Organic farming’s challenges, success – AgriNews – Agri News

EL PASO, Ailing. — Steve Leesman’s transfer into natural crop manufacturing started a number of years in the past as a solution to client demand and he has continued this various farming operation in Logan County, Illinois.
Leesman, who farms close to Hartsburg, is in his seventh yr of natural farming and shared his story on the Beck’s Hybrids area day at its El Paso facility. Additionally collaborating in this system was Dave Ross, Beck’s Nice Harvest Organics model supervisor.
Leesman has been rising industrial pumpkins for Nestle Libby’s in Morton for over a dozen years when the corporate requested if he’d be keen on elevating natural pumpkins to satisfy a rising client demand.
“I advised them I’d test into it so I went to a few natural conferences to be taught. I contacted a certification firm to see what I needed to do to get licensed,” Leesman stated.
Leesman’s common rotation enabled him to easily meet the three-year requirement of transitioning the farmland to natural.
“We had cattle and our rotation was oats after which we normally had an alfalfa/orchard grass blended in our seeder. So, I had oats, it was in hay my second yr, so I used to be two-thirds of the best way there so far as my three-year transition interval my first yr,” he defined.
As a part of the transition course of, the certification firm requested an bill of his final pesticide utility on the land shifting to natural. His final fungicide utility was on corn in July 2013. He planted oats in 2014, alfalfa in 2015 and adopted with pumpkins in 2016.
“I planted pumpkins in Could of 2016 when that farm was not licensed but, however by the point we harvested in October 2016 it was 38 months” for the reason that final fungicide utility, he continued.
Pumpkins don’t require a lot nitrogen and when he plowed underneath the alfalfa to plant pumpkins in 2016 he decided the soil had 120 kilos of nitrogen credit score.
Underneath his natural manufacturing contract with Nestle Libby’s, the corporate offers the pumpkin seed and in addition harvests the crop.
Various Rotation
Seven years later, Leesman has an natural rotation of oats, corn, pumpkins after which again to corn. Natural popcorn and natural white corn are within the combine, as nicely. He additionally grows standard soybeans and corn in different fields.
“Subsequent yr we might throw inexperienced beans into the rotation. I’ve by no means accomplished natural soybeans. Weed management could be very troublesome in soybeans. With corn, when you get that cultivated and up and shaded, you might have the weeds underneath management,” he stated.
“Dave (Ross) was an enormous assist after I began. I didn’t know something about it. He helped with seed choice. He helped with advertising. He’d e-mail me about any person who was searching for natural soybeans, natural corn or no matter. There’s all the time any person searching for natural crops and he helped me lots with all of that.”
Regulatory Necessities
“In case you don’t prefer to preserve information, then in all probability don’t do natural,” Leesman advisable.
He had 50 acres licensed the primary yr, 100 acres licensed the second yr, and by the third yr 200 acres had transitioned to licensed natural.
An annual certification inspection is performed and within the third and ultimate yr of transition, an inspector spent about six hours on Leesman’s farm.
“He needed paperwork. He needed seed tags. He needed invoices. He needed to take a look at my gear and bins. He needed documentation of something that I used to supply that natural crop. He needed to know after I cleaned out the planter, how I cleaned out the planter and the date I cleaned the planter out,” Leesman defined.
He first used varieties from an internet website to doc the required dates and knowledge and by yr three he recorded them on a calendar.
“Once I converted from white corn to popcorn, I simply put the date on the calendar of after I did it. Now this yr I took pictures with my cellphone of each time we cleaned the planter out, each time we did something with that natural area,” he stated.
“I normally put 80 ft of buffer particularly on an natural crop and I’ll take pictures of that buffer and pictures after I mow it. Once you take an image in your cellphone the date is on it and when the certifier comes out and I can present him the pictures. I hope that works. I haven’t had my inspection but this yr, nevertheless it certain saves a variety of paperwork. They simply need a large quantity of documentation.”
Leesman makes use of pelleted hen litter from a big natural poultry firm in Michigan as a part of his fertility program.
“I like to make use of it as a result of you may get a extremely good unfold on it. I don’t assume you get pretty much as good or as correct unfold sample with moist hen litter. I even have a cousin who raises a variety of hogs and I normally have 200 acres of oats. His pits are normally full by July and he must go someplace with that and he’ll convey hog manure and inject it into my oats. They put about 4,000 gallons per acre on it. They ship out an evaluation and the hen litter additionally has an evaluation so you possibly can have a look at your soil take a look at and determine what number of tons per acre you’ll want to placed on,” he stated.
“The nitrogen from the manure that’s placed on in July isn’t out there till subsequent spring or the following summer time which works out nice.”
His certification officer stated the manure doesn’t have to return from an natural hog operation, “however they should signal an affidavit that they didn’t use any insecticide. Some use insecticide in manure pits for fly management. That’s one other piece of paperwork that it’s a must to fill out yearly.”
The pelleted hen manure prices $120 a ton and he applies two tons per acre.
“It prices $240 per acre, however that’s for whole nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. I’m getting about 90 kilos of N per ton of hen litter. So, two tons provides me 180 kilos of N from hen litter and the native FS plant spreads if for me they usually cost $6.50 per acre to unfold it.
His corn yields have ranged from averaging 140 bushels to only over 200 bushels per acre.
Weed Management
As with all different elements of natural manufacturing, there’s additionally a studying curve for weed management.
In 2018 Leesman planted corn in a 50-acre area and it rained that evening. The foxtails and weeds all germinated the identical day because the corn and inside three weeks the sphere was inexperienced, the corn rows had been barely seen and the sphere was nonetheless too moist to domesticate.
“I had a 50-acre area with 20 acres in a low spot. I lastly acquired the 30 acres pretty nicely cleaned up, nevertheless it by no means may get by the 20 acres. Then by the point the corn was as excessive as a desk, it was yellow and wasn’t going to make something. So, I went out with a chisel plow and tore it up. That’s going to occur with natural,” Leesman stated.
“I attended a convention that winter and the speaker stated don’t plant any natural crops till Could. Work your floor in April to get that first flush of weeds. Return out about Could 10 and hit it a second time to kill that second flush. Take a look at the climate and ensure you have 5 to seven days the place it’s not going to rain. The bottom is fairly heat by Could and you may get that crop up and you may row it in every week if the temperature is correct.
“Get that crop up earlier than any weeds germinate and hit that with a rotary hoe. I’ll exit and hoe seven days after I plant. I don’t care if the corn is up or not as a result of there’s weeds on the market germinating underneath the crust. I’ll hoe it once more 10 days later and perhaps 10 days after that the corn could be up about 6 inches after which cultivates about 10 days later. If you are able to do that, you’re going to have superb weed management, but when it rains and you may’t you could find yourself with issues.”
“The key to natural is it’s a must to have storage. No person comes and will get these items out of the sphere. They need you to retailer after which it’s purchaser’s name. However once they come to get it it’s a must to have a invoice of lading, it’s a must to have a clear truck affidavit that they’ve washed their truck out,” Leesman famous.
“They put cables on their hopper doorways, on their tarp and there’s a tag on the finish of the cable with a quantity on it. All of these tags should match the quantity in your invoice of lading or they won’t dump it. They’re very specific about this.”
“I’m fortunate the place I’m positioned. I’m 25 miles from Nestle Libby’s pumpkins; I increase natural popcorn for Weaver Popcorn at Forest Metropolis which is just 40 miles from me. I increase natural white corn for Clarkson Grain at Cerro Gordon they usually’re about 50 miles away,” Leesman stated.
“I simply had a name a couple of weeks in the past from Del Monte desirous to know if I’d increase natural inexperienced beans for them they usually increase a variety of them in Mason County which is the following county over. So, in case you’re taking a look at specialty crops you’ll want to see the place you’re positioned and the place your market is.
“I don’t assume I’d increase an natural crop and never have wherever to go together with it. Once I set one thing within the floor I normally have a contract signed.
“If you wish to do natural, the very first thing it’s a must to do is be fully dedicated to it. It takes an incredible quantity of effort and time to do it proper and in case you’re not dedicated to it, you’re not going to keep it up.”