Winter Cereal Cover Cropping in Alfalfa Fields

In the fall of 2020, I planted cereal grain seed within several established alfalfa stands of
various ages in Yolo County, Ca. My hope was to demonstrate the viability of using
winter cereals as a cover crop within routine alfalfa production activities. In order for the
idea to work it is required that the alfalfa production routine not be negatively impacted
by the planting, growth, and termination of the cereal.
In order to adhere to the integrazing concept that I have been advocating for the last
twelve years I have begun a routine that has several key parts.
The cereal is planted just before irrigating the alfalfa between the next to last and last
cutting. This first year I started planting on September 16. My idea was that the cereal
would germinate and begin growing while not getting large enough to impact hay quality
of the last cutting. I also believed that the cereal would then grow larger as the fall and
winter months progressed.
The cereal will be fed by herds of sheep and goats during the winter to convert the forage
biomass into manure. This will help assure that the biomass volume will not affect forage
quality in the following year. Increased forage volumes per acre will better sustain
livestock herd operations in an era of reducing alfalfa acres across the region.
The cereal will be terminated by the regular herbicide applications in plenty of time to
assure that the spring growth of alfalfa will be free of debris within the first cutting
To date the cereal crops have produced enough dry matter to more than compensate for
the cost of the seed and planting. The cereals did not affect final cutting alfalfa quality.
The cereal continues to increase in biomass even with adverse dry conditions. Some acres
had water added in various ways to simulate winter moisture levels when rains are near
or above average levels.
I calculated that I needed to grow twice the dry matter of cereal forage as compared to
feeding the grain directly in order to economically justify the idea. I also believe that
once the forage was been consumed and the cereal terminated that the root biomass
carbon left in the soil biome will enhance the soil function.
I have retained the services of a consultant to measure CO2 flux data to further support
the effort. My belief is that by populating the soil areas between alfalfa crowns as the
stands age and thin with cereals the soil biome carbon metric can be enhanced relative to
net carbon. The first sampling data supports the effort.

Sincerely, Leland F Hazeltine, The Integrazer

In Honor Of Pepe Hileno Cristobal


Pepe died in Peru with his family. We are not certain of his exact age, as every year when we celebrated his cumpleaños, he would say he was setenta y dos (72) years old. For the last few years, before heading back to Peru, Pepe would let us know that he was old and ready to retire. We would throw him a siesta. A couple months later, we would get a call from him that he would like to come back to work. He would return, grateful as ever. Pepe was an amazing shepherd who worked with us for over a decade. His resourcefulness in making things work without a lot of tools or new supplies was a gift to our operation. Countless times, he would “MacGyver” up some solution out in the field with limited resources. Pepe taught me many things, including how to prepare lamb and chiva meat, sharing a delicious marinade recipe. Pepe was a muy bueno amigo that shared in our lives. He was a quiet leader, gentle in his ways. When I first met Pepe, it was a Sunday morning, and we were dropping a couple dozen newborn lambs every morning. He showed me how to carry the lambs so that their mothers would follow to the nursery pens. Afterwards, he asked me why I wasn’t in church. With limited Spanish, I pressed my hand to my chest over my heart and then his, saying, “la iglesia está justo aquí”. He responded in the universal language of a big, warm smile. We became friends. My favorite story of Pepe is him preparing a special lunch for me in appreciation of the help with lambing that Spring. It was a hot summer day when I arrived at camp. There under the shade of the front of his trailer, was an overturned water trough covered in a bedsheet for a tablecloth, an old jar with wildflowers neatly placed in the center and overturned buckets & bags of supplement for chairs. Peruvian music was playing and everyone had cleaned up from the mornings work. Like a caring brother, he served me delicious marinated goat steaks, whole boiled papas and his special salad. I felt like I had been whisked away to Peru for a couple hours. I remember thinking, these are the moments of life that will be memories. Mucho gracias, Pepe.