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Conventional Field Production

I thought I would start a little grow log highlighting some of the aspects of field agriculture.

Step one to field preparation is Sod Bustin’.

Here we have a 2 bottom plow performing primary tillage, it cuts a 2 foot strip of top soil and flips it over. It does a stellar job of killing sod and weeds. Additionally it speeds drying and makes secondary tillage much more effective. It takes roughly 4 hours to flip an acre with a 2 bottom plow in proper soil conditions. You want the soil damp but not wet, dry and firm enough for tires to grip, but wet enough for the top soil to come up as a sheet. Too dry and it won’t flip.

Here we have the completed field.

Up next is shooting triple 16 and spading.

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Between field preparations, I am forever cloning and transplanting. I need 3200 plants for 40,000sqft of canopy, but I try to pot up 4000 so I can cull odd growth as I go. I also like to have 500 on back up, just in case, it could make all the difference with random weather events.

I need to spread these ladies out, they are getting too big!

2 weeks and 1 day until planting.

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There is some better spacing.

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This is great, thank you! It looks like you’re off to a great start with beautiful clones. I look forward to watching your progress.

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Thanks!

If I can maintain this momentum all year it will be the best one by far.

Some additional background on this 2 acre field:

It was virgin pasture for decades. I plowed it in year 1 and added 400 yards of compost and 3 tons of lime. I had a stellar crop.

The second year saw another 200 yards of compost and 2 tons of lime. Due to unseasonable rain and lack of foresight, I lost half of this crop to waterlogging. This year is not only drier than year 1, I bought a hiller to raise the rows, I will post pictures/video on this when the time comes.

This year our pH is nearly spot on. pH was originally 5.0 average, this year it was 6.2 average. I only added about 0.75 tons of lime. Next year I doubt we will need lime. The field is now at 5% organic matter, which supplies about 1/4 to 1/3 of the nitrogen needs through the season.

No more compost this year, I plan to try and get a solid cover crop this year. This is tough to do with a crop that harvests too late for most cover crops to be planting, but I intend to try and intercrop a cover before harvest. I switched to commercial fertilizer this year. Total field prep cost went from about $5000 for organics down to $500 with more immediate availability. Organics need warmth over 50F to really release nutrients, and it was a very cold May, June and July last year, freakishly cold and wet. I believe this led to some of our problems. Maybe it was the eclipse? Bad Omen… :joy::rofl:

The compost was a huge expense (600 yards is about $17,000) but really loosened all the soil up and its benefits will last a very long time, forever, if I can get a cover crop established over winter… This year we are about 30% organic fertilizer and 70% conventional. If I can get a good cover crop going, we will be at 50/50 next year.

Once perform secondary tillage, I will post some pictures of how the soil looks. I think it is nearly as good as 1 foot of potting spread out over 2 acres. There will be a 3rd rotary tiling on the rows that will be raised. This will be some very fine textured soil.

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I farmed forty acres of pasture land in Southern Michigan for 25 years and may have a cover crop answer for you.
Traditionally, soybeans were used as a cover crop to fix nitrogen after planting corn. However it took a full season out of production.
However I tried sorghum with great success. It can be planted and titled under in 4-6 weeks and grows well in cool wet weather. Check with your County Extension Agent but I can attest that it adds tons of organic matter that quickly decomposes at an amazingly low cost.

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I was told by a county agronomist that rye grass is my best bet for late fall to mid spring growth and plow down. I picked up a blend that is 50% ryegrass, 20% winter pea, 10% buckwheat, 10% Dutch white clover, and 10% common vetch. I figure I’d follow most of what the agronomist said, and see how well some other sources do. Depending on what grows best, I would custom blend next year.

Any thoughts on this blend?

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That’s a pretty standard pasture blend meant to be planted in fall and plowed under in spring. The clovers do fix nitrogen so that’s a big plus.
I was actually thinking about you planting sorghum as a cover at harvest, plowed at the Spring thaw and virtually replanted immediately. Day to day you can see the growth of this grass, sometimes over an inch a day and it’s best when plowed young. But if you want winter cover, just mow it to 4-6" tall for stubble and ground cover, then decide in Spring if you want or have enough time to plant a second time. Your mineral and nutrient situation seems really good so you are actually just looking for tilth and humus now.

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Farmer Dan,
I don’t know where your farming, so hard to advise.
Have you done any soil analysis ?
Are your Ca, Mg, Na ratios correct ?
Watch out for Iron issues with pH adjustment.
are you applying any pgrs, nematodes or microrizee ?
Have you sampled for depth of soil profile ?
You should start doing tissue analysis (macro & micro nutrients) at harvest to see how much tN (as biomass) was taken out of your system as well as any other nutrients that may be depleted.
Not sure of what cultural practices you use (plant spacing, raised beds, irrigation method, so its hard to say which cover crop you need. That said, russian fescue, vetch, alfalfa, barley all work very well, but should be turned at heading so as not to compete.
I hope you consider drip, either surface or subsurface( to aid in increasing soil oxygen levels) and being efficient water wise and fertigate to reduce soil compaction.
The addition of compost is necessary every year to replace PAN, create better soil texture / composition and renew the microorganisms required for mineralization of the organics.
Fertilizer is cheap insurance to prevent soil deficiencies, but also leads to nitrate leaching, ground water pollution and a waste of resources ($$$) and time.
best of luck

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I am in the Oregon valley in the footslopes of the coastal mountain range. Near Eugene, Oregon.

I have done basic soil analyses. Ample P and K, deficient N, with 5% organic matter.

No PGRs, no nematodes, no chemical pesticides, but yes mycorrhizae were inoculated on the 600 yards of compost.

Soil is well over 2 feet deep (foot slope). Texture is silt loam, it’s a blend of Dupee and Waldo.

Tissue samples aren’t in the card this year, but I have remineralized the soil in a broad sense using Azomite and Sea-90. I don’t think we have any major mineral issues, our biggest problem so far waterlogging. The solution is that I will be hilling this year. It would be nice to know how much N is used, but there are ways to conscientiously use synthetic fertilizer without poluuting the waterways. That is the last thing I want to happen to my pond. Misused organics can also pose a threat. The 4 Rs apply in either case, right type, right amount, right place, and right time.

We will do raised double rows this year, drip irrigated. Fertilizer will be split applied, soil nitrogen will be monitored, and plants will be fertigated what they need, when they need. Of all fertilizer 1/3 will be applied dry prior to planting, 1/3 will be fertigated (nitrogen stopping at the end of July, PK boost will be done as a foliar), and 1/3 organic matter decay to take through flower. Aside from that, a cover crop should help catch the minimal leftover I intend to have.

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Looks like you know what you’re doing. Keep your soil phosphate levels very low to promote mycorrizae and protect your waterways. Reduce tillage as you get your soil in shape and weeds under control. Conventional isn’t that far from no-till sustainable. Keep up the good work!

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I probably won’t go the 100% no-till route, but reduced tillage could work out later on. I don’t see tilling as a bad thing to avoid, and no-till as a good thing to strive toward. They are both aspects of agriculture to consider and both require proper management. Both have benefits and both have drawbacks. No-till systems lose carbon without inputs, just as full tillage would, but at slower rates, perhaps adding a bit of foolproofness to the equation. Before I put this field into production it was no-input pasture. It had next to nothing for soil organic matter at the beginning. At 5%, it now has amazing structure.

Some other no-till cons for me:
-Increased fungal pathogens from surface residue decay.
-Increased use of herbicide (I currently use no herbicide), mowing isn’t enough for some weeds.
-Long time frame until it becomes a benefit, not something that I can afford to at the moment.

My biggest tillage concern is compaction, so I went out and found a used Tortella spader for $1300, a steal! This conservation tilling device is quite amazing. I will post some pictures and video when I get to this point.

The spader shatters soil down to a foot without inversion. One of its key features is its ability to break up compaction. Last year, all I used was the spader, however, since it doesn’t invert, it didn’t kill the sod that I wanted gone, this was a problem later in the season.

After this year, I may not need to plow, but I try not to stay married to any one idea. If my cover crop does well I was considering trying strip tillage with my spader as a form of conservation tillage.

Erosion isn’t really an issue due to topography, this field sits in a shallow basin. My entire property is a micro watershed, it gets wet, real wet… Tilling helps dry it up, but some years are better than others.

Run-off is my number 1 concern! Even with 100% organic you can mess up the waterways. My P and K levels are pretty close to ideal for estimates that I have read for NPK uptake per acre. I am adding 35lbs/acre of P and K pre-plant, this should be all that it needs. Nitrogen is very low, so I am adding 70lbs/acre, soil organic matter should add another 70lbs. This is near the low N estimate, but another 70lbs from the high estimates. My initial application of N should be gone within 4 weeks. I will test soil at this point and decide if I want to inject more N as needed through July (peak veg growth). Soil organic matter may be producing plenty of N at this point, but I will test and see. August thru harvest will see no more soil additions. Just a foliar PK boost early and mid flower.

Striking a balance between ecology and economy is no simple task…

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Here is my makeshift propagation trailer that cost me next to nothing. It was originally a metal shop created by the previous owner. Juiced up with 100 amps, plenty for what I do in here.

One way we saved money is settling for good enough. Do I want a state-of-the-art indoor lab? Of course I do! Can I get by with a bare minimum? Absolutely! Eventually, I want a 4th greenhouse, maybe 30x50, fully outfitted with all of the bells and whistles. A fella can dream…

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Here are a couple of pictures of my spader’s mechanisms. Doing some servicing and I should be ripping ground this afternoon or tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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I made record time on the spader this year 2 acres in 5 hours. A super good sign that the soil is ready to go!

I even put out a dumpster fire and watered my plants while spading.


Time lalapse spading.


My office.


Hey folks!


She’s a beaut!


Nice variety of soil peds.


Ped arrangement in profile.


Loose soil depth.


16-16-16 concentration on the soil before spading.


200lbs of 16-15-16, times 2, over 2 acres. 200lbs of straight urea (46-0-0) will follow before tertiary tilliage.

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9 more day until planting…


Knee high clones with 4ish branches per plant.


Once these babies hit the ground, they may just touch the clouds by flowering.

I grow other things too…


1/4 acre of corn, squash, melons and beans planted as seed.


My tomato starts.


Some Brussels sprouts.


A prsonal plant with a bit more room to stretch her arms.

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No need to spray once the greenhouse friends move in. Besides, why kill these beautiful creatures?

I was getting some stink bug damage, but that stopped about the same time the frogs came in.

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I love following this thread, thanks @Farmer_Dan!

It’s refreshing to see someone not trying to re-invent the agricultural wheel!(Even though I am a sucker for new technology lol…)

I imagine once it’s legalized on the federal level we will see more convential practices take over.

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I’m a sucker for technology that hooks up to my tractor’s PTO. :wink:

Definitely use a lot of science along the way as well.

Thanks for the compliment. I am trying to drive costs down as the market floods. We know our place too, straight to hash! Though I have been asked why we don’t the tops because they do look amazing. The answer is that it costs double and incoming money slows way down on the dried flower market. I will post some pics later.

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

With the hash market doing nothing but growing, you should have no problem with buyers if needed! I am interested how the market here in CO will go with all the outdoor farms in operation. A lot of them are still focusing on trying to produce indoor quality (or the dream of doing it :joy:), instead of going for hash growing. Eventually with the wholesale prices going the way they are it might make it to there.

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