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Soil Sense

90 EpisodesProduced by NDSU ExtensionWebsite

Welcome to the Soil Sense Podcast, where we believe that building healthier soils is not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit. This journey requires collaboration, curiosity, and communication among farmers, agricultural researchers, agronomists, consultants, and extension. You’re going to hear… read more


Intercropping and Soil Health

Could intercropping be a viable option for large-scale row crop producers? Lana Shaw, Research Manager at the Southeast Research Farm in Saskatchewan, and Dr. Mike Ostlie, a Research Agronomist at NDSU, join us today to tell us what we need to know about intercropping. Lana shares that at the most basic level “intercropping would be intentionally growing more than one species at a time in an agricultural situation.”

“The main type of intercropping that I’ve been concentrating on is growing two grain crops simultaneously, and then separating the grain after it's harvested. So planting them together and harvesting them together.” -Lana Shaw

This method is especially helpful in areas with a short growing season. Another benefit is the possibility of a synergistic relationship which may lead to higher yields, reduced disease and reduced insect damage. Lana further explains that “a lot of our pests are very nicely adapted to monoculture production systems.” So by growing more than one type of crop simultaneously it changes the environment to one they may not be as well suited for.

“The whole goal is to be able to yield more per acre total product than you would with either crop alone.” -Dr. Mike Ostlie

Logistically speaking, “sometimes there’s some compromises that you make on seeding depth or seeding dates” but this does not prohibit success. Lana highlights that regardless of what combination of crops you choose to employ you need to make sure the grains are easily separated so you don’t end up with a product you can’t market. Another consideration is adequately controlling your volunteer crops to avoid more than the planned number of crops in your end-product.

“It’s not that Mike and I are that good at selling a strange idea. The reason this is popular and the reason why we keep getting asked to talk about this is because the farmers seem to be achieving greater overall profitability.” -Lana Shaw

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Lana Shaw and Dr. Mike Ostlie as they explain intercropping and its many applications
  • Explore the anecdotal and compelling evidence of the benefits of intercropping from inputs to yields
  • Learn the unique obstacles that must be overcome
  • Discover why Lana says never underestimate a farmer

Connect with Soil Sense:

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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