MicroFarm Updates

Entering the MicroFarm after a three day gap highlights how rapidly sweetcorn grows at this tassling stage. The crop has moved quickly, although the in-paddock variability remains. This crop is desitined for McCain Foods Hastings plant. More details are available on the MicroFarm website.

Green beans were planted in four paddocks on 31 January 2014. We have a range of things being looked at including row spacing, plant populations, fertiliser and weed management options. More details are available on the MicroFarm website.

Beans and corn 20140225_151757

We started irrigating the beans in Paddock 2 on 18 February with the ThinkWater/Netafim buried drip system. The other blocks are not currently irrigated. Promised rain did not arrive so moisture levels in the dry land crops are starting to drop. HydroServices has put neutron access tubes into Paddocks 2 and 5 and are monitoring for us. The results of monitoring are posted on the Irrigation Monitoring page.

We are grateful to Stu Mawley and the Te Mata Contractors staff for a big job ripping the bean paddocks prior to planting. We have identified deep soil compaction as a significant limitation on-site. This is a legacy of the previous orchard impact and one we need to deal with. We also believe bonfire sites where old orchard trees were collected and burned have left a problem behind. The soils seems “fired” and has very large, very hard lumps. The drivers quickly tired of replacing shear bolts.

Te Mata Contractors used four-tine rippers from Lawson’s True Earth Organics. These are narrow shanked and set at 762mm spacing, so we could run them between the buried driplines in Paddock 2.

We have been learning about peas and irrigation. We have published two articles in The Grower (see the January and February editions). We were impressed to see vining peas drawing water from very deep in the profile. In our early plantings we could see the effects of a compaction layer on water availability. In our later plantings we had the comparison of drip irrigated cersus dryland, and were interested to see differences in water consumed in tha last couple of weeks before harvest. Thanks to HydroServices for providing our monitoring.

Steve Green has donated us a radiometer to add to the Plant & Food weather station on-site. Once we get the wind sorted we’ll be able to calculate our own potential evapotranspiration figures. The radiometer complements the existing rain gauge, temperature, humidity and leaf wetness sensors on the station. These are standard on Plant & Food “orchard monitoring” stations, which are mainly intended to support pathology and enable assessment of disease risk.

We have also installed an Aquaflex sensor which was donated by Streat Instruments. This is stabilising, but with little rain since installation, we are not yet fully confident of the data. These are available on the MicroFarm website courtesy of Plant & Food and HortPlus MetWatch.

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