In the third installment of “a year in the life” of farmer Ron Burns and his fiancée Melissa Downerd, work is being done to harvest the soybean crop and prepare the fields for cover crops at the farm in Union County.
When the farm is busy, I call in reinforcements. I enjoy my time with my family, including my mom, Terri. She operates the combine, goes on parts and fuel runs and hauls grain.
I have one machine dedicated to harvesting the organic soybean crop. The long-term goal is to have a line of machinery dedicated to organic production, especially equipment for grain handling so there is no mixing of our GMO, conventional and organic crops. While all are equally important in sustainable food production, we want to ensure our buyers receive exactly what they have asked to purchase.
Cover crop seed is all mixed together and ready to drill (plant) with the 750 John Deere, which places seed into the ground. Cover crop seed varieties are purchased separately and I mix it myself, which saves on expenses. Oats, peas and radishes are the cover crops we plant. Cover crops help hold nutrients and soil in place for next season.
While late season grass reduced the soybean yield, I was happy with the grain quality. Grass, or anything else growing in a field with a crop, absorbs nutrients and reduces the yield potential of that crop, in this instance soybeans. Grain size, shape, moisture, test weight and minimal foreign matter (like weeds) make for quality grains.
Here I’m setting rate/population to ensure a quality cover crop stand. Seed sizes vary as does the number of seeds needed to be planted per acre (population). We set population based on how many plants we want to grow per acre. We don’t want the cover crop to be too thin to reach its potential for ground cover and nutrient uptake. Cover crops will help us in the off-season maximize soil health potential.
Here I’m using the John Deere 750 drill to get the cover crop into the ground after the soybean harvest is complete. We prep the soil for cover crops and plant after the harvest is complete.
Photos by Dave Gore