If you are new to farming and you want to grow crops, the science of caring for them can seem way out of your league.
Fortunately, the process is relatively straightforward and relies a lot on common sense. It only gets complicated when things go wrong due to bad luck or poor planning.
These are the ins and outs of crop care that first-time farmers need to know.
1. Crop Care Basics
All plants have similar basic needs whether they are growing in a small vegetable patch or on a vast commercial farm.
Sufficient sunlight, water, food in the form of soil nutrients, and space to grow are all that they require.
The key to successful farming as a new farmer is to keep these few elements top of mind in all that you do when caring for your crops.
2. Start at the Bottom
Good soil is the most important part of crop farming. Test the soil where you want to plant crops on your new farm to make sure that the pH level is optimum for the crops you want to plant.
You can add fertilizer or manure to adjust these levels and help your crops grow tall and strong.
Don't make a guessing game of it. Many fertilizer companies will be happy to offer you advice, you could employ a consultant to guide you, or you could ask a friendly neighbor who's familiar with the procedure.
Another aspect that's very important for healthy crops is adequate drainage. The best way to ensure this is to purchase land with good loamy soil. Loam has the best ratio of sand and clay particles to allow water to drain away.
Clay soils will hang on to the water and drown your crops, while sandy soil will let it all pass on by. You can improve the drainage of your soil by adding sand for increased drainage or clay for the opposite effect.
3. Quality Over Quantity
Growing crops over a vast area is not necessarily an indicator of success. Focus on your good soil areas first and get them producing at the top level.
Trying to grow crops in large tracts of unsuitable land is an exercise in futility. You should consider selling unproductive land, or slowly improving it over time, but don't plant anything in it until the soil is right.
4. Set up Procedures
Every season most definitely has a reason when it comes to crop farming.
Work out exactly what you should be doing about your crop maintenance and when to do it. Write up a precise schedule and stick to it. Leaving crops in the ground for too long diminishes their nutritional value and thus salability. Harvesting too early means you'll have a low yield.
Planting too long before the rainy season or trying to grow the wrong crops at the wrong time of year are disastrous mistakes.
Make sure everyone knows their job and when to do it. Supervise them to ensure that they are sticking to the plan.
5. Controlling Pests and Weeds
Weeds seem to grow faster than your crops, but that's not always a bad thing. As long as the weeds are 6 inches taller than your crops, you can safely use a weed wiper to eradicate them quickly and easily.
A crop care sprayer is another way to administer the death-blow to pests and weeds. Please be careful when selecting pesticides as some of the older ones are harmful to the environment.
As far as possible use only organic pesticides and weed killers. They may cost more, but crops farmed in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way command a far higher price.
6. Use Farming Technologies
Thanks to the latest advancements, farmers have an armada of tools at their disposal for effective crop care. Some of these are:
These gadgets will ensure that farming equipment works only where required.
They keep tabs on things like fertilizing and over planting by plotting this information on a map. Farmers can then send cumbersome machinery to the exact location it's needed, saving time and money.
Variable Rate Technology
VRT is usually installed on pieces of machinery such as planters or spreaders.
Using the information provided by GPS technology, VRT controls the distribution of fertilizer and seed in the right quantities.
This prevents wastage and damage to crops by over fertilizing or over-planting.
Guidance Systems for Farming Equipment
By means of GPS systems, farmers can control the activities of sprayers and spreaders to work only as and where necessary.
This technology guides the activities of the operator with an onscreen map, or an auto-steer system that takes over the controls.
These technologies are most often used by large-scale farmers. Yet, they can be of huge benefit to first-timers who don't want to go through learning by trial and error.
7. Water Wisely
Do not buy a farm that has no access to water of its own. Even in areas with good rainfall, lean years will come.
It is extremely expensive to irrigate large fields of crops using piped water or water pumped from a well. Without sufficient water, your crops will fail.
Plants have different water needs according to their species. Environmental conditions can affect their requirements as well. For example, wind can rob the soil of surface moisture, while high humidity means there is moisture in the air that plants can use.
As far as possible plant drought-resistant varieties of crops and make sure you have a backup plan for dry spells.
Watch your crops. Healthy plants with enough water will thrive. Thirsty plants look limp and grow slowly.
Stay up to Date With the Latest Farming Tips
While farming has been around for centuries, it's an ever-changing industry.
Scientists and botanists are constantly working on ways to make crop farming more sustainable, profitable and effortless.
As a new farmer, you should try to stay up to date with the latest discoveries and advancements. You may be able to use some of them to your benefit.
Keep reading our blog for more crop care and farming tips.