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Sustainable farming network

The network provides a needed link, enabling farmers to help each other by sharing questions, concerns and information relevant to their farming operations. We recognize there's a lot of practical knowledge on resource efficient farming out there that isn't being circulated. If you have any questions, problems, helpful hints or new techniques which you would like to share, then send them to:

Sustainable Farming Network, Box 125, Ste. Anne de Bellevue Que. H9X 1C0 or Fax: 514-398-7972

Question: I am looking for an organic starter feed formula for my chicks. Could you provide some suggestions?

L. Bender Tavistock, ON

Answer: The chicken should have a properly balanced diet of energy, protein (including a full complement of the required amino acids), vitamins, and micro and macro minerals. Specific nutritional requirements change depending on stages of growth:

Generally, though, H is impractical to have more than 2 separate preparations. Therefore feed is formulated for the 0 to 3 or 4 week period and for a finishing ration from 4 weeks to slaughter.

The best possible ration mix will change from farm to farm depending on available on-farm feeds and affordable purchased feeds that can provide a high quality nutrient source for the chickens.

Starters grow more quickly than finishers, so they require a feed with a slightly higher protein ratio. The following are a few examples of basic starter rations:

Corn can be partially replaced by wheat, but the protein content will increase and an energy deficit will result.

Peas will have a lower protein and energy content than fababeans, but they also have lower tannin levels. Consequently, pea substitution may improve digestibility.

For more information refer to:

Elevage Biologique du Poulet de Rapport (Heport on Organic Poultry Production). Phillipe Georgeot, Nature et Progres France

L'Elevage Biologique. 1979. JeanClaude Rodet.

These two documents are available through the EAP (Ecological Agricultural Projects), Box 191, Macdonaid College, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, QC, H9X 1C0. (514)3987771. Thanks to Suzanne Cazelais for providing the- information.

Question: I am currently growing approximately 200 acres of potatoes in rotation with a rye green manure crop. The rye is seeded in the fall following potato harvest and disced in at heading the following year. Regrowth from the disced in rye covers the soil forthe remainder of the year. The main problem with the system is that in some fields, potatoes are having problems with root knot and root lesion nematodes and apparently the rye is a host crop. The manufacturer of Temik which is used to control the nematodes has voluntarily withdrawn the product f rom the market for 1990 because of potential residue prblems. Do you have any suggestions for alternative green manure species and nonchemical control measures for nematodes?

F. Racz Ste. Thomas de Joliette, Quebec

Answer: One recent study in Michigan and extensive tests in Maine in the 1930's and 40's evaluated full season green manure species before potatoes. In the Michigan study, sweet clover, hairy vetch and alfalfa provided higher potato yields than red clover or birds foot trefoil. Optimal potato yields following the sweet clover and hairy vetch were achieved with approximately 67 lb N/acre. Harvesting of the alfalfa as hay had lime effect on the nitrogen contribution to the potato crop. In the studies in Maine, crimson clover and vetch were the best two legume species as a green manure rotation crop for potatoes. The main problem with the crimson clover was found to be its poor competitive ability with weeds. It might be best if it was seeded with other legumes or a grass such as annual ryegrass to help control weeds. However, we are not aware if these species are hosts of the nematodes.

For the fields with the worst infestations of nematodes the best system of cultural control may be to extend the rotation with alternative crops such as lupine or oats. Lupins are particularly well suited to sandy soils and can grow well in dry, acidic soils.

An ideal rotation would have potatoes grown once in a 5 or 6 years. This is generally not a practical proposition for most growers, therefore a three year rotation is recommended. If a green manure is to be plowed down immediately prior to potato planting H should consist mainly of legumes. Grass roots are often infested with wireworms and white grubs (June beetle larvae) which will attack the tubers. In general, nematode damaged plants are more susceptible to disease. Root lesion nematode alone at low population levels will not cause significant yield reductions, but if combined with Verticilium wilt in environmental conditions favourable to disease development, a 30% yield reduction is possible.

Some success has been had with using natural organic fertilizers to reduce nematode problems. Fresh or dried Azolla seaweed has been found to reduce root knot nematodes in Asia.

Copyright 1990 REAP Canada

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


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Ecological Agriculture Projects, McGill University (Macdonald Campus), Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC,  H9X 3V9 Canada
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