Cover Crops topic of Niagara South crop tour

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Local crop farmers from across Niagara South gathered Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 for their annual Summer Crop Tour at a field on Second Concession, near Brookfield Road in Port Colborne.

With threatening weather in the area, the group of 40 was unable to observe and walk through a demonstration of a variety of different tillage implements. But were able to watch a short video at the Veenstra Farms and view the equipment. Representatives from RedTrack Farm Equipment, Cargill and Clark’s were on hand to discuss crops and implements that work for South Niagara.

South Niagara is comprised of many different soil types with Wainfleet including some areas of Port Colborne and Sherkston with organic soils at least 40cm deep. Fonthill and Ridgeville is mainly reddish-hued coarse sandy loam and gravelly sand, while Welland and most of the Niagara Region is mainly reddish-hued lacustrine heavy clay.

Farmers are looking for ways to reduce the use of commercial fertilizers on their crops. Clark Fretz, president of the Niagara South Soil and Crop Association said “healthy plants have less bugs, which in turn means less chemicals.” Fretz, who farms in Stevensville, said that sugar levels in plants also play a significant role. Plants with higher sugar levels have fewer insects as the insects can not digest sugars. Plants with lower sugar levels have more insects. Less insects equates to less chemicals on the crops.

Farmers gathered in a field of soybeans to discuss the idea of cover crops. The cover crops used in question is a mixture of 7 crops in one consisting of oats, rye, sorghum, Sudan grass, radishes, sunflowers and two types of peas. Cover crops have many advantages from reducing weeds, increasing organic matter and nutrients, water holding capacity and reducing soil erosion potential. Again lowering the use of pesticides.

Jon Veenstra speaking of the cover crops said “it’s relatively inexpensive. Keeping the soil covered, keeps the weeds down.”

Cover crops are planted after the harvest of wheat in summer and in the fall after soybeans. Most fields go through a rotation of two years in soybeans and one year in wheat.

“Not getting wheat in for us is a pretty big deal,” said Veenstra, “as it throws off the rotation.”

This year Veenstra sowed rye as a cover crop out of a helicopter with a spreader that hangs down underneath. He is hoping in the next week or so to try planting wheat as a crop this way.

Crop rotation is not what it was 30 years ago or more as farmers do not have the animals to keep and grow a wider variety of crops. Mostly today many only grow wheat, soybeans and corn in the area. Prior there was rye, sorghum, oats, barley and hay fields. With the change to crop farming only, farmers are coming up with inexpensive ways to help keep nutrients in the fields while keeping weeds at bay.

The Niagara South Soil and Crop Association will be holding an upcoming winter meeting. For more information please visit:

All meeting are open to anyone.



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