Grants Pass, OR (PRWEB) August 14, 2014
There are more small family farms in the United States in 2014 than ever before and if well managed, they can be immensely profitable, says Oregon State University Farm Extension faculty member Maud Powell (citing the 2014 USDA Farm Census), speaking on the Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water radio show. The key to family farm profitability, according to Powell, is to maximize crop yield while conserving water and maintaining natural soil health. This can be economically achieved through cover crops, off-season niche crops, mulching, and increasing spoil organic content.
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. Powell was interviewed by Sharon Kleyne on August 11, 2014.
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 watering to achieve the same yield.
Soil organic content, Powell explains, is increased by not removing 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 heavy rains from leeching out nutrients and help maintain organic content. Common winter cover crops include various grasses, rye and oats. Intermingling 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 notes, 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 potential 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 a 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 some niche crops may also utilize the land underneath a forest canopy. Forest understory niche crops include morel mushrooms, hazelnuts, little princess pine for root beer, elderberries, blackberries, huckleberries, 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 winter cover crop but they will benefit from mulching and improvement of 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/