FORT HALL, Idaho-For the past two seasons, Brendon Rockey has planted peas, chickling vetch and buckwheat in the same rows as potatoes, using a specially designed seeder.
The Center, Colo., specialty and seed potato grower doesn't harvest his so-called companion crops, which trellis up his potato plants. They're intended to lend nitrogen and organic matter to the soil.
After potato harvest, seeds from his peas produce a cover crop, providing additional soil health benefits. Rockey, who spoke March 6 at a Natural Resources Soil Conservation Service forum in Fort Hall, said the slight yield bump from his companion crops compensates for his $4 per acre investment.
After years of working to add crop diversity to his farm and more closely mimic nature, Rockey believes he's increased his profits, reduced disease risk and dramatically cut back on input costs.
"We don't spend a single dollar on anything ending in 'cide,'" Rockey said.
John O'Connell, Capital Press