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Blooming Crimson Clover

5 May

One of my favorite crops that we grow on our farm is crimson clover.  We grow this crop for seed and as a rotational crop between grass species.  One of the main reasons it’s my favorite is because of how beautiful it is.  As a side note, this crop is not usually grown because it makes us any money (hahaha)!  Maybe that’s not funny to people who aren’t farmers, but the point here is that we grow some crops because of the benefits they give us in the soil and in rotational weed control, not because of how cushioned they make our pocketbooks.

We will harvest this crop late June to early July. Until that point we get to watch it get more and more red as the bees do their work pollinating.  We bring about one hive of bees per acre to pollinate.  These bees along with native bees do all the work to get us a good seed crop.  Once the blooms are done, the bees are removed to other crops to feed them.  Then we wait while the crop matures, dries down and gets ready to be harvested.

The seed that we harvest will be cleaned to be free of any weeds or other seeds. And then sold and used for cover cropping, wildlife mixes and soil regeneration projects.  Until then while you drive around this time of year, look around and enjoy the beauty these fields bring to the Oregon landscape.

Crimson Clover in Bloom 2017

22 May

I may be biased since I grow the stuff, but Crimson Clover has got to be one of the most beautiful crops ever grown!  It is currently in full bloom here in Oregon.  We grow the crimson for seed, which is used in many cover cropping systems, and also in wildlife mixes.  We grow it as a rotation crop on our ground that doesn’t have irrigation. It helps us keep our fields more weed free and it’s one of those amazing crops that actually puts nitrogen back into the soil! 

I was out spraying borders a few days ago, and got myself into a “situation” where I had some time to kill.  The “situation” was my little tractor getting stuck along one of the borders of one of these beautiful fields.  So while I was frustrated with the being stuck for a bit, and hungry because I got stuck at 11:45am (if you know me I rarely miss lunch!), I was also happy to be stranded with such a beautiful view.Here are a few shots of the fields. If you look closely you’ll notice there are a few bees flying around as well.  More accurately, a ton of bees! The whole field was literally buzzing with activity.  We bring in the bees to pollinate our crop, 1 hive per acre.  Without those bees, we wouldn’t have a seed crop to harvest!

So I guess in the end, even a frustrating “situation” isn’t so bad when you get to take in a view like this!

How Farmers Take Care of Bees

23 May

There is a lot of talk about bees these days here on the farm.  Not only is it the time of year when bees come out to start pollinating the flowers of many of the plants here in the Willamette Valley, but it’s also the time of the year when a lot of pests come out.  This makes it especially challenging for many farmers who are as diversified as we are.  On the one hand as a farmer I need to take care of the crops that do not require bees and have many bugs that are attacking them, but I also need to make sure to protect the bees which are very important not only to our crops and neighbors crops, but to food supply in general (as seen below).

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So how do we do it?  How do I spray a crop with insecticides while at the same time protecting bees?  It’s a good and fair question to ask of farmers.  For us there are a lot of factors in play.  We have choices and I would like to line out a few that we consider.

1. Timing. Bees like many insects are not always out and about.  While they are “busy” by nature, the times when they rest or stay in their hives can be timed and worked around.  This gives us windows of opportunity to make sensitive applications.  For instance spraying at night or during the cool morning hours when those little workers are in their hives.

2. Where the bees are located. This is important because even if you spray an insecticide at night, you should always avoid spraying chemicals that could be harmful to bees on crops that have blooms.  This is when reading labels on your insecticides is so important.  Knowing if the chemical is harmful to bees and how long that time period will last is essential in knowing that you’re not causing harm to bees.  Many times this can also mean moving the bees out of the field for a time period in order to safely protect your crop and the pollinators.


3. Insecticide Choice. There has been a lot of research done in the area of bees.  Bayer CropScience has been a leader in the recent past showing that they believe there are advances in technology that help us find safer products for bees.  They also have been on the forefront of new technologies that have lead the way in helping to make bees healthier, make crops safer sites for them to thrive, and make farmers rest assured that they are not hurting these important insects.

4. Not spraying at all. Of course this is an option and I will say one that we take seriously.  Many times we will select a timing of spray that minimizes risk, say early in the morning, and then will take it a step further and leave a buffer (an unsprayed area) between any blooms and the insecticide.  While this isn’t the best for the crop we are trying to protect, we also understand that sometimes there is just no silver bullet and you have to triage how you manage all your crops across the board.

See…the bees love this farmer!

As farmers I can’t tell you enough how aware we are of the importance of bees for our crops.  These are just four important factors that we take into account when the time comes that we need to make a decision about spraying insecticide.  This list of four, it’s only the beginning in a long line of decisions that we have to make.  I have to admit it would be a lot easier to farm without an entire ecosystem in mind, but as a farmer that is a luxury that I simply cannot afford.

To learn more about bees and how the relationship between them and farmers is being taken care of here in Oregon and across the nation, I urge you to check out these great blogs:
Oregon Green – How a bee is born
It’s MomSense – Hold on Honey, What’s the Buzz about Bees?
Bees Please: Cooperation Needed to Protect a Vital Food Supply Link

Also Bayer CropScience has an excellent website dedicated to bees. Another great place to learn more!
Facebook Page – Bayer Bee Care Center
Website – https://beecare.bayer.com/home

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