Water and Soil Conservation Critical to Family Farm Profits Reports Sharon Kleyne
Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water Radio Interview with Oregon State University Extension Faculty Maud Powell
Hear the Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water on World Talk Radio, Voice America, Green Talk Network and Apple iTunes
The size of the average farm in the United States is shrinking says Oregon State University Farm Extension faculty member Maud Powell, which means that the number of small family farms is growing. The total number of farms is also down but profits are way up. To be profitable, according to Powell, family farms must learn to conserve water and maximize crop yield through cover crops, off-season crops, mulching, and attention to soil science. Powell was interviewed on the Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water radio show of August 11, 2014.
Maud Powell has an M.A. from Antioch University Seattle in Environment and Community Studies. A member of the Oregon State University Extension Faculty stationed at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, Powell is also owner-operator of Wolf Gulch Farm
The globally syndicated Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water® radio show, with host Sharon Kleyne, is heard on VoiceAmerica and Apple iTunes. Kleyne is Founder of Bio-Logic Aqua Research, a research, technology and product development center and the only company in the world specializing in fresh water, atmosphere and health. Natures Tears® EyeMist® is the Research Center's signature products for dry eyes.
The primary considerations in intelligent farming, according to Powell, are water conservation and soil science. Powell and Kleyne agreed that the two are closely related. Healthy, nutritious, bio-active soils with high organic content retain far more water than soils with lower organic content. Crops grown in high organic soils require far less water to achieve the same yield.
Organic content, Powell explains, is increased through crop residue, mulching and off-season cover crops. Off season cover crops are especially important in states like Oregon, where Powell works. Oregon has very distinct seasons but the winters are normally not cold enough to freeze the ground. Cover crops hold the soil in place during the winter rainy season, prevent the rain from leeching out nutrients and help maintain organic content. Common winter cover crops include various grasses, rye and oats. Planting legumes such as fava beans, clover or alfalfa alongside the grasses will improve the soil's nitrogen content. Soil should always be kept covered with a mulch layer to inhibit water evaporation.
Organic content also creates heat as the material decomposes, Kleyne adds, which reduces the threat of soil freezing.
The suggested small farm practice, according to Powell, is to grow commodity crops in summer, such as hay, wheat, soy or corn, and "niche crops" in winter. Niche crops are small specialty crops sold directly to the local market. The purpose is to maintain organic content and maximize yield and profit between major harvests. The list of possible niche crops is endless and includes medicinal herbs, vegetables, heirloom crops and ethnic foods such as mung beans and chili peppers.
Niche crops may also be grown in greenhouses or in "high tunnels" in the off season, says Powell. A high tunnel is temporary greenhouse or tent in which crops are planted directly into the ground and protected by the tent, which may be 100 feet long. Kleyne notes that niche crops may also be grown underneath forests. Forest understory crops include morel mushrooms, hazelnuts, little princess pine for root beer, elderberry, blackberry, truffles, and much more.
Perennial commodity crops that are not replanted every year, such as grapes, apples, pears, walnuts or hay, do not require a cover crop but they will benefit from mulching and improved soil organic content
OSU-SOREC's homepage; http://extension.oregonstate.edu/sorec/
Jenner, A, "5 things you need to know from the new farm census," Modern Farmer, Feb.20, 2014. http://modernfarmer.com/2014/02/6-things-need-know-new-farm-census/