- L. Leskiw, A. Laycock, Can-Ag Enterprises, Guelph, Ontario
(Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)
View / Download Final Report [937 KB pdf]
Associated SWEEP/LSP Research
Completed: May, 1992
low input farming, kelp, molasses, O.B.A.T.A., aeration tillage,
Aerway, erosion control, cover crops, fertilizer, no-till, corn, soybeans,
winter wheat, yield, subsoiling, crop rotation, mulch tillage, soil compaction,
residue cover, microbial biomass
Many farmers are seeking alternatives that lessen their dependence on
off-farm inputs (especially fertilizers and pesticides) that build soil
quality, and that create a healthier environment. This report presents a
three year evaluation of the excellent accomplishments of a small group
of innovative farmers known as the Ontario Biological Aeration Tillage Association
(O.B.A.T.A.). Their quest is to adapt low input farming methods on their
farms and to extend promising alternatives to their communities.
The basic components of the O.B.A.T.A. approach are mechanical, biological
and reduced chemical inputs. Important subcomponents of each of these are
summarized as follows. Mechanical tillage implements; a subsoiler used for
pre-emergence or post-emergence soil aeration; and other farming implements
for spraying, seeding, tillage, etc. The biological component entails kelp,
sugar (e.g. molasses) and fertilizer; cover crops; crop rotation; and reduced
tillage. Reduced rates of herbicides and fertilizers are applied.
The purpose of this project was to evaluate these production practices;
the next step is to use the favourable recommendations for extension purposes.
The evaluation examines systems approaches to farming. A standard approach,
the farmers' routine practice, is compared to the O.B.A.T.A. approach. These
both vary considerably from farm to farm in terms of crops grown, availability
of manure, and rotation of principal crops. One farmer adopted O.B.A.T.A.
methods throughout his farm, so on his land different O.B.A.T.A. practices
(comparison of cover crops, different fertilizer applications, tillage practices
and manure applications) were examined.
The study was conducted on seven farms distributed across Oxford, Elgin,
Haldimand-Norfolk and Waterloo Counties, spanning variable soil and climatic
conditions. There were three complete years of results for two fields and
several treatments within each field on Mint Klynstra, Jim House and Arpad
Pasztor's farms. Various O.B.A.T.A. treatments were tested on John Van Dorp's
farm. Joe Gerber, Dave McIntosh and Dean Glenney were unable to participate
during the entire period for various personal reasons.
The significant results of the monitoring program are summarized as follows:
Soil fertility monitoring (P, K, Mg, Ca, pH and organic matter) revealed
a lack of significant differences between the standard and O.B.A.T.A.
management treatments. Comparisons were made for each year and between
years for each treatment.
There were no significant differences in soil compaction as measured
by vertical penetrometer and bulk density. Pocket penetrometer readings
indicate greater compaction in the standard versus O.B.A.T.A. management
plots, below the topsoil.
Most of the O.B.A.T.A. farmers kept a fair amount of crop residue cover
on both their standard and O.B.A.T.A. fields (over 50% on average). Two
farmers used aeration tillage in the fall regularly, and another was a
Microbial biomass measurements taken in 1991 were similar to baseline
measurements obtained in 1989. Fields with the greatest biomass carbon
counts have a history of intensive soil management (i.e. use of manures,
cover crops, and kelp and sugar additions etc.). Over the three year period
no significant increases in microbial measurements were detected in the
O.B.A.T.A. plots when compared with the standard plots.
Winter wheat trials were only possible in 1989. Yields were greater
on O.B.A.T.A. management plots compared with yields obtained from standard
management plots. This may have been a positive response to foliar spraying
as this was the only O.B.A.T.A. practice implemented on these fields at
No measurable differences in soybean yields on O.B.A.T.A. treatment
plots in 1989, 1990 and 1991 could be discerned from those yields obtained
from standard management plots.
Corn yields on O.B.A.T.A. treated plots were greater (6%) than standard
management plots, based on examination of three fields in 1991. During
the first two years O.B.A.T.A. plot yields were slightly lower than those
on standard treatments.
The use of cover crops and aeration tillage (Aer-way) systems were
highly effective in reducing water runoff, soil, sediment and phosphorus
There are risks in changing farming practices. While farmers are motivated
by environmental and health concerns, an economic incentive is also an
excellent motivator. Observations, consideration of inputs and returns
have been evaluated in year three and the results show O.B.A.T.A. practices
are comparable or superior to conventional practices in terms of economics.
Soil micro-faunal populations within plots with added kelp and sugar
versus standard management plots indicated no significant differences
in a one year study.
The use of kelp, molasses and other sugars, and 71 B fertilizer solution
as a seed and foliar treatment in an aeration tillage system does not
significantly affect growth or yield of soybeans, based on a two year
micro-plot study. Nevertheless, positive responses to these additives
were evident on some field scale treatments.
This on-farm research has proven to be very effective in testing and
demonstrating alternative production practices. Considerable effort is required
in the initial year of such an undertaking to establish good communication
and understanding between researchers and farmers. Subsequently, attention
is needed to continue consistency and integrity of practices and statistical
design. It would be desirable to have at least ten participants to improve
the statistical component.
Longer term research is essential for studies of this nature. Both the
farmers and researchers agree that the third year is really the first year
of reliable data, considering the adjustment period needed for transition
in soils, weed control and experience of the co-operator.
An extension component should be added to projects of this type. In the
final year of study, Can-Ag Enterprises received funding from SWEEP and
Aer-way to produce a video that could be appropriate for extension use.
(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank,
The goal of this project was to evaluate the Ontario Biological Aeration
Tillage Association (O.B.A.T.A.) approach to low input farming methods on
their farms. The O.B.A.T.A. approach includes the use of: a subsoiler for
pre-emergence or post-emergence soil aeration; kelp, sugar (molasses) and
fertilizer along with cover crops; crop rotation and reduced tillage. Rates
of herbicides and fertilizers are reduced in the O.B.A.T.A. approach.
The study includes a literature review of several cover crops, allelopathy,
biological soil life, seaweed: plant growth, soil erosion, nitrate leaching
and tillage and conventional versus organic farming. Seven farms in Oxford,
Elgin, Haldimand-Norfolk and Waterloo counties were involved in the three
year study. All sites were monitored for soil characteristics, field operations,
economics and crop yields.
The results are as follows:
No significant differences were found to exist between standard and
O.B.A.T.A. management treatments in terms of levels of P, K, Mg, Ca, or
pH in the three years.
No significant differences in percent organic matter.
No measurable differences between treatments for compaction at any
No visible trends in microbial biomass development could be observed.
Corn, soybean and winter wheat yields were not significantly different
from standard yields.
The use of cover crops and aeration tillage systems were effective
in reducing water run-off, soil or sediment and phosphorus losses.
The data in this report must be interpreted very carefully as the author's
biases show where he speaks favourably of O.B.A.T.A. when the result may
not necessarily support the conclusions. The author mentioned that the microbial
biomass measurement was not as useful as he had hoped. The potential for
cover crops to aid in weed control is mentioned several times but the report
makes no mention of weed control after cover crops. Herbicide rates used
were the same for both treatments. Only one of the participants used the
complete O.B.A.T.A. system.
There is some question about how the economics were derived. Gross returns
are stated for the final year of corn only. Two passes of aeration tillage
and one with a subsoiler likely will not cost much less than the moldboard
plow and two cultivations. The cost of the residue spray, foliar spray,
seed treatment and cover crop seed plus the cost of application would appear
to more than offset any fertilizer savings. It would appear that conservation
tillage can provide many of the same benefits as the O.B.A.T.A. system with
fewer passes over the field.
SWEEP Report #26 - The Use of Kelp and Molasses
in an Aeration Tillage System
SWEEP Report #66 - Volume V. Economic Assessment
of the Technology Evaluation and Development (TED) Program
LSP 7011 - Crop Rotation Effects on
Crop Yields and Soil Properties in Southwestern Ontario
Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for
priority, A - high, C - low.
Thursday, May 19, 2011 03:39:46 PM