Thursday, October 29, 2009

Farm Research Ideas for 2010

We are already considering what kinds of trials we will be running in 2010.

In 2009, most of our trials had to do with cultivars (vegetable varieties). For example, Jaune Flamme tomatoes were a success. And, we performed some trials on lettuce transplants that were clearly successful. There were also trials involving broadforking areas for potatoes that yielded interesting results. We're always trying new things and always learning things as we perform these trials. Sometimes what we learn is that we can't manage to complete many of these trials!

One result of 2008 & 2009 trials is that we have concluded that we will not adopt the cattle panel trellising technique for a number of our tomato plants for varieties with larger tomatoes. We will stick with our cages for varieties. However, we are sold on cattle panels for our snack tomatoes. Part of this has to do with labor management. We know how to optimize caging to what we have for labor resources. It works well enough for what we do and we don't currently see opportunity to take advantage of other methods.

Trials in 2010 will focus on vine crops.
  1. Young transplants vs direct seeding. With two cool years in a row that push longer season vine crops to mature in time, we're looking for something to get things going a bit faster. But, more than that, we're trying to get the plants past the two/three-leaf stage before the cucumber beetles get there to girdle the plants. So, this is one of our trials.
  2. Remay covers vs no cover. This material can be used to keep the heat in and to keep the pests out. Studies have shown that this may be the only non-spray approach that shows promise for controlling vine crop pests. But, studies have been far from conclusive. So, we'll try it ourselves to see if we can manage using the covers AND if we can, we will see if they work enough to be worth the effort.
  3. Undersown cover crops versus cultivation versus mulch. We can only weed so much. So, options are using wheel hoes & tillers to cultivate the soil periodically, planting a low growing cover in between rows that out competes the weeds - but coexists with vine crops, or putting some sort of mulch over the bare soil.
  4. Compost application versus no compost application. Ideally, we might like to put compost in all fields that are going to grow vine crops. But, we don't have the compost to reach the ideal at this time. So, we will look to see how we can use this resource most efficiently with the best results - all the while making sure we follow organic standards for application.
  5. Flower companions. We like to include flowers intermixed with our vine plantings to attract pollinators and to attract predator insects that might reduce the pests. In particular, we are looking at studying nasturtium, marigold, borage and zinnia as companions.
  6. Irrigation trials. Over the last couple of years, there has been little need to irrigate. And, we tend to limit irrigation out of principle. However, we believe that some controlled moisture at certain points of development might significantly increase production of certain vine crops. So, we intend to find out if this is worth the effort to do from our perspectives - and from a sustainability standpoint.
This is our summary for this type of crop. Want to know more? Ask us and we'll happily flood you with details!

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