Heirloom Tomato Trellising Trials A PFI Cooperators Study

Heirloom Tomato Trellising Trials A PFI Cooperators Study

Maintaining Companion Planting Techniques
While Mechanizing in Diverse, Small Farm Vegetable Operations
SARE Funded Research Genuine Faux Farm, Tripoli, Iowa
Potato/Bean
Tractor Spacing

Potato/Bean
No Tractor

Purpose

New Spacing Tractor

Old Spacing No Tractor

Trial row spacing that will allow a farm to mechanize and intercrop
vegetables without losing the benefits of selected companions.
Observations were taken to determine workability, intercrop benefit
levels and bottom line considerations such as yield and labor cost.

Intercropping

Potatoes
Potatoes
Double
Row
Beans

Beans

Potatoes

June Potato/Bean
Tractor

June Potato/Bean
No Tractor

Wheel
Track

Brassica, Allium, Sage
Potatoes, Beans, Marigolds
Tomatoes, Basil, Parsley, Cilantro
Winter Squash, Zinnia, Nasturtium, Borage
Summer Squash, Garlic, Root Crops
Peas, Cucumbers, Carrots, Pole Beans
Peppers, Eggplant, Beans, Okra
Melons, Zinnia, Marigold, Borage

Why Intercropping?
Increased diversity in crop environment
Pest control
Beneficial attraction
Reduction of disease spread
Diverse crops are their own form of
insurance

40 Bed

Wheel
Track

Double Row
Kohlrabi
Double Row
Onion

July Brassica/Allium
Tractor

Why NOT Intercropping?
Planting times for one crop may not be
optimal
Complex planning
Difficult to scale up

August Brassica/Onion

Wins

July Potato/Bean
No Tractor

July Potato/Bean
Tractor

Labor wins for between row cultivation, irrigation and bean harvest
Slight reduction for in row weeding labor costs
50% reduction in drip tape
Can increase number of rows planted for potatoes in same plot size and maintain beans

Losses

Hilling potatoes very difficult with companion bean so close
A cropping system that does not mulch beans or does not do double rows will result in an
increase in labor for mulch application.

Ties

Yield is sufficiently maintained for both crops
Colorado Potato Beetle control. In both plantings pest only observed on the edges of the
field
Mulching labor has similar difficulties
Potato harvest ease and labor similar

Questions

Single Row
Cauliflower

July Brassica/Allium
No Tractor

New Potato/Bean Spacing a Winner

Single Row Double Row
Onion
Broccoli

Would Colorado Potato Beetle control still be effective if each 40 bed were a single crop ?
Can a modified planting schedule address some of remaining problems.

Just a little rain
A little distraction
Weeds reestablish
Wind roll of larger brassica onto
allium in both spacing
More issue with wind roll in
tractor spacing
Brassica did equally well in each
spacing
Onions failed in tractor spacing

Issue: Planting Times Must Be Within
One Week in Tractor Bed
Possible Solution: Paper Mulch

Bottom Line

Bean Harvest Comparisons
Pounds/ Pounds/
Seed Foot Row Foot

Pounds
Provider

Tractor

193

0.97

0.97

Provider

No Tractor

235.65

0.59

1.18

Jade

Tractor

169.85

0.85

0.85

Jade

No Tractor

353.5

0.88

1.77

Double row in non-tractor spacing
not worth seed spent on Provider
Double row in non-tractor well
worth it for Jade
Proximity to potatoes not an issue
for either bean
Labor for picking double row
slightly higher

Labor cost reduced by 18%, drip tape by 50% and yield maintained.
We will adopt new spacing for our entire bean/potato planting
We will continue to explore options to address additional issues.

Potato Harvest Comparison

One variety seems unaffected
Second may be impacted, but germination issue renders
statistically insignificant
Harvest on our farm waits until beans are done, so no
difference in picking labor
Potato digger stayed on track better in non-tractor
spacing
Easier to hill potatoes in non-tractor
Potato size similar in both spacings

Rio Grande
Rio Grande
Purple Majesty
Purple Majesty

No Tractor
Tractor
No Tractor
Tractor

213.4
151.2
173
182.6

Irrigation

Fewer row feet of drip tape in
tractor spacing
Different root zones provides
opportunity to share drip line
Laying drip line effort similar for
both spacing options
Drip line sharing worked better
for beans/potatoes than
brassica/allium

Results and Recommendations Brassicae/Allia:
If same companion set maintained, old spacing preferred to maintain onion crop.
A different companion, such as sage or summer thyme with brassica in tractor spacing
Establish onions sooner than larger brassica, or companion with smaller brassica
Labor cost similar, most of effort is in row weeding driven by number of allia, paper mulch may
serve to reduce cost better, but this results in a new spacing technique
Companion effect maintained in both spacings for brassicae.
Shared drip line may not be as effective in this intercrop set as potato/bean
Pest pressure very low in 2012 for both crops

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