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The Why, What and How of Spraying Clover Today

27 Oct

It is a beautiful day here in Oregon. So before the rain returns I took the opportunity to go out and spray two of our clover fields.

Why I’m Spraying:
Today I’m spraying out the wheat that is growing from the crop that we harvested this past summer.  We can’t grow the wheat as a volunteer crop, even though it looks like it would be healthy and happy, because there is a huge risk of disease.  Also this wheat was contracted seed wheat, so we can’t reproduce or replant any seeds that may have hung around another year.

All that bright green color is volunteer wheat from the 2017 crop.

I need to kill the wheat so that the crimson clover that we planted has a chance to grow.  There is so much wheat out here that it would quickly steal not only nutrients but also water, possibly even shading out the clover.  The competition is too high so the wheat has to go.

The crimson clover, our crop for 2018, are the small broadleaf plants that you see.  As you can tell, this wheat will quickly become a problem for their survival.

What I’m Spraying:
Today I’m spraying a chemical mix that is aimed at targeting only grass species so it will not hurt the small growing crimson clover.  The mix is made up of three chemicals; clethodim, crop oil, and drift reducer, and also a whole lot of water.
Why so many chemicals in this mixture that is only aimed at one species?  Well they all play their role…

  • Clethodim is the actual grass killer. It kills on contact so must be sprayed on a dry day because the rain would just wash it off the plants before they soak it in. Making the Spray useless.
  • Crop oil helps to keep the spray on the plant material and helps the plant absorb the chemical.
  • Drift reducer is used to make the mixture “heavier” so that the spray goes right where my target is.
  • The water is the carrier so I can get the correct rate of chemical equally across all the acres.

How much am I spraying?
Now this may suprise you! Per acre I’m putting on 19.64 gallons of water, 1.7 pints of crop oil, 8 ounces of clethodim, and only 3.2 ounces of drift reducer!  So literally picture a football field (which is about an acre), imagine spreading out four five gallon buckets of water, less than two pints of oil, one cup of weed killer, and a 1/3 cup of drift reducer over the entire field!!!  It’s truly incredible what you can do with spray technology, which I might add is not a new technology at all!

This “fog” that you see under my spray booms, it’s made up of 19.64 gallons of water and only 0.36 gallons of chemical!!

You can see from the picture above that the fog coming out of the spray boom really looks like I’m dowsing the crop.  But the reality is that with my sprayer, which has 80 foot booms, at the rate and pressure I’m spraying, I have to drive 22 feet before even 1 gallon total of spray mixture is applied.  Like I said, what we do is precise in many ways. 

So there you have it, the Why, What, and How of spraying volunteer wheat out of clover came to be my job for this sunny day.  If you have any questions about this application or any other sprays you hear of, just let me know.  I’m always here to answer questions about why we do what we do out here on the farm.


 

A Farmer’s Bottom Line

15 Aug

Everyday farmers make decisions that affect their bottom line.  Being a conventional farmer, I make decisions all the time regarding which chemicals to spray based on what the fields need and what they don’t.  But it’s not as simple as you may believe.  There are many factors at play, and this week I experienced just how complicated it can be.

Matt and I were out walking our green bean field that is due to be harvested this week.  While walking around, we noticed a good amount of spring wheat sprouting.  This wasn’t too surprising since last year the field was planted with spring wheat; these were “volunteer” plants growing from residual seeds left over.  We had both seen the wheat before, but figured that it wasn’t a big deal given that the harvesters would have no problem cutting through the thin stocks.  So, in our minds there was no issue. final-144The grassy looking crop is the spring wheat that has volunteered in the green bean field.

Unfortunately we were wrong.  After consulting with our field man, we were told that wheat is a huge issue because of allergens that could move from the field to the processor and eventually to the end product.  I have to tell you here that this never even crossed my mind, but I’m sure glad someone mentioned it to us!  If there is wheat found in your green bean crop, the processor can reject the whole field. Yes, that’s right; you would have to just leave the entire crop right there, unharvested. As you can imagine, this would be devastating to our farm.

This is where the story gets interesting. After telling us that this is a major problem, the next words out of the field man’s mouth were, “Too bad we didn’t find this last week, you could have sprayed.  But now it’s too close to harvest and the label doesn’t allow it.”

I’ll stop here and mention that all registered pesticides have a label attached. This is a booklet that is on the jug that outlines the rules and regulations behind spraying that pesticide. This is where you go to see the order for mixing chemicals, the precautions to use when handling the product including what protective gear to wear, and how long a person has to stay out of the sprayed area.  This is also where you find the “pre-harvest interval” or the amount of time required between application and harvest.

Matt and I hear this as we are standing in a field of green beans that we had worked hard to raise and take care of, one that would provide healthy food for thousands of people, one that hopefully will give us a good return and one that we hoped we were done spending money on.  And now we were faced with the knowledge that we could take two hours, with minimal cost in chemical, and get rid of the wheat entirely.  But that would not be following the label and would essentially be breaking the law.  Or we could tell all of our employees that they had to walk a field of green beans and pull wheat by hand, the cost of which would be substantial with six employees taking about four days to get this accomplished.  Also taking time away from other important tasks on the farm.final-145

I say this as though it was a decision that we talked about.  But it wasn’t.

The only option on our farm, the only option on farms across the nation, was to pay for the labor to get the job done right.  My point is that these rules are in place for a reason, and we all appreciate and respect that.  While I don’t have a regulator out in my fields all the time, I still follow the rules because there is good reason for them!  And it’s the right thing to do.

This week, when we head out to harvest these green beans, you can bet that my kiddos will be out there right beside us, eating those green beans that are being harvested right in front of them.  They will do that because the beans are safe, because we followed the rules, and because we farm responsibly, like farmers across America, to grow safe, high-quality food.

Decisions made on a farm are based on continuously moving parts.  Decisions made today might change if made tomorrow. Factors, such as the weather, pests, the crop, the timing of the plant itself, all come into play to make a seemingly simple decision to just go out and “dowse” our crops because it’s cheaper become incredibly complicated.  I have experienced this decision many times while farming, but the answer is always very clear: It’s not just about our bottom line, it’s about safe and healthy food. Period.

1 Reason I Spray Round-up on Our Farm

21 Mar

We had a few nice days here in Oregon last week, and when it comes to spring time that means all hands on deck! This year in particular has been challenging because the rain just hasn’t stopped enough for fields to get dry in order to do much spring work. So in a matter of three days we were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off, fertilizing, spraying, planting, painting, you name it we were at it!

I had two sick kids at home so my role was mostly logistics manager via cell phone from the house. Nevermind a crying infant and wild toddler…I think I pulled it off pretty well.  But I did get to switch with Matt to enjoy a glorious 75 acre roundup spray application.

Round up in the past few years has gotten a bad wrap. Whether it be studies that it’s found in breast milk or the link to those oh so awful GMO crops, most are all very unscientific and unfounded. But that’s a whole series of blog posts, today I wanted to share why round up has made us more sustainable on our farm.

We have been growing no till spring wheat for about 5 years now on our farm. No till means that we don’t work the ground after the last crop is harvested. This saves not only time, fuel, and money, it also saves all the worms and bugs that have been making homes in the soil.  It gives the soil another year of resting which reduces soil compaction too.

 In order to do this however we have to be able to give the wheat a chance to grow in an uncompetitive atmosphere. If you were to take the field below, notice all the grass and weeds that are growing (basically everything that’s green)?

 That is all volunteer crop and weeds that if we planted into and never killed would be too much competition for our wheat crop and the wheat would grow a little bit, but would never be enough to even be worth harvesting.

So in the fall we spray round up on the fields to kill what grows after the final harvest of grass seed. Then we come back right before or right after planting to get one last application. Also round up only kills what is on the top of the soil, not disrupting any future plantings.

 I proudly wore my Monsanto hat, even though I was applying a generic brand of round up. I can’t help but appreciate having round up as a tool in our tool box that allows us to be better farmers and treat the land well.

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