Intercropping worth a try, but start with test plots

Farm conference season is a time to learn new things, ask questions, and lay out plans for what you might try out on your farm this year. It can also be a super busy time for those who attend meetings, but for some who speak to the various crowds it can also bounce you around from province to province.

For Lana Shaw, lead researcher at South East Research Farm, she’s been able to speak at Brandon, Man., in Alberta at Grand Prairie, Fairview, Calgary, and Edmonton, and on to Saskatchewan’s Saskatoon and Regina, and she still won’t be done traveling until about the end of February. No matter where she ends up, though, farmers are showing a keen interest in Shaw’s research into intercropping — the  practice of growing two or more crops together on the same piece of land.

Shaw shares what she’s learned about intercropping so far and the different test plots that she’s been working on at the research farm, located near Redvers, Man. Shaw says that during her travels, she’s spoke to various crowds and many people usually find her afterwards to ask so many more questions. “Sometimes I hear some interesting stories like, ‘oh I remember my grandpa used to do that,’ so that gets interesting. Or others say, ‘I wonder what would happen if we did “this,'” she says.

In working towards what might be broadly applicable, Shaw says there are several crop mixes that have been quite successful in trials, with maple peas proving a good intercrop with many crop types. Farmers interested in the growing, harvesting, and separating intercrops are finding what mixes work for their farms, too. “Some farmers are having real success with large green lentil and a low rate of flax,” she says, though she hasn’t assessed the mix in research trials. “Once farmers get the imagination flowing, look out.”

“I just think it’s worth trying different things out,” she says, but start small and talk to other farmers who have had success with the practice before diving in.

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