Soil retention and nutrition: the benefits of intercropping

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Added: Wed, 11/22/2017 - 10:50pm
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Rye grass planted between rows of corn, to improve soil quality and crop yield, was part of the intercropping trials showcased at Ferme Stépido on November 7.

Carl Hager

MUNICIPALITY OF
PONTIAC –  Farmers from the Outaouais, and as far away as Mirabel, visited the Ferme Stépido, a dairy farm located on Alary Road in the Municipality of Pontiac, November 7, to hear trial results on the benefits of intercropping in corn and soybean fields.  Owners Stephane and Justin Alary hosted the event; Stephan and Paula Hamilton from Rolling Acres Farm in Clarendon also participated in the trials, intercropping with their cereal crops.   
The increase in annual grain crops (cash-cropping), instead of perennial forage crops used with livestock production, cause soil depletion and other issues to emerge.  Pontiac farmers are looking for techniques that prevent weed growth and restore microbial health to their soil; these include no-till soil preparation and now
intercropping. 
Intercropping is the practice of laying down a crop between rows of annual grain crops; this restores nutrition to the soil and prevents soil erosion. According to Christine Rieux, of the Shawville branch of MAPAQ, another goal of the trails was to show how to use the procedure with machinery farmers have on hand; one example given was the use of an old fertilizer spreader to broadcast seeds.
Province wide results will be presented at MAPAQ’s information days to be held early in 2018, but on a local level the trails have been successful; Rolling Acres saw an increase in their oat crop by 1 tone / hectar when it was intercropped with white clover in 2016. Other benefits of intercropping include soil
protection in winter, providing nitrogen for Nitrogen-hungry crops, improving overall soil quality and reducing weed pressure and herbicide use.
This project is supported financially by MAPAQ’s Prime Vert program, intended to help producers meet the challenges and recognize the benefits of environmentally sustainable agriculture.  Rieux said that a new Prime Vert program will begin in 2018 giving funding for 5 more years, allowing them to continue the trials.  One farmer stated it would be beneficial if MAPAQ helped with the costs associated with intercropping, especially seed costs, and Rieux is hopeful this will be part of the new funding.                         (LL)