South Dakota in Baldock
Today I spent the day listening to Dr Dwayne Beck of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm, South Dakota at a BASE UK meeting in Baldock, Hertfordshire.
Dr Beck’s main interest is in no till, cover crops and especially rotations. During the day he highlighted the importance of very diverse rotations including stacked rotations. He highlighted the importance of having a rotation containing warm season broadleaves and grasses and cool season broadleaves and grasses. He also emphasised the importance of having a two year gap between crop types not just one, which is commonplace here. For example: winter wheat, maize, spring peas, winter OSR, winter barley, spring oats, spring linseed, winter beans. The above rotation is very complex and may not be practical but it has two broadleaf crops followed by two cereals but also two winter crops followed by two spring crops. The idea is that it allows you two years to get on top grass weeds in the broadleaf part of the rotation and two years to get on top of broad-leaved weeds in the cereal part of the rotation. The mixing between drilling dates and harvest dates stops predictability, so weeds are always guessing along with insects and disease. This type of approach has been shown to dramatically reduce weed pressure and also input costs.
Also Dr Beck talked about seed balls. This is where you coat seeds in a clay substance and then broadcast the seed so need for a drill. The idea is the coating makes the seed weatherproof and more likely to germinate, which is always a problem with broadcasting. I like the idea of no drill. It would be the end of the “which drill is best debate”, hallelujah!!
Dr. Beck is also experimenting with intercropping. He is growing forage corn and forage soyabean together, and also corn with a living mulch of alfalfa. My ears really pricked up at this point as this is what I am studying on my Nuffield. Dr. Beck has kindly offered to show me around Dakota Lakes farm, so off to South Dakota I am going!
Www.dakotalakes.com is the research farm’s website and there is a lot of information on this site in the publications section. Well worth a read. Overall a productive day spent with 100 other like-minded people.