I am wrapping up the field work this spring, I got 200 acres of old orchard grass hay fields busted out and now into wheat, pea seed, and oat hay.  While I was working the fields, I had some observations about how the various fields were farmed in the past and how it affected the root systems, soil quality, ec.

  1. What jumped out to me the most was how compacted the soil was.  Years of the weight of hay equipment, trucks, etc was brutal on the soil.  In EVERY field, 5-6 inches down, the roots ended right above a 6-10 inch layer of compacted soil.  Because of this, the grass-roots did not sink down deep, and it no doubt affected the yield of the stand.  What is interesting to me is that I see other fields being worked and no sub-soil work is being done.  This means that the hard-pan is not being worked up and broken through, and the new plant roots will hit that hardness and stop.  Sub-Soiling is expensive, it takes a big tractor and gallons of fuel, but I think that if someone only works their land every 8 years or so, the investment would be worth it in the additional yield.
  2. Rocks. Rocks. Rocks.  I am amazed how the prior farmer who put the fields in before me just planted above all the rocks in the field. We decided to spend the money to get a rock picking crew and a backhoe, and it is averaging about $25 an acre to clear them of rocks.  This fall we will do it again, but there will be probably 25% of the amount of rocks we pulled this spring, and hopefully next spring we won’t need to pick.  I think that this investment will be well worth it in the long run, I have broken my equipment so much on the rocks, and the cost for parts alone would have almost paid for the rock picking.  Some fields were so bad, that we could have never plowed them, but now this fall we should be able to bring in a 4 bottom and that will save us a lot of time and fuel money.
  3. Our soil depth is a lot more than I was expecting.  On the surface there are lots of medium lava rock deposits, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn while digging rocks that I could easily dig 2 feet or more until I hit a layer of sandstone. Below the sandstone is lava sand, and I could dig 5 feet down in it and I never hit any hard bed rock. I thought I would have much less top soil to work with.