In this episode we continue our conversation with Greg Busch, a farmer in the far northwest corner of North Dakota. In case you missed Greg’s introduction, he farms with his wife Jessica and they’ve been growing pulses as part of their rotation for over thirty years. We talk about what led Greg to try intercropping, which combinations have worked for him, the benefits and challenges of this approach, and his advice for others who might want to experiment with intercropping.
“I was thinking I was going to still see the same root rot that we had seen five or 10 years before, but that didn't happen. It just seemed like the two grew together and they formed a really good synergy. In the areas that are a little more saline prone, where peas do very poorly, the canola was thicker. In the areas on hilltops, where the canola tends to run out of moisture, the peas did better. The combination far exceeded what we would've gotten with peas alone.” - Greg Busch
Greg continues to adjust his protocols as needed. One priority has been to even out the maturity of the crops to maximize their harvest. He mentions there is an added cost in cleaning and separating the crops he harvests but is hopeful he may someday find a market that will accept the mix. Initially there were concerns that the moisture content in the peas would be too much for the canola while storing the two together but Greg was surprised to find that that wasn’t the case.
“They store very nicely together…. We were quite concerned that we were gonna have moldy canola when we opened the bin door, but that just wasn't the case. In fact, we let that combination sit in the bin for a year and a half till we got around to cleaning it. And trust me, I was checking it because I was concerned. I didn't want to burn up a bin of combined grain, but when we cleaned it a year and a half later, it came out just as nice as when we put it in. So it's amazing that they do store that way.” - Greg Busch
Greg initially incorporated intercropping to feed “the soil microbes and the different soil life that is out there.” He has also experienced an overall price reduction in production costs by reducing input needs.
“When it comes to chemical, you have these two crops competing with each other and shading out most of the other weeds that are out there. And we're seeing a reduction in weeds and a reduction in the need for additional chemical.” - Greg Busch
Greg continues to make adjustments as needed based on market prices, water availability and input costs.