304 North Street Houlton Maine 04730

Conservation Innovation Grant 2015-2017

"Building Soil Health with Innovative Potato Cropping Systems"

CIG FIELD DAY, August 16

We had a great field day at Donald Fitzpatrick's farm August 16. Mark Fulford, CIG grant project advisor and Brendon Rockey, Colorado potato farmer, led participants in field sessions that focused on the soil and plant relationships. Brendon used an interactive exercise where attendees wore hats (literally) depicting various parts of a soil system to demonstrate its resilience against farm management techniques and nature's whim. A favorite photo below shows the guy chosen to represent Soil Structure...

Soil Structure guy 600x800

Donald Fitzpatrick planted a 25 acre field to a 10 species cover crop as part of the grant project and in anticipation of the field day. It was a beautiful cover crop and he has plans to chop it by the end of August so that it has time to decompose this fall and winter. He may even get a regeneration of oats that had seeded out. The photo below shows Mark Fulford in cover crop field.

Mark in field 1 600x800

One of the best parts of the CIG Field Day was that we had our featured speaker Brendon Rockey and his assistant Lauren Krizansky here for most of the week. It was great to hang out with them, do some one-on-one farmer field visits and hear Brendon share his soil building practices on his Colorado potato farm with our farmers. They even picked up a Colorado Potato Beetle at field day to take back with them for future dissection by Brendon's daughter in her class (the Colorado Potato Beetle making no appearance on their southern Colorado farm).

Brendon Lauren Ang 800x600 

If you are interested in learning more about SASWCD's CIG project, check out references below:

  • In 2016 the SASWCD held a "Potato Production as Part of an Ecological System" class with Michigan crop consultant RJRant. RJ was a wealth of information regarding soil building through rotations and multi-species mixes. Some of the information may surprise you - click HERE to read an overview of class discussion. The overview will get you wanting to hear more of what RJ Rant has to say when he is here November 2 for a "Plants Grow Soil" conference.
  • For the 9 to 14 multi-species cover crop mixes that we have been using for this project, we have been working with Keith Berns at Green Cover Seed in Nebraska. They have a cover crop "Smartmix" calculator that helps to determine what species mix is right for you.

Outcomes of the SASWCD CIG project "is based upon work supported by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, under number 69-1218-14-6.