Research on the Farm

For the past couple years, we have set aside small sections of our fields for on-farm research trials.  These trials are led by Claire Strader, who works with Dane County Extension and FairShare CSA Coalition.  She is investigating new growing techniques to reduce tillage on vegetable farms.  Reductions in tillage can mean reduced labor and fossil fuel use, and mitigate losses in organic matter that repeated tillage can cause.  We're really interested in all of these things, and so it's a great collaboration! One of the other benefits of Claire's trials on the farm is that we receive all the produce grown on those plots.  All of the Brussels sprouts we have distributed and sold so far this season are from her plots, and this week's harvest alone yielded us 115 lbs.  We also received a small harvest of acorn squash from the plot that will go to our Late Fall Share members.  
Brussels sprout harvest in the research plot

Brussels sprout harvest in the research plot

20160927_094658 We have a second trial in progress as well that will continue into 2017.  This year, Claire planted Sorghum Sudangrass in a plot that she allowed to grow to full height (it's nearly 7 feet tall!).  The thick stand of grass will then be "rolled" down to create a matted mulch at the surface of the soil.  Next year, tomato seedlings will be planted into the mulch.  In this case, the matted mulch will replace the tillage and plastic ground cover that we would typically lay down for tomatoes.  If yields are similar in this trial to what we expect elsewhere, we may consider changing our system to reduce the tillage and the waste associated with our current practices.
Sudangrass, perhaps 7 feet tall!

Sudangrass, difficult to photograph in this week's wind!

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