This event was our first run at what will hopefully be an annual affair. The goal was to provide hands-on training designed to teach the skills necessary for landowners to bring small acreages that have been sitting fallow back into production.
This project was originally started as a workshop in the spring of 2018. It continues as an ongoing experiment toward revitalizing a field that had been fallow for several years using cover crops and inexpensive equipment.
Ongoing Data and Results from the Event
|WSU Stevens County Extension 2018 Fallow to Farmed Project Costs and Budget|
|Field Size (acres)||1.7||Link to Web Soil Survey Report|
|Soil Test Results||Link to Soil Test Results PDF|
|Photos from the project||Link to Google Photo Album|
|Fuel Price||$3||per gal|
|Labor Rate||$13||per hour|
|Equ. Wear & Tear||$1.21||per hour|
|Total Cost including Labor||$340||$200|
|Total Cost not including Labor||$188||$110|
|Tractor||1985 Ford FWD 1910 tractor, 28 HP||$6,500|
|Plow||International 2-bottom moldboard 3-pt w/ coulters||$200|
|Disk Harrow||6′ wide, 3-pt type||$500|
|Packer||8′ wide, single gang, pull type||$900|
|Drag Harrow||2 sections of sharp-tooth type||$70|
|Broadcaster||Broadcast spreader, 3-pt type||$300|
|Seed Drill||International 10′ with grass attachment||$1,000|
|Inputs||Whole Field||Per Acre||Source|
|Fertilizer||200 lbs of 20-0-0-24, granulated, CHS brand||$59||$35||Ken Fantasia Seed, Chewelah|
|Seed||200 lbs of Spring Triticale, Helena Chemical brand||$84||$49||Ken Fantasia Seed, Chewelah|
|Fuel||10 gallons total of off-road diesel fuel||$30||$18||SpokoFuel, Chewelah|
|Labor (Hrs)||Whole Field||Per Acre||Whole Field||Per Acre||Completed|
|Equipment Spring Maintenance||2.00||1.18||$26||$15.29||5/7/2018|
|Plow (1 pass)||3.00||1.76||$39||$22.94||5/7/2018|
|Disk Harrow (2 passes)||2.00||1.18||$26||$15.29||5/7/2018|
|Empty Seed Drill (2 passes)||1.00||0.59||$13||$7.65||5/12/2018|
|Pack (1 pass)||0.25||0.15||$3||$1.91||5/12/2018|
|Fertilize (2 passes)||0.75||0.44||$10||$5.74||5/12/2018|
|Seed (2 passes)||0.50||0.29||$7||$3.82||5/12/2018|
|Pack (1 pass)||0.25||0.15||$3||$1.91||5/12/2018|
|Wear & tear cost + maintenance, whole job||$14.26|
Cover Crop Planting, Aug 2019
In the second week of 2019 we had a good rain, which was enough water to moisten the soil in this area. No work had been done to the field at this point so it still had standing Triticale stalks, stripped of grain by deer and turkeys the previous fall with some of the stalks knocked down by snow and animals. When the rain came, it was a perfect opportunity to plant a fall cover crop.
The field was cultivated and prepared for planting using the same methods and equipment as used in 2018 (described elsewhere on this page) except that no fertilizer was added.
A custom cover crop mix was planned with using a conventional seed drill at a rate of about 65 Lbs per acre. The cover crop mix was as follows:
49.9% Winter Triticale
13.3% Purple Top Turnip
13.3% Hairy Vetch
13.3% Medium Red Clover
7.9% Maximilian Sunflower
1.6% Little Sunflower
A note from Nils about this cover crop mix:
Total cost of this cover crop seed was very high, on account of the two sunflower seeds included. When I ordered this cover crop mix, I asked for sunflowers to be added but was in a hurry rushing between other tasks and neglected to ask what prices were for each type of seed. It turns out that the two sunflower seeds were VERY expensive, in the range of $48 per lb. I nearly went into shock when I saw the price tag for my 1.7 acres worth of cover crop seed come in at $582.72. So, as a cautionary tale, be sure you don’t rely on your seed sales person to alert you about high priced seed. Always ask in advance.
Not a single sunflower plant grew in 2019 or 2020. It could be that the deer ate very single plant (a definite possibility) or maybe some sort of insect or rodents ate the un-germinated seed in the soil. In any case, those sunflowers were a very expensive experiment that didn’t produce results.
Fall of 2019
That fall, the Purple Top Turnip developed into a very nice stand, which was a favorite for at least 2 dozen deer that came to feed on the little 1.7 acre plot. Because of the deer grazing pressure I think, the turnips never did grow out to the point where they fully covered the soil. Winter Triticale came up nicely also. When freezing temperatures came in October, the turnips gradually got knocked down by the temperature. None of the other seeds seemed to germinate to any significant degree in 2019.
Photo: Turnip and Triticale stand in fall of 2019
Photo: Signs of cover crops being grazed, Fall of 2019
Photo: Turnip and Triticale stand frosted down in October of 2019
Spring of 2020
When snow melted back and temperatures warmed up in the spring of 2020, the Winter Triticale was still there and healthy, albeit obviously heavily grazed by wildlife (mostly deer). By the beginning of June, The field was looking very full, with Triticale and Vetch growing together nicely. By the end of June, the combination of Triticale and Vetch was at least four feet tall in many places an very thick.
Photo: Triticale and Hairy Vetch stand in summer of 2020
Summer of 2020
On July 6th, the whole stand of cover crop was crimped down by “walking” it down with a 1962 D4 Caterpillar. In order to make sure the cover crop was all crimped the same direction, the process involved walking the cat over fresh cover crop one direction all the way across the field, then backing it all the way back to the starting point over the already crimped cover crop before starting another forward run, one track width wide over fresh un-crimped cover crop. There were several places were a few stalks or a thin strip of cover crop got missed and was still standing, which required a few extra Cat passes. This process took approximately one hour to complete for the 1.7 acres.
Photo: Crimping the cover crop with a D4 Cat
Video: Crimping the cover crop with a D4 Cat
The result of the crimping process was very good. Effectively all of the cover crop and many of the weeds that were present under it were terminated. Within two days, the crimped cover crop had formed a nice mat over the soil. One video posted in the associated Google album shows what this mat looks like under foot.
Photo: Whole field, with cover crop crimped and dried
Photo: Close up view of cover crop mat
Video: Dried cover crop mat under foot
It was the plan to seed a winter grain crop through the crimped cover crop mat using the same 10′ conventional seed drill as used with the rest of this project. Unfortunately resource limitations including time and funding for seed prevented this from happening. It is the plan for 2021 however to plant a similar cover crop in the spring for crimping in early summer.
Original 2018 Event Description
This will be an informal hands-on event on my own place with my own equipment and inputs. To get the job done, it’ll probably take a whole day pretty much by the time we fiddle with all the equipment involved and talk about everything that needs to be talked about. We’ll include equipment maintenance and safety at each step. We’ll use the following equipment:
- 1985 Ford FWD 1910 tractor, 28 HP
- 2-Bottom moldboard plow
- 3-pt Disk harrow
- Drag Harrow
- 3-pt shovel type cultivator (if needed)
- 3-pt broadcast fertilizer
- Older wheel-type seed drill
When: Monday, May 7th, 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Cost: Free, but space is limited so please call or email to register
Date: Monday, 5-7-18
Time: 8:30 AM until done or everyone has to leave
What to Bring:
- Weather-Appropriate Clothing
Bring clothing appropriate for the weather, including a hat if you need one. Keep in mind that we’ll be operating farm equipment so loose floppy clothing is a bad idea.
- A bag lunch for yourself
- A lawn chair
- A notebook of some kind and a writing implement in case you want to take any notes
- A dust mask if you are sensitive to breathing dust or pulverized plant matter
- Gloves if your skin is sensitive to dust or pulverized plant matter
What I’ll Provide:
- A Farmers Market style canopy for us to stand or sit under for shade or other weather protection
- All the farm stuff
- Ear plugs
Contact: Nils Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org, (509) 684-2588