Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What's New At The Farm? 7/08/09

The weather has finally broken; it's about time. The crops need lots of heat and sunshine to catch up to where they should be by now. We've gotten enough rain for quite some time but now we really need to dry out the ground. (I wrote this Monday morning; now it's Tuesday afternoon and raining again!)

I planted about five acres of oats and annual alfalfa three weeks ago Thursday and that was the last time we could get on the ground. Luckily we cultivated all the crops before this wet spell or we'd be in real trouble. The oats/alfalfa is doing really well and will really kick in with the growing once the weather warms up. The mix should get a foot and a half tall this summer. We'll mow the oats late summer and give the alfalfa a chance to get some decent growth before cold weather.

So, you might ask what we do in all that rainy weather. We work in the fields like any other weather. We cultivated last week, and although it didn't kill a lot of weeds, it did set them back a few days. Tomatoes can be trellised and we've got lots of tomatoes this year! Weeds too large to be cultivated can be pulled by hand. Here's an interesting side note that goes along with my last statement: Weeds pulled up in the rain must be put on the plastic or removed from the field to prevent them from rerooting and continuing their growing cycle. They'll not miss an opportunity to reset their roots and produce seed so vigilance is imperative.

At least twice a week and usually three times a week I "scout" the fields. Scouting is what it sounds like: looking for pest damage and disease pressure, checking the moisture levels to determine if tractors can work the soil, estimating harvest dates and anything else that catches my eye. Scouting frequently is useful to determine future problems and what we can do about them. Sometimes a pest will be in a field on Friday that wasn't there on Tuesday. Early detection helps us formulate a plan of attack. I sometimes take a sweep net with me; usually to detect leaf hoppers. "Sweeping" the net between the rows will dislodge them and cause them to fall into the net where they can be observed. Lots of them warrant spraying whereas a few of them do not.

Speaking of spraying, we're doing lots of spraying this year. Actually I can say Mike Bowman is doing lots of spraying this year. We're spraying tomatoes for early and late blight, cucumbers for bacterial wilt and, starting next week, onions for thrips. For many years we sprayed the onions when we first noticed their damage. The problem is that by the time you notice the damage too much damage has occurred and spraying insecticides won't do a whole lot of good. We start spraying right after the fourth of July and spray once a week for a month and a half, and then we'll have no thrips and a beautiful trial.

Until next week, Brian

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