Optimum Land Use
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: The Andruchows
Posted on: August 15, 1999

I am requesting your opinion as to what would be a good medicinal herb crop to plant on our unused land. We have approximately 2 acres that range from a higher dry sandy area to a very moist marshy area, with good soil in between. We have had hay planted which has florished (except for the sandier area) but wish to experiment and see if we are able to make a little on this extra bit of land. We have not used herbicides or pesticides nor have we fertilized this area. We are in zone 3. The sample taken for analysis from the sandier area reads as follows:

Nutrient Analysis (parts per million)

Sample depth: 0-6 inches.

Nitrate 8; phosphate 21; potassium 89; sulphates 4; calcium 1970; sodium 5; magnesium 175; iron 24; copper 0.14; zinc 2.0; boron 0.85; manganese 8.4; chloride 3.7. The pH is 7.3; and the E.C. (salinity) is 0.15. Organic matter is 2.9%.

Before I can respond, I must know where you are located. Your region and habitat dictates more than any other factors as to what crops might be considered. The region includes such variables as sunlight and length of daylight, while the habitat dictates rainfall and exposure. Give me this data and I will go to work for you. Does this field have irrigation?

Further, chemical analysis of the land is not as important for crop selection as to what noxious weeds currently grow on this field. Why? Soil analysis is only for a limited sampling, while the noxious weeds (and how the spread) tells me more about your A- and B-Horizons than any other studies.

Often the infestation of weeds are what you might want to consider growing for that field. A noxious weed, by the way, is primarily defined as "what is poisonous to cattle." Tansy Ragwort, for example, is distilled for pyrethrums, a "toxic" insecticide used in many commercial blends. Mullein and Yarrow also grow extensively in Western Canada and have some limited markets.

Finally, it is prudent to also consider what you are currently growing because this suggests what farm machinery you already have available for use. It makes no sense to suggest a seed crop (like Dill) if you do not have a combine. I have made up a list of variable I use when selecting specific crops for a field when creating a Farm Plan (business plan).

Farm Plans include nine technical crop reports and additional information on several other crop alternatives. The report includes timetables, spirochetes with anticipated costs, incomes, volumes, markets, seed sources, expansion programs, projected gross receipts, etc. Recommendations and cottage industry suggestions will be based on current or future market trends, and your resources.

When you order a farm plan, we need to know the following:

* (1) List of capital equipment

* (2) What equipment is in the neighborhood which might be leased

* (3) Detailed soil descriptions of the land in question for use from SCS

* (4) Crop and spray history of the soils in question

* (5) How much money do you have to begin this venture

* (6) What grows well in your garden

* (7) Goals and direction

* (8) A video of your farm and resources (or photographs)

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