A Key to Crop Diversity (among other things)

June 11, 2015

Meet the beautiful field pea sprout. 


I call her beautiful because she represents so many things to our farm: a part of a well-rounded crop rotation, a non-soy protein component in animal rations, a soil builder. Also, from an aesthetic position, which the city girl in me sees, they are freaking gorgeous. The delicate tendrils coming off each leaf. Field peas are now supplanting my first "pretty crop" love of wheat. 


When looking across a field of small grains this time of year, you see this gorgeous green carpet that stretches a half mile long. Now that we've added in oats and barley (pictured above) to our crop rotation, we can see multiple shades of "green carpet" as each has its own personal color.


But back to the field peas!

 Right now, they look similar to a soybean, but soon enough they'll be putting on pods and getting ready to produce peas. Field crops are generally broken into 4 categories: cool season grasses (wheat, oats & barley), cool season broadleaves, warm season grasses (corn), and, you guessed it, warm season broadleaves (soybeans). Having all four categories in your crop rotation helps to build soil health- diversity is KEY to limiting noxious weeds and lowering outside inputs. Field peas gives us that final fourth category as a cool season broadleaf. The other neat aspect of this crop is because it is a legume, it will fix nitrogen in the soil, lowering the need for us to add fertilizer for the next cash crop we plant in the spring. Once harvested later this summer, we'll be able to grind these field peas into the protein component for our pigs that is soy-free and sell the remainder at market. 


Alright, enough about the peas. I'll come up with something else tomorrow to get jazzed about. Pigs, toddlers, mowing, gardening, tilling... There's no end to my enthusiasm. Can you tell I've been spending a lot of alone time in the tractor? 


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