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By Mike Pembry

Just 20 people showed up for our farm tour. This was a combined Ecological Farmers and Biodynamic Society tour. However, those who did come seemed to enjoy themselves, and I certainly benefited from their comments.

It's been a very dry year here, but the pastures didn't look too bad. Some wheat, rye and oats which had not been combined could still be viewed by our visitors. A couple of fields on one rented farm gave us an excellent opportunity to see the effects of compost. One field on this farm had compost last fall, but there wasn't enough for the second field. Both fields had rye and the difference was incredible. The field with the small amount of compost looked tall and healthy and the rye had large, long heads. There were relatively few weeds in this field. The other one looked starved with short straw and small heads and a thick growth of weeds. It was interesting to note that the compost had resulted in less weeds and a better crop.

There was some interest in a field of alfalfa which had been ploughed after the first cut of hay and sown to several different combinations of rye, oats and fodder rape. The tour took place about 10 days after this field had been planted, but it was already covered with a green carpet.

The results of this experiment have been interesting for me, as the plots have now all been grazed off. The best results came from the lower land with more moisture. It had been planted to rye and some fodder rape, and a strip with only fodder rape. It may have been that the oat and fodder rape strips didn't perform as well because they were on higher ground which had much less soil moisture. All appeared fresher and more vigorous than other pastures at that point, which had gone into dormancy with the drought.

One thing I have noticed is that the summer-planted rye starts to turn yellow at the tips when it reaches a certain height. Following grazing it comes vigorously again with fresh green leaves.

Copyright 1994 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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