Over the past 15 years Paul Overby has converted his North Dakota farm to no-till, added zone management for nutrient management, diversified his rotations and added cover crops. He shares his journey toward building healthier soils, the importance of pulse crops in his rotation, and his recent experiences with growing pea/canola intercrop. Overby had already started growing peas before he decided to make the switch to no-till, but his interest in pulses grew as he started to understand the benefits they can have on not only economics but on his soil health program as well.
“We did bring the peas in as a way of labor management, planting and harvesting early. And there was a market. Dakota Dry Bean at the time did have a pea market, so that was relatively close by and easy to ship into…. And then as we got into the whole soil health side of things, then having peas in a rotation started switching for other reasons. Some of the value in having them in the rotation started showing up as we started learning about arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.” -Paul Overby
Whether it’s as a primary crop, in an intercrop or as a cover crop, Overby sees pulses as an important part of his rotation and something to consider for anyone who wants to build healthier soils. Always on the hunt for new ideas to improve his farm, he observed what others were doing in intercropping. This led to a pea/canola intercrop experiment of his own last year.
“Canola and brassicas are not mycorrhizal associated plants, peas are. Is there a synergy there? Can you put peas under the soil and, and help out the canola that way? So this past year, we did a trial. We had two strips in a canola field where we had peas interceded with the canola.” - Paul Overby