Field Day on Field Trial Data Collection: Succession Plantings and Johnson-Su Inoculations

posted in: Champions, Field Days | 2
Planting Sangaste Rye and Red Turkey Wheat seeds provided by Rio Grande Grain, October 1st, 2022. Photo by Starrlight Augustine, Synergia Ranch.

Join us on Saturday, November 12, 2022 from 9am – 1pm on Synergia Ranch (located 20 miles South of Santa Fe in the Cerrillos Hills) to learn how to gather data and assess field trial results, building on the October 1 event on succession plantings, Johnson-Su compost inoculations, and field trial design!

On October 1st of this year, we gathered at Synergia Ranch to perform field trials, led by Synergia’s farm manager and Soil Health Champion Dr. Starrlight Augustine. Our inquiry focused on determining possible benefits of coating winter cover crop seed with Johnson-Su compost in a market garden set-up. Would there be an improvement in yields and other criteria across eight experimental beds? Together, we explored how to set up and assess the results of small scale farm trials with the aim to increase production and soil health in a vegetable garden that uses no pesticides nor inorganic fertilizers (the sole inputs are wood chips and compost).

The follow up workshop on November 12 will again take place at Synergia Ranch where we will be looking at the germination rate and biomass of the various heritage grain and winter cover crop plantings. We will assess the state of the soil foodweb through microscopy and discuss results as they relate to a small scale market garden.

The field day runs from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, followed by a free lunch where you’ll get the chance to make and strengthen connections with other people in the sustainable agriculture sector.

Please bring:

  • Clothes and shoes suitable for field work
  • Sun protection
  • Water bottle

Note: Vaccination against Covid-19 is required for participation for this field day.

This workshop is hosted in partnership with the New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group and the Seeding Regenerative Agriculture Project.


Synergia Ranch has a beautiful market garden comprised of 71 standard sized planting beds and grows up to 50 different varieties of vegetables, providing delicious local produce for the ranch’s residents and Retreat Center guests throughout our growing season. The garden further supplies the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market and La Montañita COOP, Polk’s Folly Butcher Shop and Farm Stand, and local food hubs MoGro and New Mexico Harvest with whole sale produce. Farm manager Dr. Starrlight Augustine employs no-till and no-dig methods, adapted for intensive low tech cultivation and harvests. Soil health is at the basis of our approach.

Clockwise from top left: Broadcasting cover crop seed mix on October 1st –half of the bed received Johnson-Su coated seeds and the other half non coated seed; Heritage grains germinating amongst budding ink-cap mushrooms; Cover crop seed germinating (a mix of peas, turnips, radishes, rye); Planting Heirloom garlic on October 1st in heavily mulched beds—we will check next year if coating the cloves with Johnson-Su compost improved the yield of garlic. Images by Starrlight Augustine.

2 Responses

  1. David Fidler

    So, are there any results from this study yet?

  2. Patrick DeSimio

    Hi, David–
    Yes, the results are in! All of the cover crops, unfortunately, were winter killed before data collection could be completed, but we got results for the heritage grains and garlic. The largest meaningful result was a 22.5% increase in yield for rye treated with Johnson-Su compost over the control, at a p-value of 0.000242. For wheat yields, we detected no statistically meaningful difference between treatment and control plots–interestingly, one of our cooperating farmers, Bryce Richard, anticipated this result on the basis of studies that found wheat cultivars, adapted to high-input systems, have largely lost the capacity to establish relationships with soil microbes (more on that in a bit). For the garlic, one of the test plots did not find a meaningful difference between treatment and control, while for two of the plots, treated garlic showed a slight but highly statistically significant (p-value < 0.00001) decrease in yields; this finding was confounded by unusually intense grass pressure in the plots, but it's possible that garlic's antimicrobial activities may have consumed more energy in the treated plots than in the controls (more trials on garlic will definitely be needed).

    A full writeup, links to the referenced research on wheat cultivars, and results from other field trials is available at Happy reading!

    All the best,
    Pat DeSimio
    Coordinator, Seeding Regenerative Agriculture Project

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