Allen Philo is the specialty crops consultant for Midwestern BioAg, a biological fertilizer company in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, where he works with fruit and vegetable growers around the country to help them develop approaches to optimizing soil conditions for plant growth. He also runs a pasture-based livestock farm north of Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
Allen was one of the first guests on the Farmer to Farmer Podcast, and I’ve had request after request to bring him back.
Allen digs into cover cropping, from the biology and theory behind it to the nuts and bolts about how to make it work on the farm. We discuss how cover crops work to get sugar-rich calories into the soil to feed the microbes, and how you can use cover crops to create microclimates to break down crop residues. Allen shares nuts-and-bolts details how he and his clients have used cover crops to disrupt pest cycles, reduce pest and disease pressure through rapid biological cycling, and control annual and perennial weeds.
We also discuss the tools and techniques that Allen recommends for managing cover crops, from establishing a strong stand to managing the resulting mass of vegetation. Cover crop selection, practical approaches to cover crop blends, and using cover crops to manage the pre-harvest interval for manure applications are also on the table.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
FarmFan: Ever wish you could text a reminder to all of your customers? FarmFan does just that, increasing market turnout – and sales – week after week. Use this link for 25% off your six or twelve month subscription.
Quotes from the Show
Plants are constantly pumping sugars into the soil in order to feed microbes.
When we grow a crop, especially a crop that we haven’t bred to produce a really big fruit, those pump a lot more sugar down into the soil, and that sugar and those calories are going to feed those microbes.
About ten percent of the total sugars made by a plant are pushed out into the soil environment.
What makes [good soil structure] is microbes in the soil actually gluing that soil together to make houses for themselves.
We aren’t the first creatures to engineer the environment for our benefit. Microbes have been doing this for much longer than we have.
A little bit more diversity out there never hurts. Different things growing above ground does feed different things growing below ground.
Allen is the specialty crops consultant for Midwestern BioAg, a biological farming inputs supply company in Wisconsin.
Managing Cover Crops Profitably has seeding rates for single varieties and combinations.
Crop Rotation on Organic Farms has some very useful charts describing important disease and insect cross-over vectors to help you plan your cover crop (and other) rotations.