To read Seeding: A Love Story, Part 1 please click here.
Preparing the Field
At Grant Ranch we typically take a no-till approach to farming. No-till refers to the seeding of the ground without turning or breaking up the soil between crops. This is for a few key reasons:
- tillage can cause erosion; in Southwestern Saskatchewan we are highly susceptible to soil erosion based on our soil types and the prevailing winds year round. It is our duty as stewards of the land to preserve the land we have been given responsibility for; in our case, we feel that no-till is a best practice for this issue.
- retention of organic matter; every time a plant grows in the ground it takes something, and leaves something. As farmers we pay attention to the health of our soil, and tillage over time destroys organic matter. Not tilling the ground helps to retain the organic matter at the end of the growing season as the plant decomposes in winter.
- crop-rotation We rotate the type of crops on individual fields to help control disease instead of tillage. For example, one year field A would have peas, the following year the same field would be seeded with lentils, and the 3rd year we would summer-fallow it (the field would be given a rest year of growing any crop).
Please check out the Real Dirt on Farming blog to learn more about no-till practices.
Another large part of preparing the fields is general field maintenance. This includes clearing the fields of potential hazards such as antler sheds and rocks. Although this seems minor, puncturing a tractor tire with an antler shed is a costly mishap; it is also very damaging if a rock goes through our harvesting equipment. We use a couple of preventive measures to decrease the odds of these happening.
Rock n’ Rollin’
First we pick rocks! Sometimes it would seem as if the field has actually grown rocks but in actual fact, the movement of equipment and wind erosion causes rocks to ‘appear’ in the fields.
Secondly, we roll the ground smooth after seeding in preparation for harvest. We take a giant roller, much like a rolling-pin, over the field after we have seeded the ground. We do this for 2 reasons:
- to push any missed or upheaved rocks down into the soil so they are not a hazard during harvest
- to close the seed bed after the seed is planted to ensure the seed is in the soil and will not be as vulnerable to wind or animal displacement.
We roll the ground aware of the fact that for our area we are in a catch-22. It is not ideal when we speak of rolling in terms of soil erosion because it pulverizes the stubble, compromising the soil to wind erosion. However, it is our best chance to deal with those rocks.
Although it may seem tedious, tiresome or for some, maybe even boring… for us, preparing the fields – farming – is a way of life, and one that we wouldn’t trade for anything! The things that we do in the field are often mimicked at home, or as we like to think – practiced and perfected for the next generation!