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Bad farming experiment: oat mat

 
Posts: 94
Location: Eastern Washington
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Instead of not getting around to doing a properly designed experiment that looks good, I submit for your consideration a bad farming experiment.
I have a conventional grain farm but permaculture and regenerative ag has all the good ideas if I can figure out how to use them in my context.

So I forgot to tarp a truck half full of oats and the barn cats crapped in it for about 3 years.
I could have sold the oats to a unscrupulous pig farmer but I didn't know any. I could have cleaned them and used these oats for seed, but I haven't gotten around to building a cleaner.
Suddenly needing to use that truck, I dumped the oats on the dead spot were I clean out synthetic fertilizer tanks.
I smeared the oats around with a tractor, pushed them with a landscape rake, and watered them.
After 10 days, they are starting to sprout, but only the ones with good seed soil contact. Spots where they got jammed into the ground are doing the best.
The usual sparrows, blackbirds and doves that hang around are loving this oat pile, but it hasn't attracted birds from the wider area.
Spots where the oats are 10 inches deep are wet on top, and the soil is wet, dry inside the heap after days under a lawn sprinkler.

My main thought was to see how sprouting a mat of too many oats will change this spot that had so much fertilizer that weeds weren't even growing in it.
I'd like to hear your thoughts and criticisms. Are there observations you would like me to make with this odd situation? Other things to try with it?  
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sprouting oats
 
gardener
Posts: 6663
Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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This is an area that will do nicely for remediation of that soil if you add some mycelium.
To that end you can create a slurry by blending up some mushroom caps and diluting that 10:1 before you slosh it around on the oats, this will get the fungi mycelium growing in the non sprouting oats and that will end up in the soil with the roots of the sprouting oats.
Overall that will get rid of contaminates in the soil, support the growth of the sprouted oats and make use of the non sprouted oats as food for the mycelium.
Once the oats are as large as  you want them, simply mow them down and let them rot in place.
If you really want to continue the remediation of this plot, planting another cover crop would be the grand thing to do for a second chop and drop at the end of those plants growing time.
The amount of roots you would be putting into the soil, along with the mycelium will go a long way at remediating that plot so it would be less contaminated with one year.

Most conventional methods are for "instant gratification" where as permaculture and regenerative Ag are more or less on a five year schedule (start of the project to the end of the project).

Redhawk
 
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You probably don't have time and resources to run a chicken tractor on it but that would be a way to get a product while adding to the remediation.
 
gardener
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Hans Quistorff wrote:You probably don't have time and resources to run a chicken tractor on it but that would be a way to get a product while adding to the remediation.



As I read the OP, I thought, "Sprout those oats and feed them to the chickens".  Hans -- we think alike.

I don't think chickens would be bothered a bit by the presence of cat crap.  

But even now that the oats have sprouted, I'd still yank them out of the ground if they were only a few inches high and I'd feed them to the girls.  That's still high quality feed.  In fact, it's even better sprouted than it is just straight dry oats.  I'd be out there with a flat shovel, scooping them up and tossing them into a wheel barrow.  Or, as Hans suggests, I'd park the chicken tractor right over the top and let the girls go crazy.
 
Grady Houger
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Location: Eastern Washington
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Thanks for the ideas!
I'll look for some mushrooms to incorporate, though the only ones I find are meadow mushrooms and puffballs. I've been stomping on puffballs my whole life and there's never any more in those areas, they seem to need some specific conditions but I'll give it a try just because.

I give my mom's penned chickens whatever grain I sweep up with rocks in it, but rationed as I was under the impression that too much grain isn't good for them. I'd like to have my own flock of feral permaculture chickens some day. Lots of shelter and food and they have to survive on their own. Then I could see what happens if they have all-you-can-eat grain.
More blackbirds are finding the spot. When I get a chance I'll look close to see if they are eating the sprouts or just the grain.
 
Grady Houger
Posts: 94
Location: Eastern Washington
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Three weeks in and the oats have sprouted well. Not sure how long they will grow before overcrowding becomes a problem. The spots that didn't grow seem to be heavily compacted, or where concentrated fertilizer pooled last year.

There are hundreds of blackbirds digging around all day finding dry, unsprouted oats. I can't find evidence of deer browsing, though plenty are around.

I tried to add a load of free roosters to the experiment. Coyotes were undeterred by a thunderstorm and ate them. Except for Mr. Paranoid, the rooster who was got chased around the most during roundup. He now fears everything and has learned to hide by holding still when I walk by. He hangs around the oat experiment all day, but the blackbirds are likely to be the only significant livestock involved with the oats.

What I'm wondering is growth aspects to look for in the oats that might be enlightening.
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3 weeks growth
 
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How did the experiment go?  Did any of the oats produce seed?  I would buy that seed since it is likely from very strong stock😀.
 
Grady Houger
Posts: 94
Location: Eastern Washington
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Results:
4 months growth to frost - the oats didn't even try to produce grain.
I kept them watered through the summer. A lot of them died along the way.
My thesis was proven false, more roots couldn't overcome the problem of too much nitrogen in the dirt. Going for the maximum possible amount of roots also seemed to have overcrowding problems.
I've also find out this year with the fertilizer program on my commercial oat field that oats don't like too much nitrogen. Causes lodging and low weight grain.

Next year I'll try triticale in this spot, planted properly not dumped in a pile. It is said to handle higher levels of nitrogen than oats. I might throw in some corn as well, just to see if it grows.

I got a good look at how piles of grain act differently than planted grain. A lot of them sprouted two of three inches and died, most of it rots. Spots around the edges of these piles where oats got dug in through the actions of tires and tractor bucket grew better than the other surface sprouted oats that made it.

Mushrooms showed up big time all by themselves. Just needed the right conditions.
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pollinator
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I am not sure if you could get wood chips, but woodchips as they decompose rob the soil of nitrogen.

You could not keep the woodchips there indefinitely as you would want a hard surface like gravel to get under your tanks...the woodchips would rot down in layers and make mud...soil really.

The best way is to shape your site, have the area drain to a central point where you have a woodchip bed that helps pull the excess nitrogen out of the soil/runoff. You would have to add woodchips every year or so, but it would be solution...and not all that expensive of one...for your operation.
 
Travis Johnson
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The US Military uses sheep to clean up their sites.

In old army bases, munitions causes a lot of soil contamination. The old method was to dig it up and incinerate it. Now they just use sheep.

Munitions is primarily nitrogen, so they have found in 1 season 30 sheep can graze clean a few acres of contaminated land. As the grass takes up the nitrogen, the sheep graze it off, then harmlessly burb and fart off the gasses with no ill effect to the sheep. They have four tough stomachs, and unlike other ruminants, graze in close proximity to each other easily.

If you had a few sheep grazing that section of land, they would graze off the excess nitrogen. Full radiation would mean moving the tanks, but you might be able to stock just the right amount of sheep to keep a decent balance.

I am sure keeping sheep, and then keeping sheep in that area would not be something you would want to do, but it would work.
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