By Martin Entz
Professor of Cropping Systems and Natural Systems Agriculture, University of Manitoba
The University of Manitoba owns and operates the Ian N. Morrison Research Farm located just west of Carman, Manitoba. Of the 420 acres of arable land on the farm, about 18 acres have been organic since 2003.
The rotation in our organic farm fields is as follows: Pea/oat green manure (sometimes grazed); spring wheat; soybean; hairy vetch/barley green manure; no-till flax; and oats.
Weeds are managed quite well in this rotation, although we have struggled with Canada thistle patches.
Keith Bamford, our senior technician who is responsible for managing the organic lands at Carman, has been dealing with these thistles through late fall tillage, early grain seeding, and other techniques.
Keith seeded his organic spring wheat early this year (April 21, 2016) in an effort to get the wheat ahead of the thistle.
The wheat looks great, but the thistle patches are starting to catch up with the wheat, especially in the portion of the field where Keith seeded a cover crop last fall and did not use deep fall tillage.
Keith contacted local farmer Wayne Willimont who had just purchased a combcut machine and was interested in trying it out in an early seeded crop. Wayne did indeed take time out of his busy farming schedule to try his new combcut on our research farm. Thank you Wayne!
For those who are not familiar with the combcut machine, it has a row of serrated knifes that move through the crop and catch hollow-stemmed plants like wild mustard and thistle, cutting them off.
The reel on the machine clears the newly cut weeds from the knives. The row of knives does not move, unlike a cutter bar on a swather, but the angle of the knives can be adjusted. The picture above shows “cut off thistle” being thrown into the air by the reel.
If you want to see how well this combcut operation dealt with Keith’s thistles at Carman, you may want to attend our public field day on July 15, 2016 (9 a.m. to noon).
Again, thanks to Wayne Willimont of Miami, Man., for coming to help us with our work. We appreciate your support. We have received funding to purchase our own Combcut machine at Carman and hope to have it in full operation in 2017.