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PEBBLE HILL GROVE ORGANIC FARM PLAN FOR 2010/ 2011

 

At Pebble Hill Grove we have a low input system based around encouraging a wide diversity of plants, grasses, legumes and fungi to improve fertility, soil organic matter and aeration.

 

SOIL FERTILITY

 

Crimson clover forms the backbone of our soil fertility program. This winter legume may produce 120-140 pounds of organic nitrogen per acre. Studies have shown this clover may provide 90% of the nitrogen requirements of the pecan tree.

Rye grasses also grow with the clover through the winter and spring season. They contribute to building soil organic matter. Wild radish also grows naturally within the clover and rye grass. This plant has been shown to extract sub-soil minerals and deposit them in the top soil layers when it dies back in early summer. Their small yellow flowers serve as a nectar source for our honey bees as well as native pollinators before the clover blooms.

Several different varieties of pecan mycorrhizae are present within our soil, evident by their fruiting bodies and pecan truffles. These fungi form a symbiotic relationship and are beneficial to the growth and development of pecan trees. The pecan, as well as other trees, feed their mycorrhizae by exuding complex carbohydrates out of their roots and in return, the vast network of mycorrhizae feed the tree with nutrients and water. The sheath-like connections between the fungi and feeder roots form a barrier to disease pathogens. The mycorrhizae also produce powerful antibiotics directly in the root zone. Development of mycorrhizae is much more vigorous in an organic system. The fungicides, nematicides, and even fertilizers used in conventional orchards are all detrimental to mycorrhizae formation.

 

INSECT CONTROL

 

Our insect control program is based around the colonization of the Brazilian free-tailed bat. We currently have five large roosts and three small roosts spaced throughout the grove. Our seasonal peak population is about 3500 bats. Infestation levels of pecan nut casebearer, hickory shuck worm, stinkbug, walnut caterpillar and fall webworm have been reduced to acceptable levels. We have hound that the bats reduce pest insect levels in two ways. First, by direct predation and second by the fact that insects avoid areas of high eco-location found around roost sites. The use of light and pheromone traps has revealed consistently low levels of insect activity within our farm. A study conducted by Veronica Brown, graduate student from the University of Tennessee, confirmed DNA evidence of brown and green stinkbug, pecan nut casebearer and hickory shuckworm in the guano collected from our bat roost sites. A new 1600 bat-capacity roost has been installed.

 

DISEASE CONTROL

 

Pecan scab is our primary obstacle in growing pecans organically. In a dryer spring and summer, we make good quality nuts. In a wet, late spring-early summer, scab lesions form on the nuts. After field testing with biological fungicides Serenade and BMJ during the 2009-2010 growing season, they have proved to be non-effective. Dr. Brenneman, plant pathologist from UGA Tifton, has advised using Copper Hydroxide and Serenade for the 2011 growing season. A test plot at UGA Tifton (Ponder Farm), has shown good results with this combination. We sprayed copper in 2005-2006 growing season with fair to good results. Our garlic does not have any disease or insect problems.

 

ELEPHANT GARLIC PRODUCTION AND HANDLING SYSTEM

 

We use a no-till, living mulch system. Garlic cloves are hand planted around the first week of November into crimson clover and other native grasses. Aged guano, ½ cup per each planting hole is used as primary fertilizer, no other fertilizer is required. Clover and grasses are kept cut short through the growing season. The garlic is harvested mid to late May. It is trimmed, blown clean and hung in our curing cellar. After six weeks of curing, about half of the garlic is placed in new boxes for sale and the other half is saved for the next years planting. For the 2012 season, we have planted about 500 garlic plants.

 

POMEGRANATE FARM PLAN

 

Pomegranates seem to show great promise for South Georgia. Varieties from Russia have proven to be cold hardy enough for our region. We have planted 100 rooted cuttings taken from UGA Byron experiment station in March 2010 and 2011. We now have sixteen varieties of Russian and Iranian trees and plan to add a few more in 2012.

Our plan is to determine which varieties produce best on our farm and plant more of those varieties, taken from our cuttings. Trees will be growing in a winter cover of Crimson clover and rye grass. The summer cover is various grasses kept mowed short. Drip irrigation will be used. Nutritional requirements at this early stage are met by foliar feeding with fish emulsion and micro-nutrients. We plan to use bat guano as the primary nutritional source. At this time, there are no disease problems. A new 1600 bat capacity roost has been constructed at the southwest corner of the pomegranate grove for insect control.