Not all of the strips are treated this way because of labor constraints in
summer - it simply can't all get done. Just to confuse matters for you (it
did for me), some strips might not have an early-season intercrop at all, but
will have a mid-season one, because of labor constraints in spring. One more
interesting detail is that strips with a mid-season intercrop must have a
short-season corn variety, or the corn will be tall early enough to shade the
intercrop out. Rigorous recordkeeping of rotations, stripcropping and
intercropping is a must for the system to work.
After Rene described all of this to me, I thought, "It sounds great, but
does it pay?" Yes. Over the years of developing this system, the Brunelle
families have cut their cost of production by 45%. This money was
re-invested in the farm. The Brunelles are generating wealth as well as
None of this could happen without a lot of cooperation among the families.
Rene takes care of the field crops and searches for information, which is
why he was at the meeting where I met him. The second brother looks after
the sows, supervises the hired man, and helps in the fields when there is a
rush. The third brother takes care of finances, does mechanical repairs, and
helps in the fields. Some of the children help, and they are paid a wage for
Communication is incredibly important. During the winter, the producers
have regular meetings every three weeks, to evaluate and to plan. In summer,
when life is hectic, meetings are informal. To keep communication easy,
every vehicle, including each tractor, has a CB, and the producers carry
cellular phones. Decisions are made by consensus - and when conflicts come
up, the discussion is deferred until everyone has had a chance to think.
Partnerships are a key part of this farming system.
Meeting and talking with producers like Rene Brunelle is a very rewarding
experience. I know there are farmers in Nebraska with success stories much
like Rene's, who have unique farming systems which support their families and
keep the environment clean and healthy. I'd like to tell their stories, too.
Many thanks to Rene Brunelle, who let me question him for at least two
hours. Many thanks as well to Pierre Jobin, who broke the language barrier
THE ROTATION EFFECT - IT'S FOR REAL
Jane Sooby, NSAS Western Organizer
How can you reduce erosion, control weeds, improve the soil, and increase
Use a crop rotation. Farmers have been using rotations for centuries;
researchers have been studying the "rotation effect" for decades. The
rotation effect is the increase in yield that crops grown in rotation show
compared with crops grown in monoculture.
A classical rotation involves alternating a legume like alfalfa or clover
with a grass crop like corn or wheat. In a study done in Minnesota,
continuous corn yielded 103 bu/acre while corn in rotation with alfalfa
yielded 150 bu/acre. This rotation adds N to the soil (from the
nitrogen-fixing legume), disrupts weed cycles, breaks pest and disease cycles
by introducing a non-host species, and reduces erosion during fallow.
Despite extensive studies that have attempted to isolate what causes the
rotation effect, no one factor (like soil nutrient levels or disease
persistence) can definitively be held responsible for it. Instead, the
rotation effect seems to result from a synergistic interrelationship of many
factors, including improved soil structure and increased water-holding
Farmers who have experimented with rotations in western Nebraska have a lot
to say about them. Scott Easterly, who farms west of Lorenzo, uses a 3-year
dryland rotation of winter wheat-millet-fallow, a winter crop-spring
crop-fallow rotation. He gets 2 crops in 3 years instead of the 1 crop in 2
years that wheat-fallow brings in. Using this rotation, he is successful in
controlling winter annual weeds like downy brome and jointed goatgrass that
become serious problems in the winter wheat-fallow system. Says Easterly,
"If I vary my crops, I get rid of the weeds that have the same cycle."
Growing millet allows him to control the winter annuals with tillage, while
growing winter wheat similarly enables him to control late-season weeds.
Ken Disney, an organic farmer in Lodgepole, says, "Rotations are probably
the most important thing we're doing." Disney elaborates on the winter
wheat-millet-fallow rotation that Easterly uses by varying the spring crop,
and using a legume cover crop during fallow. Millet, oats, amaranth,
sunflower (both confectionery and oil), barley, and a current experiment with
fall-planted peas are some of the spring crops Disney has grown. He has
interseeded yellow clover and red crimson clover into the wheat stubble and
then incorporated it the following year, with long-term benefits to soil
fertility. His successful use of a legume cover during fallow contradicts
popular opinion that there isn't enough precipitation in the region to
support clover or other legume growth.
Disney feels that rotation is his best strategy for getting rid of grassy
weeds like cheat, downy brome, and jointed goatgrass without the use of
chemicals. He has also noticed that his ground is mellower and less hard
than before he started rotating.
Dennis Demmel farms south of Ogallala and has experimented with rotations on
his irrigated and dryland ground for a number of years. Demmel has made a
number of observations about his rotations.
On his irrigated land, Demmel has considered a winter
wheat-corn-sunflower-soybean rotation, but his experience indicates that
winter wheat-sunflower-corn soybeans may be a better sequence for a number of
1. Wheat stubble is wet in early spring when corn needs to be planted.
Sunflower is planted later, giving the ground more time to dry out. Also,
he has more time to control volunteer winter wheat before planting sunflowers
into wheat stubble.
2. Sclerotinia mold is a problem on sunflower and soybean back-to-back,
especially on his low areas that tend to hold water.
3. The typical corn-soybean rotation, which Demmel started out using,
required him to irrigate most of the summer. His lower ground never dried
out. Sunflower uses a lot less water and wheat is only irrigated until July,
so "using these two crops helps bring the ground out of an anaerobic state."
On Demmel's dryland acres, he uses a 4-year rotation of winter
wheat-corn-sunflower-fallow with legume cover, as Disney does. Demmel plants
the legume into the sunflowers during the last cultivation, then allows it to
grow until the following June, when he destroys it by tillage (discing or
Demmel has gotten higher wheat yields from wheat after sunflower-fallow than
from wheat after wheat-fallow.
Demmel observed that there were fewer early weeds in ground that was going
through a second round of rotation compared to an adjacent field that had
just undergone its first round. He feels that "with successive series of
rotations, weed problems become successively less." He also thinks that two
years of row crops, like wheat-corn-sunflower-fallow, help to reduce weed
problems more than a single year of row crops like
wheat-corn-sunflower-fallow. The former rotation helps eliminate annual
grasses much better than the latter.
With a rotation, Demmel gets better weed control and improved yields, and
increases his total cropped acres by 50% (by reducing total winter
wheat-fallow acres by 50%). He also feels that it reduces erosion because
the ground is covered with a crop more of the time. Accompanying the
reduction of acres in summer fallow, Demmel noticed a significant reduction
in fuel consumption.
Rotations can be as simple as the two-year wheat-fallow rotation, or as
complex as 8- or 10-year rotations. Many factors need to be considered in
designing a rotation for a farm. Neighbors who have tried different
rotations may be the best source of information you can get. Extension
educators can make a number of suggestions, too, The literature is crowded
with information on rotations. If you would like to try it out, ask around
and think about what crops would fit best on your farm.
If you have developed a rotation that works for you, we'd like to hear about
it. Call Jane Sooby, NSAS western organizer, to let us know. The number is
NEBRASKA IMPACT PROJECT NEWS
Ifs Projects Across The U.S. Build Local Leadership
Victoria Mundy, Extension Educator
One of the hallmarks of the "sustainable agriculture" movement is the
emphasis that people place on communities and on working together. The W.K.
Kellogg Foundation made a commitment to helping people help one another when
it began the Integrated Farming System (IFS) Initiative.
The Nebraska IMPACT Project is one of eighteen projects across the United
States that the Foundation supports through the IFS Initiative. These
projects range from Georgia to New England, North Carolina to the Pacific
Northwest. The overall goals of all the IFS projects are very much the same:
to help farmers use methods that are productive, profitable, and
environmentally sensitive; and to help people and their communities overcome
barriers to sustainable agriculture.
All the projects focus on some common themes. They look for solutions to
technical problems with integrated farming systems. Innovative educational
strategies are used to promote sustainable farming. The projects work to
develop leadership in the farm community and promote communication between
urban and rural communities. Helping those with a stake in rural communities
to communicate effectively and to make responsible decisions is a priority.
Finally, the projects try to develop political support for sustainable
Each IFS project tailors more specific goals and objectives to its area.
For instance, the Darby Project of Ohio uses education and outreach to bring
urban and rural people together to protect the Big Darby watershed. One
issue, among others, that the California Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture
(CASA) concentrates on is teaching people to use alternatives to methyl
bromide, a toxic soil fumigant which is widely used in strawberry production.
Most IFS projects have people who concentrate on alternative production
methods, grazing systems, marketing systems, water quality, urban education,
policy work - or all of the above.
Bringing different people together to work towards common goals is a major
focus of the IFS projects. Most projects concentrate on small local groups
which form around similar interests, the way the IMPACT Project does. In
order to encourage cooperation among larger organizations, projects may have
staff from universities, non-profit groups, consumer groups, and
environmental groups. On the largest scale, the IFS projects are not
isolated from one another. Every six months for the last three years,
project leaders and cooperators have come together to share ideas and give
Later articles will feature some of the IFS projects themselves. Anyone
who's involved in the Nebraska IMPACT Project is part of a much larger effort
to support sustainable agriculture across the United States. We hope that
hearing about other people with the same values and some of the same
struggles and successes as people in Nebraska will be encouraging.
Thanks to IMPACT Steering Committee Representatives
Despite an unexpected snowstorm and a few dented fenders, the IMPACT
Steering Committee met for the first time on December 6th in Grand Island. In
addition to getting to know each other better, the group discussed project
objectives, funding guidelines and long-term fundraising options. The group
also reviewed a number of project proposals and applications from new and
The following returning groups were approved for 1996 group funding: the
Northeast Farmers, Pastured Poultry Producers, Fordyce Organic Growers,
Tekamah CRP Project, Hoofmasters, and EQUAL. Additionally, EQUAL was awarded
project funding for the year. A new group, the Specialty Growers, was awarded
group and project funds.
The project staff would like to thank the following people for representing
their groups at this meeting: Max Bates (Custer County Sustainable
Agriculture Society), Marvin DeBlauw (Northeast Farmers), Bill Henkel
(Pastured Poultry Producers), Mike Herman and Andy Christiansen (Hamilton
County Mid-Nebraska Task Force), Linda Kleinschmit and Carol Thoene (EQUAL),
Kenny Kruse and Keith Stappert (Hoofmasters), Bill Kleinschmit (Fordyce
Organic Growers), and Kenny Widener (Tekamah CRP Project). We would also like
to thank Chuck Hassebrook and Kelly O'Neill (Center for Rural Affairs), Chuck
Francis and Dr. Charles Shapiro (UNL) and Lowell Schroeder (NSAS) for
The next Steering Committee meeting is scheduled for March 13, 1996, in
Organic Growers Learn Together
Martin Kleinschmit, Center for Rural Affairs
The Fordyce Organic Growers consists of five farmers who are concerned about
the welfare of the land, their families, and the future of agriculture. They
have chosen to grow crops and maintain the fertility level of their soils
without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
All five members have used few or no chemicals for several years, but only
one was a certified organic farmer until three more members certified this
year. They consider toxic chemical use on their farms an unnecessary expense,
a danger to soil life, and a threat to the health of their families and
themselves. Although they appreciate the added value of certified organic
crops, farm ethics drive these farmers more than monetary incentive.
The organic certification process seemed time consuming at first. Now the
group members see how it increased their commitment to organic farming and
enhanced their pride in what they grow.
The group visited other growers and processors to learn about new crops, and
how to manage and market their harvested crops. They saw how different crops
were processed, and now understand the importance of maintaining
accountability and meeting the quality standards for what they grow and sell
as "organic". Their trips included visits to Oak Creek Farms in Edgar and
The Grain Place in Marquette.
Sharing their views is important to these farmers. In October, they invited
the public to visit their farms and see first hand what organic farming is
all about. Few people outside the group attended. This year they plan to be
more direct with personal invitations. In January, they are hosting a
networking meeting with other organic growers to share production ideas and
learn about marketing opportunities. Wilfred Schill of Prairie Organics, a
North Dakota organic marketing cooperative, is scheduled to speak at this
The Fordyce Organic Growers value the safety of working within a group of
farmers who share common goals and are willing to farm differently. The
group gives them a chance to share more than yields and farm practices while
learning together. In addition to understanding certification, sanitation,
accountability, production and marketing, the Fordyce Organic Growers realize
that "growing food is a lot more fun than growing feed".
Organic Marketing Options to be Featured in January Workshop
The Fordyce Organic Growers are sponsoring a workshop for the public to
learn more about marketing options for organic crops. The meeting will be
held at the Fordyce, NE Fire Hall on January 11, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
(Fordyce is located about 14 miles southeast of Yankton, SD).
The featured speaker is Wilfred Schill of Prairie Organics, a North Dakota
marketing cooperative. Schill chaired the steering committee and the board
of Prairie Organics until stepping down to take the job of grain marketer.
He believes farmers should maintain control of their grain direct to the
processor, rather than go through conventional grain brokers and traders.
The cooperative aims to combine shipments to satisfy processors' needs and
guarantee timely payments for the producers. Schill has farmed for over 30
years, raising small grains and livestock.
Other scheduled speakers include Mike Herman, representing the Nebraska
Organic Crop Improvement Association, and Dave Vetter, manager of the Grain
Place. A home-built compost turning machine will be featured at the meeting
For more information, call Marvin Lange at 402-357-2150, or NSAS.
Specialty Growers Join IMPACT
The Specialty Growers joined the IMPACT project this December. The group's
members are concerned with producing clean, high quality food; creating a
successful marketing distribution system for such food; increasing consumer
awareness about high-quality produce; and increasing their group's
membership. The group is a recognized OCIA chapter (#3).
Currently, this group includes six couples and one individual from eastern
Nebraska. The members all raise specialty crops like produce, herbs, and
flowers. They are mostly small-scale operators. The group includes
established and beginning farmers, and farmers with much and little
experience with alternative crops.
In addition to the crop improvement and certification meetings which OCIA
requires of them, the Specialty Growers have a number of activities planned
for this year. They plan to hold a public meeting in Columbus this February,
which will focus on marketing specialty produce and creating marketing
systems. Other events include a leadership training/strategic planning
workshop, a tour of a member's herb farm, and regular monthly meetings. The
Specialty Growers are in the process of becoming a nonprofit (501c3)
organization, so that they can broaden their fundraising possibilities.
The Specialty Growers welcome new members. You do not have to be an OCIA
member to participate in their activities. For more information about this
group, please call Keith or Jo Lutnes at 402-562-8711 (business) or
STUDIES SAY FARMERS AT HIGHER RISK FOR SOME CANCERS
Studies in the United States and other countries have shown that farmers
have a higher risk for certain cancers, particularly cancers of the blood and
the immune system (leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and multiple myeloma).
The reasons for the increased risks are not clear, and scientists are
looking at chemical and other occupational exposures common to farming to
identify the possible cause or causes.
Farmers are exposed to a variety of potentially harmful substances during
their workday, including pesticides (fungicides, herbicides, insecticides,
rodenticides, and others), chemical solvents, fuels and oils, animal viruses,
and other microbes. Some of these agents are known or suspected carcinogens.
In the 1980s, National Cancer Institute (NCI) researchers began several
studies of pesticide use by farmers with cancer and by those without the
disease (case-control studies). The first of these investigations was a
study of Kansas farmers with soft-tissue sarcomas, Hodgkin's disease, and
non-Hodgkins' lymphoma (NHL). Published in 1986, this study showed that
farmers who used herbicides, especially 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid
(2,4-D), had more cases of NHL than did farmers who did not use these
Scientists at NCI completed case-control studies of NHL among farmers in
eastern Nebraska and leukemia among farmers in Iowa and Minnesota. Each
study included all cases of these cancers occurring in a specific geographic
area. Hospital records and pathology slides from the cases were carefully
reviewed by pathologists to verify the cancer diagnoses.
Sheila Hoar Zahm, Sc.D., and collaborators at NCI and the University of
Nebraska Medical Center studied 201 men living in 66 Nebraska counties who
developed NHL between 1983 and 1986. The researchers compared the pesticide
exposures of these men with exposures of 725 men from the general population
who did not have this cancer. Although there was no overall excess of NHL
among farmers, the NHL rate for farmers who mixed or applied 2,4-D was 50
percent higher than for the general population. The rate of NHL also
increased with frequency of 2,4-D use. Farmers who used the pesticide for 20
or more days per year had a threefold higher rate than those not exposed to
The longer farmers waited to change into clean work clothes after a
pesticide application, the higher their rate of NHL. The rate of NHL among
farmers who changed out of work clothes immediately after completing a single
application was similar to that among nonfarmers. Farmers who continued to
use these work clothes the following day or longer had nearly five times the
NHL rate of nonfarmers.
The investigators also looked at the possible effects of pesticides other
than 2,4-D and other factors that might be associated with NHL, such as other
agricultural exposures, medical conditions, exposure to radiation, and
tobacco use. In other reports, non-2,4-D pesticides, particularly
organophosphate insecticides, have also been shown to increase the risk of
NHL. The NCI study results suggest that 2,4-D and organophosphate
insecticides have independent influences on the risk of cancer.
Dr. Zahm and her collaborators believe the evidence suggests that the use of
2,4-D in the agricultural setting increases the risk of NHL among persons
handling this pesticide frequently.
Linda Morris Brown, M.P.H., and colleagues at NCI, the University of Iowa,
and the University of Minnesota studied a total of 578 cases of leukemia
diagnosed in men in Iowa and Minnesota between 1981 and 1984. To compare the
effects of pesticide exposure, 1,245 men without the disease were selected at
random from the general population.
The researchers found a slight excess of leukemia, especially chronic
lymphocytic leukemia, among farmers. Exposure to specific fungicides,
herbicides, or crop insecticides did not increase the rate.
The leukemia rate was significantly elevated for farmers who used certain
pesticides to inhibit insects on animals rather than on crops. The
insecticides were the organophosphates crotoxyphos (11 times greater rate),
dichlorvos (2 times), and famphur (2 times); the natural product pyrethrin (4
times); and the chlorinated hydrocarbon methoxychlor (2 times).
The rate of leukemia did not increase consistently with frequency of use for
any pesticide. However, the highest rate for farmers was seen in those using
the chemicals on animals 10 or more days a year. The leukemia rate was even
higher for farmers who had used insecticides at least 20 years before the
The investigators improved the accuracy of the risk estimate from individual
pesticides by accounting for the cancer risk from smoking, nonfarming
occupational and chemical exposures, family history of cancer, and other
factors. Larger studies are still needed to fully evaluate the effect of any
single pesticide on leukemia risk. The higher cancer risk from animal
insecticides than from crop pesticides may result from closer proximity to
animals on a regular basis. Animal insecticides need to be carefully
scrutinized in future studies.
The Cancer Information Service (CIS), a program of the National Cancer
Institute, is a nationwide telephone service for cancer patients and their
families, the public, and health care professionals. The toll-free number of
the CIS is 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
from CANCER FACTS, National Cancer Institute/National Institutes of Health
Thompsons to be Featured
at Hastings Program
Mark your calendar for the 1996 Strategies and Ideas in Sustainable
Agriculture meeting. It will be held on Thursday, February 1 at 9:00 am, at
the Adams County Activities Center at the Adams County Fairgrounds.
Dick and Sharon Thompson are featured on this year's program. The Thompsons
have long-term experience with profitable farming using sustainable
techniques. Their efforts result in fewer personal and environmental hazards
while contributing toward a more stable and complete rural economy. They are
also members of the Practical Farmers of Iowa, a grass-roots farmer
organization started in 1985.
Tom Larson, a St. Edward farmer and former Leadership Education Action
Development (LEAD) participant, will also be present to share his reasons for
developing a sustainable system on his farm. He will discuss his choices of
University of Nebraska faculty members will give presentations on biological
insect control, soil quality, and growing and marketing dairy-quality
This event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Adams
County Cooperative Extension at 402-461-7209.
Extension Educators Curt Alderson and Victoria Mundy will hold informal
coffeeshop discussions for people who have questions - and answers - about
Management Intensive grazing. These Grazing Coffeshop Discussions are planned
for January 16 at the Battle Creek Extension Office, and January 23 at the
Stanton VFW club. Both will happen from 1:00 - 3:00 pm. Please join them!
The 1996 Nebraska Vegetable Conference will be held on Wednesday, February
28 at the New World Inn in Columbus. The preliminary program includes
sessions on Organic Insect Control in Sweet Corn, Effect of Shelter on
Snapbean Yield and Quantity, and an intensive workshop on Growing Melons
Using Plasticulture. Pre-registration costs $20.00 and includes lunch,
snacks, and a copy of the proceedings. Registration costs $25.00 at the door.
For more information contact the UNL Horticulture Department at 402-472-2854.
The winter season is an excellent time to learn more about becoming
certified organic by the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA). The
deadline for this year's application is February 28, 1996. For more
information on OCIA and organic standards contact: Dave Welsch, Rt. 2 Box
63, Milford, NE 68405. 402-826-5361.
OCIA Nebraska #1 will be holding their annual meeting on January 13, 1996 at
the Seward Civic Center located on Highway 15 in Seward beginning at 9 a.m.
To register call: Dave Welsch, 402-826-5361.
The Land Stewardship Congregational Tool Kit contains videos, resource
materials and activities for small and large group gatherings, with a focus
on building healthy communities by linking people with their food, the land
and each other. To inquire about renting the kit, call Mary Schulte at
Our Garden: A Project that Supports our Community and Protects the Land is a
13-minute video detailing how Redeemer Lutheran Church set up a garden that
serves its neighbors in need. The congregation and staff of Redeemer have,
since 1985, produced approximately 100,000 pounds of organically grown
produce that has been distributed to area food shelves and senior citizens'
centers in Winona, Minnesota. The video offers advice about how such a garden
can be set up and run in a community. For a copy, send $17 to the Land
Stewardship Project, 2200 4th St.., White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Breeding Crops for
Return to Resistance: Breeding Crops to Reduce Pesticide Dependence, a new
book by Raoul A. Robinson, explains how groups of farmers can work together
to breed crops with effective, durable resistance to all locally important
pests and diseases. Dr. Robinson analyzes crop breeding's successes and
shortcomings, and explains the new techniques of breeding food crops with
this inherited immunity - technically termed "horizontal resistance".
Properly used, horizontal resistance could provide us with a largely
pest-free agriculture, one which is largely pesticide-free as well.
This 500-page book sells for $29.95, softcover. To order, send a check for
the cover price plus $4.00 shipping and handling to agAccess, PO Box 2008,
Davis, CA 95616. MasterCard and Visa orders are welcome by telephone:
New CSA Handbook
Making the Connection, a handbook for CSA producers, pulls together the
experiences of innovative CSA farms across the country. In addition to
narrative examples, this handbook includes simple charts and worksheets for
use in running CSA projects. It also provides detail on topics such as legal
issues, writing newsletters, and postharvest handling. Per copy, this
handbook costs $25.00 plus $5.00 shipping. To order, send your name,
address, phone number, number of copies requested, and a check payable to "UC
Regents" to: UC Cooperative Extension, Attn.: CSA Handbook, 11477 E Avenue,
Auburn, CA 95603.
NSAS member Elinor L. Brown has written a book entitled The Chemical Era:
1945-?, Challenge for Human Survival. This book discusses different kinds of
chemicals which most people ingest through their food and water. It includes
information on health and nutrition. Copies cost $22.95 plus $2.50 shipping.
Order from Midwest Publishing, PO Box 33, Ceresco, NE 68017.