Research | Polycrops |

Polycrops

At this Brookdale Research Field, MBFI is researching polycrops. This page provides information about this particular research project; including the background, objectives, and updates.

  • Project Lead: Pam Iwanchysko, Farm Production Extension - Forage (Manitoba Agriulture), Send email
  • Project Start: May 2016
  • Project Status: In Progress
  • Location: Brookdale Research Field

 

Background

Polycropping is the use of multiple crops planted together, which are meant to complement each other's agronomic qualities and benefit the soil.  Planting polycrops mimics Mother Nature in the way that a true native stand would also have lots of biodiversity.

Polycropping provides a number of potential beneficial qualities including:

  • Provides a source of supplemental forage
  • Provides greater nutritional variety (primary and secondary compounds within the different species)
  • Increases biodiversity (plant and micro-organism species)
  • Increases the diversity in root systems (aiding in breaking apart soil compaction)
  • Increases soil organic matter, which in turn improves infiltration of water and water storage capacity
  • Reduces dependency on pesticides
  • Reduces erosion

Objectives

  1. Test new forage mixes to address: forage agronomy concerns, forage productivity (both yield and quality) and animal performance.
  2. Increase beef cattle feed efficiency through improved general animal performance.
  3. Develop tools for industry to improve the selection of forages that improve the producer's ability to capture more profit from the herd.
  4. Develop farm management strateges that improve farm profitibility and inrease the crops ability to withstand environmental pressure (drought, flood).

Update

As of November 2016-An above ground watering sytem was delveloped to the site.  It will be recommended that there be further development to access more paddocks at this site through an extension of the poly pipe and spigotts. 

An internal area (8 acres) was fenced off with two high-tensile wires,with an additional solar powered/battery operated fencer so as the cattle did not have access to the paddocks that were not to be grazed. 

Perimiter fencing will be required to be upgraded (in the process of being replaced with barbed wire) as the calves continued to escape the field by going under the two-strand high tensile electric fence in low areas. 

As of October 2016 - 25 cow-calf pairs were grazed on 14 acres for a period of 17 days. Due to excessive rainfall and a late frost the paddocks were trampled more than anticipated which resulted in increased forage waste. It was noted that increased cross fencing could have prevented some of the trampling, this will be taken into consideration in future years. Animal weights were taken and forage quality was measured; these results are being analyzed. The cattle were also grazed on smaller paddocks of the polycrop for the project entitled Polycrops and Soil Microbial Communities. Follow the link for more information on that project.

The polycrop mixtures used in this research project include:

 

As of June 2016 - Twenty two acres of polycrop was scheduled to be seeded at the end of May 2016.  Due to wet weather it was not seeded until June 13th  but no significant impact is expected becuase of this change.  There were a number of different mixes planted which had 1-species, 3-species, 6-species and 9 species included. In the fall of 2016 the cattle will graze the polycrop.

Photo Gallery

Select any image below to view enlargement and/or play slideshow:

Gallery: Polycrop seed bags are sorted and ready to mix (May 2016) class= Gallery: Three species polycrop mix on July 15, 2016 class= Gallery: Nine species polycrop mixture ready to be seeded. class= Gallery: Seeding the polycrop in mid-June. class= Gallery: Seeding the polycrop in mid-June. class= Gallery: Six species polycrop mix on July 15, 2016 class= Gallery: Nine species polycrop mix on July 15, 2016 class= Gallery: Nine species polycrop mix on July 15, 2016 class= Gallery: Day 1 of the cows grazing the polycrop on September 13, 2016 class= Gallery: Polycrop forage just prior to grazing in September of 2016 class= Gallery: Turnips in the polycrop blend in September of 2016 class= Gallery: Sorghum in the polycrop mixture in September of 2016 class= Gallery: Cow-calf pairs grazing the polycrop plots just before they were moved into the next plot October 2016 class=

Our Sponsors: