After reading Göran Bergkvist 's thesis from 2003 I went and did some experimentation of my own. I established a white clover base ( huia white clover ) and after a year of cutting it back to reduce weed competition , I no tilled rye in the fall of 2015. The field of 20 acres suffered competition from burdock , perennial grasses, some thistles but 75 % of it was relatively pure stand. The rye was harvested for cover crop seed , Aug 2016 at a yield averaging 1 tonne / acre. The clover looks good and has spread and established itself with vigour. The field was fertilized with composted animal manure , straw based.
In sept 2016 I rolled the clover back with a crumbler , 3X over a span of a week. The clover was crimped and died back. Winter wheat was planted Sept 2016. The stand of wheat looks to have decent growth and a better more consistent population then the rye did. I believe the no till drill we used for the wheat did a better job of cutting a slot with fluted disks and heavier down pressure.
I am considering planting wheat again in 2017, do you have any suggestions? The wheat crop is more easily marketed and I can see myself growing it for the certified organic market.
Attached is a couple of pics, the one dated apr 4 2016 is the rye stand and the one dated nov 15 2016 is the wheat stand in late fall.
Thanks so much any input would be greatly appreciated. I initially wanted to do corn into white clover but switched to small grains after considering the potential for complete failure ,
This is definitely the kind of project that needs to be documented! People are always looking for examples of no-till and permaculture on large areas. Make sure to keep good records of yields, and take lots of photos to share with us!
Did you plant the whole 20 acres? Maybe for your next experiment, you could do some sort of polyculture, rather than a monoculture. Maybe strips of different crops?
I will be very interested in watching your experiments proceed. Keep us updated!
Typically clover takes 2 years to flourish after being sown. I am not sure why and I nearly made the mistake myself of tilling a field after only one year of being sown into clover. An old farmer told me how clover takes two years to fully germinate, and how many farmers started fresh not realizing they were just being impatient.
On my from where we use liquid dairy cow manure for fertilizer my fields (both corn and grass ground) are teeming with clover. That is because clover seeds in the forage pass through a cows 4 stomachs unimpeded. When it lands, with all that nitrogen (manure) around it, it THRIVES. Being in liquid form it is sprayed onto the fields, and you can literally see the ribbon of paths through the field that the trucks take. Its 40 feet wide of solid clover.
On my farm we crop rotate and so this last year I ripped open a 10 acre corn field to resow it back into grass. No till here is not an option so I plowed, harrowed and then dragged the field super smooth, and I'll be darned if all that clover seed just reseeded itself, and while weeds came up through underneath it was jut teeming with clover. I had intended on using my bushog and just clip the weeds before they went to seed, but my bushog had a major breakdown. Drat. Still it is far cheaper for me to do that and burn a little diesel fuel then buy seed so I will pick up where I left off. So far we have had a mild winter so the clover has been green all winter as the roots are below the frost line. The frost line only being 3 inches!!
If you could get some liquid dairy cow manure off a organic dairy farm (so as not to ruin your organic status) that might be an answer to your issue.
The combine showed up yesterday and we got the field done in around 1.5 hours. The issues we had were increased weediness from burdock , dock , a few patches of thistles . None of these were overwhelming but could increase in # year by year.
What really reduced the amount harvested, was the wheat going down , falling over, and being eaten by the white clover. After this happened there was no way to combine it. The yield was around 20 tonne off the approx. 18 acres . We figured we lost around another 1/2 tonne per acre from the lodging of the wheat. Grazing the field now is an option, with pigs , or with cattle. What I will likely do tomorrow is run it over very lightly with a disc to knock it down and get all the grain heads spread out and hopefully germinate. Then cut it for hay and wrap it in 6 - 8 weeks.
In comparison , my conventional fields yielded close to 3 tonne per acre. Both fields received spring fert, the clover field liquid manure and the conventional , N by fert pellet.