Shaw manages the South East Research Farm
By Diego Flammini
A Saskatchewan researcher is encouraging farmers to try intercropping.
The practice would see farmers plant chickpeas within a flax field, for example. Farmers are intercropping about 45,000 acres of cropland in the province.
But more farmers should, as there are many benefits to intercropping, according to Lana Shaw, an agrologist and manager of the South East Research Farm near Redvers, Sask.
“Intercopping seems to be lowering production risks and input costs (while) increasing profitability,” Shaw told Farms.com today. “We’re increasing or maintaining yields. Right now, as producers manage poor soil moisture and low crop prices, farmers might need to do something different.”
Some growers are practicing three-year crop rotations on their farms but are only experiencing one year of profitability, Shaw said.
Intercropping works, especially in Saskatchewan, because of the province’s vast processing and export capabilities.
“We have so many different crops available, in terms of market, and processing and handling facilities,” she said. “We have an opportunity here to start doing intercropping, growing higher-value crops and producing them more efficiently.”
Shaw recently made a presentation about intercropping during the Crop Production Show in Saskatoon.
Her audience was keen on the idea of intercropping but were concerned about how to harvest two different crops in the same field. It would require some equipment tweaks, but it is doable, she said.
For chickpeas within a flax field, for example, “you would set the combine for the chickpeas and turn the air (pressure) down so you don’t blow the flax out the back of the combine, and separate the crops afterwards.”
Interested producers should start with a small plot on the farm to experiment, Shaw suggested.
They should also use social media to connect with other farmers performing similar work.
“There’s a lack of information on how to (intercrop),” she said. “Go on Twitter and look up intercropping because there’s farmers and research farms with years of experience who are happy to share what they know.”
Saskatchewan Agriculture is also hosting a workshop later in the month for growers interested in intercropping.
The workshop takes place on Jan. 24 at the Italian Club in Regina. The event features guest speakers and a producer panel.
Farmers can register online for $50 or for $60 at the door.
Top photo: A chickpea and flax intercropped field
Photo: Irrigation Crop Diversification Corporation