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Wheat in the Rotation

Wheat Field

Wheat Field

Crop rotation is a very important part of good farming practices to ensure sustainability.  Crop rotation involves alternating the crops grown on the same piece of land. Here at Willowtree Farms, Rod has an intense crop rotation schedule to maintain soil quality, to reduce weeds, and chances of disease in a crop. Crop rotation is a long term strategy to ensure the overall health of the land and decrease the amount of artificial inputs.

At Willowtree Farms fall wheat is an important part of our crop rotation. In the fall we plant wheat as well we under seed red clover. The wheat germinates and begins to grow in the fall. Over the winter the wheat lays dormant under the snow. Then in the spring the wheat grows quickly and thick, forming a canopy which suppresses the weed, by shading and cooling the soil below. The wheat continues to grow and when mature and the grain is dry we combine, after we bale the straw. Straw is an extremely important secondary product, which we use a lot of for animal bedding, winter protection and mulch.

Combing Wheat Field

Combining Wheat Field

By this time the red clover which was seeded under the wheat has also grown up. The clover grows and flowers, which our honey bees love. Our red clover is grown solely as a green manure crop, which means we plough the clover into the soil adding organic matter.  Organic matter enriches the soil by adding soil structure, raising the pH as the clover decomposes. Red clover is also a very important natural source of Nitrogen. Red clover is a legume, which is in a family of plants which fix nitrogen into the soil through their root nodules.  Clover provides about ½ of the nitrogen required to grow corn the following year. The nitrogen released by the clover is given off slower, than the chemical equivalent. Where as chemical nitrogen can promote weed germination and seed production resulting in a lot more weed is in the crop.

Field with Red Clover

Field with Red Clover

 Having wheat and clover in the rotation provides a lot of benefits to the soil. As well as many products we need on the farm. The grain from the wheat is sold to make cereal products, the straw we use for animal bedding and covering the strawberries. But most importantly is the soil remediation, given back to the soil. Making fall wheat and red clover in a rotation a very green and sustainable practice.