May 12, 2018
This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a great farmer and
friend of mine, Klaas Martens. Klaas
has been farming for more than 30 years and has driven the adoption
of sustainable farming practices through his work with numerous
national organizations and advisory committees. This episode
contains some really great information from Klaas’s many years of
experience developing sustainable farming systems.
In this episode, we talk about the cultural practices that form
the basis of weed control, how Klaas thought he had discovered a
pathogen that could become a new herbicide, and what it turned out
to be, how to see and monitor field variables, crop rotations, and
how Klaas has managed the weed control on his farm in upstate New
York for the past 30 years.
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Episode 8 - Klaas Martens - Highlights
2:50 - Going from conventional
farming to completely organic
3:40 - Having to unlearn some
things from a university education
4:20 - Klaas was noticing that
his observations in farming were contradicting his learned models
5:15 - What have been the
memorable moments that have lead Klaas to where he is
- Learning that cultural practices form the basis
of all weed control - chemicals are auxiliary only
- Cultural practices are everything you do in the
tending of your fields - what you do to set up the situation the
crop is growing in
happens if you abandon a field? See the crop rotation in
10:20 - Why was Klaas looking
for info in books written before 1945?
chemicals were all recent - agriculture had existed long
- Knowledge was lost when chemicals came
12:00 - How does this relate to
how Klaas manages crops and weeds on his operation?
realized work today will have results later
- Reframing from “How do I kill it?” to “Why is
this here? What is its function?”
started to study what various weeds and pests actually did in the
soil - How do you read what the soil is trying to tell
15:00 - The weed that frustrated
Klaas and made it seem organic farming was going to be
were moving in because they were attracted to unhealthy
18:00 - John’s experience with
is an organism that lives on the deeper roots of Canadian thistles
that it needs to survive - it can only live in anaerobic
21:30 - What advice would Klaas
give to growers to emulate some of his success?
- Shifting soil biology leads to shifting weed
- Changing the microbiology of the
24:50 - What practices lead
Klaas to this result?
- Diverse rotation
crops - tried not to have soil uncovered over winter
importance of the smell of the soil
are looking above ground at the plants when we should be looking
below ground at the soil
27:00 - Healthy Soils,
Sick Soils by Dr. Franz Sekera and Margareth
- Sekera took soil and put it under a microscope
to see what he could see - discovering the organisms were water
breaking down at 70 degrees F
31:00 - Klaas’s experience
with producing dry beans and mustard
had a great experience with dry beans, but it dropped very
significantly over the years
- Klaas’s rotation wasn’t reducing pathogens, it
was promoting them
plots had great looking beans, some had beans that died - Some
crops made the problem worse, some didn’t have an effect, and some
resulted in very healthy beans.
that was very beneficial was yellow mustard
36:00 - How did Klaas’s weed
profile change after incorporating these changes?
soil was trying to say something - that’s why the mustard kept
37:40 - What is Klaas’s crop
- Flexible - Klaas wants to respond to what the
soil is telling him
used a basic rotation, but they worn it out
41:30 - What are the variables
Klaas is monitoring?
- Fields having a certain color point to
different problems. Yellow points to sulfur. Blue is often a
phosphorus indicator. White can be potassium or
are little data points, still need to do soil testing’
45:40 - How has Klaas seen the
ecosystem evolve in regards to disease and insect
don’t hit healthy plants
epsom salts instead of insecticides when plants are low on
- Insects will avoid plants when all three
magnesium, sulfur, molybdenum are adequate supply
51:00 - Putting on a nutritional
application resulting in all insects disappearing.
- Plants can launch a defence when they have
supplied proper nutrition
52:30 - Most nutritional
imbalances are not a result of deficiencies, they are the results
of excess of products that growers apply.
- Overapplication causes imbalances
53:40 - What does Klaas
believe to be true about modern agriculture that others do not
believe to be true?
soil is basically screaming when the farmer is doing something they
shouldn’t be - in the form of weeds, insects, etc. These are the
aren’t dealing with the underlying problem
reliant on point and shoot solutions
56:00 - What are some books or
resources that Klaas would recommend?
1:00:45 - What is a question
Klaas wishes John had asked?
- “Where do we find help and guiding in managing
one person is the source of knowledge for these topics
- Sharing observations and ideas with other
farmers is invaluable - but also to keep yourself and others
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