Wednesday June 22 2011

Hannah Daneshvar's picture

2PM-4PM. Casey Hoy, Brian Gwin, Ron Becker, Bob Recker, Bill Boyer, Hannah Daneshvar, Kobi Quaye. 

At two in the afternoon, we met at Shreve to discuss and prepare the Sunlight Portal Project as well as gauge how the rain had impacted our plots in the field. There was much water in the field (see images, below), and some of the watermelon plants required replacement. However, there was overall growth: Bill's potatoes and peanuts have sprouted, the corn measures about a half foot in height, the muskmelon plants look sturdy, and the edamame is coming along nicely.

Bob, Casey, Kobi, and I marked off rows of corn within the managed, strip-intercropping system to monitor over the course of these next few months, as well as prepared the sunlight portals in the corn field system on the easternmost area of the field.

We learned that corn, like sugar cane, loves sunlight. When crowded in rows in a field, per current farming practices, the areas of the growing stalks of corn that do not have much access to sun do not yield ears of corn.

From our conversation, it appears that Bob's main interest is to explore the effects of increased sunlight and air movement in both managed, diversified fields as well as within mono-crop corn fields by way of sunlight portals and manipulating the location of different populations of corn in and between the edge rows. One of the goals of the investigation is to demonstrate to (and hopefully convince) farmers that they can increase their productivity and turn a greater profit by way of these sunlight portals; currently, there is some skepticism over the prospect of reducing the area of corn planted to increase yield by constructing sunlight portals.  But those gaps between the corn strips are also what is providing an opportunity for the more diversified production in the field.

I spoke with Brian about the plans for the as of yet unplanted strip; most likely there will be sunflowers planted there. In the melon strip, he is considering planting 30-day radishes, if the weather conditions prove dry enough and time permits. I also inquired after the empty lane near the southern edge of the managed plots and was told that this would serve as a discussion point. Ten feet wide, this space between rows of corn could potentially serve as an area for ground cover crops, or for poultry farmers to let loose their chickens in a pasture poultry production system!

Sometime soon, Bill will be mulching. Kobi and I will be there to aid with that, as well as marking off small plots within the strip of edamame to begin data collection.

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Some of the questions central to the Sunlight Portal Project include:

What is the productivity of corn when it is on the edge of a managed strip as opposed to in the center of that managed strip?

How is the productivity of corn affected by population density in the edge rows?

In a field simulation, are the results of the above scenarios repeatable?

Can farmers be convinced to implement sunlight portals by seeing the results of those in Shreve?

Regarding the first three questions:

Yesterday, in the managed, strip-intercropping system, we marked off 1/1000 of an acre in rows 6, 7, and 8 of Strip 3 Field Corn (high population) as well as rows 1, 2, and 3 (low population) of Strip 4 Field Corn. The expectation is that those plants along the edge will have an overall greater productivity than those further from the edges; of the low population and high population corn rows along the edges, the high population is anticipated to have a greater yield, if perhaps smaller ears of corn.

Regarding the last two questions:

In the mono-crop field, we marked off 8 rows of high-population corn (measured 1/1000 of an acre) which will serve as a reference to those marked off in the managed, intercropping system; we will make observations on the progression of the corn. We then began constructing the sunlight portals by way of eliminating measured rows of corn of varying widths (2, 4, 6 and 8 rows wide). Once the corn has come in, farmers will literally be able to see the affects of the sunlight portals by way of its increased sunlight and air movement. We anticipate favorable reactions, and their utilization of sunlight portals soon thereafter!

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