium – up by up to 50% Potassium – slightly down Phosphorus – slightly down Magnesium – slightly up Sulphur – up Sodium – down Micronutrients – improving