Land prep advice for small area

Discussion in 'Cropping' started by jing0, Jul 13, 2019 at 8:08 PM.

  1. jing0

    jing0 New Member

    Hi all,

    I have a small amount of land I want to do some very small scale arable farming on (around 2-2.5 acres). I've had a soil test done, and the pH is quite low (5.7) as is the potassium and magnesium. The analysis test recommended I apply some mag lime to help with this.

    I've found a quarry that does agricultural mag lime which I was intending to apply. The problem is the land currently has turf on it, so I need to figure out the best way to remove the grass, rotavate the land and apply the lime, whilst not breaking the bank. Would simply rotavating the land be enough? I have a small danelander, and so I'm happy to buy a rotavator for it.

    Thanks for any advice!
     
    spin cycle likes this.
  2. Ffermer Bach

    Ffermer Bach Member

    surely 2.5 acres would be better in permanent pasture, but if you want to plant, spray if off with roundup and direct drill or plough?
     
    jing0 likes this.
  3. jing0

    jing0 New Member

    Thanks for the suggestion, but I want to keep the process organic / natural & not use treatments such as roundup. I know it's only a small area, but it's my first go at proper arable farming so starting off small.

    Cheers
     
    spin cycle likes this.
  4. teslacoils

    teslacoils Member

    Location:
    Lincolnshire
  5. Ffermer Bach

    Ffermer Bach Member

    The only question I have about organic farming, is how come it's not ok to use roundup (which with direct drilling means no ploughing and that entails oxidation of soil organic matter, which is not good), but fine to use lots of diesel to control weeds through multiple passes with a topper. I know all standards have to have red lines drawn somewhere, and those are the organic standards, but I also think we need to take a step back sometimes and look at the bigger picture, if I was arable I would certainly try direct drilling and cover cropping if possible.
     
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  6. jing0

    jing0 New Member

    Yes it's sandy loam with high organic matter.

    That's a good point re: the diesel. I'd never actually considered that. I've looked into cover cropping and I think it's a great idea - it's just I need to amend the soil first. Unless I could rotavate, lime, then apply the cover crop straight after?

    Thanks
     
  7. teslacoils

    teslacoils Member

    Location:
    Lincolnshire
    You can lime, broadcast cover crop, rotovste it all in. Then roll it tight....

    ....then spray it with glyphosate before planting your cash crop.
     
  8. Kidds

    Kidds Member

    Location:
    Warrington
    Most organic conversions seem to start by spraying off with glyphosate and starting with a clean slate so to speak.
    I find it a bit hypocritical to do it but it’s exactly what I would do.
     
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  9. Brisel

    Brisel Member

    Location:
    Dorset
    How far into the organic conversion are you?

    Any perennial weeds like couch grass? If so, glyphosate will help give you a cleaner start unless you’re already in the conversion period.
     
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  10. GeorgeK

    GeorgeK Member

    Location:
    Leicestershire
    It's difficult to sustain organic production without livestock as every crop will remove nutrients and fertility from the soil which you cannot use chemicals to replace. Organic manure from livestock is needed to replace these losses. Grass and clover is important in the rotation and ideally access to animals to graze it to control weeds and maintain fertility.
    Of course in theory it is possible without livestock, but you will need access to large amounts of organic certified compost. Weed control will be extremely difficult too, on a small area the extensive selection of mechanical weeding equipment required may be cost prohibitive
     
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  11. AndrewM

    AndrewM Member

    Location:
    Devon

    What crop are you going to grow?

    Can you get a small enough amount of mag lime from the quarry? How are you going to spread it?

    If you don't want to use herbicides, i think ploughing it to bury the turf would produce a less weedy seed bed than rotovating it.
    Rotovating rounduped turf would be fine.
     
  12. jing0

    jing0 New Member

    Thank you all for the replies so far - very informative.

    @Kidds, @Brisel, I haven't begun organic conversion yet - but realistically speaking if I sprayed now, I'd probably need to spray again before planting next year I believe, which is setting back organic certification by a good 6-9 months. Either way, I'm really not keen on using herbicides, though understand this may come across as naive.

    @AndrewM, the crop is industrial hemp (for seeds for hemp seed oil) and I have arranged 3 tons from the quarry, which is the recommended amount for the area I intend to grow on. I was planning to spread it using an adjustable tow on back spreader and hope this could double up as a seed spreader? Trying to keep my initial start up costs low! Especially as I'll need to invest in a plough, rotavator and roller it looks like.

    @GeorgeK, yes you're right. I'm hoping some amount of rotation (the 2-2.5 acres is half the size of the plot), plus cover crops and my neighbour has cows that would happily graze the field, will be enough to keep the soil healthy. I'm very keen on trying to treat the land holistically!

    Based on what has been said so far and some research on the forum, the plan of attack would be to:

    Plough the land
    Roll
    Lime
    Cover crop broadcast
    Rotavate
    Roll

    Does that sound fair? And are there any steps that could be taken out there to make it easier / less parts required?

    Thanks again for all input.
     
    GeorgeK likes this.
  13. Kidds

    Kidds Member

    Location:
    Warrington
    I would still recommend using glyphosate now. Goes against the grain for you maybe but doesn't set anything back regarding conversion but does give you a clean slate to start from.
    The biggest advantage for you is that it will clear up any perennial weeds such as couch, docks etc. Having done that now, even if more do creep in within the next 6 months it still makes your life an awful lot easier. It doesn't mean you have to do it again in 6 months, with luck it means you don't have to.

    You have
    "cover crop broadcast
    Rotavate"
    in the wrong order.
    You may need to harrow the seed in a bit (drag an old gate across the field or something if you don't have harrows) but don't rotavate it in.

    It is ambitious to think you will spread lime that way. It might work but lime often bridges in the hopper and those things aren't really designed for such work. You would be better off trying to find a contractor willing to do it on his way past if you can.
     
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  14. Ffermer Bach

    Ffermer Bach Member

    or if you have a spreader, buy a bag of pelleted lime and pop it on with your spreader
     
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  15. How long a grass has the land been
    If long term 10 years then wire worm could be a big problem
     
    jing0 likes this.
  16. GeorgeK

    GeorgeK Member

    Location:
    Leicestershire
    "Easier/less steps required" and "organic" don't really go together! It will be hard work and you've got to be on the ball, but hopefully well worth the effort. Organic farmers also tend to cooperate more, are there any nearby? They may be willing to help you get going. And if they see any docks in the field, they'll likely say 'spray it'
     
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  17. AndrewM

    AndrewM Member

    Location:
    Devon
    have you got your hemp growing licence for the gov? dont know much about hemp, what time of year does it need planting? what sort of seed bed does it like?
     
    jing0 likes this.
  18. Stupid question maybe - and looking ahead.
    Having ploughed, limed, seeded, weeded by hand (its only a couple of acres), how are you going to harvest your crop?
    If it’s Hemp, I wouldn’t go anywhere near that small amount with my combine. It’ll take all day and drive you nuts unwrapping the stuff from anything in/on the combine that goes round.
    You could always harvest it in the conventional organic fashion, with several scythes, your wife, kids, Granny and old Uncle Tom. True organic farming went out of favour for a reason.
    Yes I am an organic farming sceptic, because people around me practising organic farming cheat
     
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  19. AndrewM

    AndrewM Member

    Location:
    Devon
    just had a google, looks like you plant hemp in may? if so, your are looking at trying to get ready for may 2020?

    you could mow the grass tight, spread some lime, rotovate fairly shallow a couple of times to chop up the sod, broadcast some brassica mix (stubble turnips/forage rape) and roll in. then get some local sheep in sometime in winter to eat off the brassica. then in the spring you could make then decision on whether you need to plough or just rotovate again, depending on what was left behind, to create seed bed for your hemp.

    or if the grounds heavier, you could mow the grass, then plough in the autumn, let the winter break down the lumps and prepare your seedbed in the spring. dont do this on steep land/ sandy land that will wash away though.

    if no livestock and limited equipment, cover crops could be difficult as you might have a lot of biomass to deal with, your permanent pasture should be fairly high in OM anyway. organic farmers use clover breaks 1-3 years to fix nitrogen ready for cash crops, you have probably missed the boat on sowing clover as it fixes most of its nitrogen during the summer time.
     
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  20. jing0

    jing0 New Member

    @Kidds, @GeorgeK, thank you for the replies. I will have a discussion with my partner about using glyphosate but we're both very reluctant to use herbicides.

    @yellow belly, probably well over 100 years! I don't think it's actually been farmed in living memory.

    @Strungup52, haha that's a problem for 2020! Need to amend the soil and plant before I even think about harvesting.

    @AndrewM, license is in progress and yes - it's for planting in 2020. Crossing my fingers at the moment hoping it goes through. Another problem is that it can take months and months to come through, and they give you 0 updates as to its progress. So my plans might have to be put on hold till the autumn or later whilst I wait for the license as I don't want to invest in amendments until it does. The land hasn't been farmed before so does have really high OM already.

    Why do you recommend mowing the grass? Just so there's less biomass there for ploughing in autumn? Would it not just grow back? In any case, waiting till Autumn might be a better idea anyway, for licensing reasons. So perhaps your second option is best!

    Thanks again all for the replies. Really grateful for all the help!
     
    GeorgeK likes this.

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