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Erika, thanks for your thoughts.
Your questions are also my own for the long term effects of this operation. This particular field in our market gardens has been participating in a study on soil health through Bianca Moebius-Clune and her team at the Cornell University soil health lab, for the past 2 years. The study runs a 4 year course and is being replicated on about 10 farms in NH, it is being tested on crop ground, pastures, and hay field alike. Soil health testing means she is testing for physical and biological activity in the soil as well as aggregate stability and depth/hardness of hard pan. As opposed to just the chemical readout of available nutrients. More can be found out about this here.. http://soilhealth.cals.cornell.edu/index.htm
This fit in with our goals of making our market gardens drought proof since we do not irrigate the field crops and would like to build our resiliency to erratic weather patterns. Anyway, we divide this field into four sections to help facilitate our cover crop and cash crop rotations. We will be attempting to subsoil the far left plot in the photo this time around and hopefully the near left as well soon after. We consider this subsoiling to be a one time effort as once the pan is ripped we hope it will stay broken under our low till horse powered operations. The two plots on the right in the photo are both also dealing with the hard pan issues, but they both have a few spots where the soil is a bit thin and bony. Stoney, and we couldn’t subsoil very easily. In these plots we are focusing on tap rooted cover crops..tillage radishes, and sudex. The near right plot in the photo is a solid stand of tillage radishes last fall. The tillage radishes were part of our no-till onion experiment that we will be putting together a small photo essay about. Possibly contributing to to a multiple farm collaboration about tillage radishes in Anne and Eric’s CQ column in the SFJ in the near future.
Anyway the jist of all of this is that two plots will be tap rooted or bio-drilled using cover crops to break the pan, and two will be mechanically subsoiled by live horse power for a directly side by side look at results. The soil health experiment will continue for this season and next and we will be looking forward to what we find.
Finally to be clear I should say that the plots we will be subsoiling this coming week will be on their way into a summer bare fallow period before being cover cropped in august for spring veggie planting. I wanted to fit this into a slot in our rotations that didn’t have a cash crop following it for the reasons Erika stated about the evaporation of soil moisture to the depth its been worked. -Joel