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Silage Wagon Covers Strawberries
“My 40-year-old Gehl forage wagon really simplifies one of the most time-consuming jobs we have,” says Minnesota strawberry farmer Dan Brouwer. “It eliminates a lot of hand labor and spreads a nice even swath of straw on our berries.”
  Brouwer bought 2 old Gehl forage boxes online expecting to use one for spreading and the other for parts. He extended the discharge chute on one of the wagons by welding on pieces of scrap metal and covering them with round heating duct. The 24-in. wide chute is the same width as a row of strawberries. A plywood shield on the outside keeps material in a nice even windrow as straw is spread over the berries each fall. Brouwer also added rafter-like boards on top to hold extra straw bales.
  “The wagon works great and the self-unloading saves us a lot of time getting on and off the tractor to fork straw on the rows,” says Brouwer’s wife Sarah, who along with their 5 children, do plenty of the field work on their farm. “All this setup requires is removing the twine so it doesn’t get caught in the unloading beaters.”
  The Brouwers use cover crops and grazing to improve production on their 12-acre irrigated farm. They rotate production so six acres are in berry production each year 3 acres have young plants, and 3 acres are used as pasture for 8 head of cattle. They plant cover crops of rye, sorghum-sudan, red clover, daikon radish and winter peas on the pasture.
  “The cattle get a small section each day so they have to eat everything in the area, not just what they like,” Sarah says. “In about a week they graze it clean and their hooves provide ‘natural’ tillage, gently pressing organic matter into the ground. Studies have shown that this method really activates soil biology.”
  Once the acreage is completely grazed, it’s tilled and re-planted.
  Using this efficient straw spreading method, the cover crop and grazing rotation has helped the Brouwers more than double the size of their berry production in just a few years, and yields have almost tripled. “It’s just incredible how the system pays off in yields,” says Sarah. “The berries are large, lush and very flavorful.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Brouwer Berries, 12951 105th St. S.W., Raymond, Minn. 56282 (ph 320 967-4718; Sarah@brouwerberries.com).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #5