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Organic or Conventional Farming pt 3

County Agent News
Dan Folske
November 26, 2018

Organic or Conventional Farming (Continued)

            Last week I started comparing organic and conventional yields in variety trials at the Carrington Research and Extension Center with some results that surprised me. I caution you not to get hung up on these numbers because these trials use different pieces of land for the organic and the conventional. While they are relatively, close even a single timely rain shower that hits one plot while missing another can mean a big yield difference even when other variables are the same and these plots are certainly not the same in variables like previous crop, weed pressure, & fertility.

            Comparing hard Red Spring Wheat yields  revealed differences more  like those that conventional farmers would expect if they just didn’t fertilize or attempt any weed control except maybe a preplant burn down or a pre plant cultivation. Organic Glenn: 21.6 bu/acre, conventional Glenn: 59.7 bu/acre; Organic Faller: 29.6 bu/acre, Conventional Faller: 70.1 bu/acre; Organic barlow: 29.6 bu/acre: Conventional Barlow: 66.4 bu/acre; Organic Bolles: 26.1 bu/acre, Conventional Bolles: 58.6 bu/acre

            Field Pea yields were very close to being even under the two systems. Organic Admiral: 42.4 bu/acre, Conventional Admiral:41.8 bu/acre; Organic Agassiz; 47.1 bu/acre, Conventional Agassiz: 48.4; Organic Cruisere: 42.8 bu/acre, Conventional Cruiser: 41.2; Organic Stryker: 48.1 bu/acre, Conventional Stryker: 44.6 bu/acre.

            Oats are a staple crop of many organic producers because of good weed competition and early maturity allowing it to be swathed before many weeds have viable seed. I first looked at the organic oat trials and thought the yields were respectable but lower than I would see in the conventional trials. However the 2018 conventional trials were “Home Run” yields.Organic Oat yields ranged from 70 to 100 bu/acre while conventional yields in 2018 ranged from127 to 154.5 bu/acre!

            Flax surprised me, although it maybe should not have given that Flax is not very competitive with weeds. Organic Flax yields averaged 16.7 bu/acre while conventional Flax averaged 34.2 bu/acre. I guess that is why I hear organic flax prices at $30 to $40/bu at times. I’ve talked with a few organic producers who have said they only grow flax after 3 to 5 years of alfalfa because it is too weedy any place else in their rotations. The 2018 organic oat trials at Carrington followed a previous year crop of Oats.

            Organic Soybean competed very well with Conventional  and Liberty Link Soybeans and surprisingly close to the RR Soybeans. Organic Soybean yields averaged 24.9 bu/acre, Conventional and Liberty Link Soybeans averaged only 19.9 bu/acre, whil the average of all RR Soybean varieties averged 30.4 in 2018.

            Next week I will try to compare some organic crop budgets against conventional crop budgets. There is a lot more to it than just prices, yields, fertilizers, and pesticides.

Filed under: Burke news
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