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Michael Pilarski, aka 'Skeeter' on Cover crops

 
Michael Pilarski
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Location: Washington State
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Hi Paul Wheaton,

Great new website you have here and I hope it goes well.

I am not sure I like the emotions blinking at me.

I just bought a new book, thinking of you and my farm. It is called Managing Cover Crops Profitably by Sustainable Agriculture Network, National Agricultural Library
www.sare.org

It is so-so on info, but gives some recent data on major species.

I still think sweet clover is one of your best bets, but I learned from reading the book that you will get the best results if you till it under in the late spring of the 2nd year. That is when its rootmass is at its peak.

Also I would check more into sainfoin.

My biggest cover crop is my weeds. I got lots of weed seeds in my soil and they don't cost me anything. I just have to knock them back periodically.

Let me know your cover crop escapades as they develop.

love

Skeeter Michael Pilarski
 
paul wheaton
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Hiya skeeter!

I've just hooked up with a lot of SARE stuff. It seems that you do have to pick through the info quite a bit to find the gems. The pictures sometimes bug me (where are the trees! that looks like monoculture to me!!!)

Per your advice, I bought white flower sweet clover from several sources. Will try it in several different places.

Also bought 1000 pounds of field pea seed.

I like your thinking about weeds! Most weeds seem pretty helpful to me. If I haven't taken care of a piece of land, the weeds will take care of it until I get to it.
 
                    
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Just wanted to mention that some weeds are non-native and invasive. If left to germinate in your lawn they may seed and spread elsewhere. Some invasives to watch out for are canada thistle, chinese silver grass, crownvetch, garlic mustard, hairy jointgrass, japanese stilt grass, lesser celandine, mile-a-minute vine. Because invasives take over the same habitats as our native species, it is often not a great idea to "go natural" with the lawn by letting weeds take over. Consider building a meadow instead of a weed field. Meadows only need to be mowed once or twice a year, create habitats for butterflies and other critters, and look pretty. Just make sure to plant native species and keep your eyes out for the invasives. Good luck.
 
                    
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small, I submit that the issue concerning "invasives" may not be as black-and-white as generally believed.  Allow me to quote Toby Hemenway:

      One of my favorite ways of setting off small explosions is to tell a group of gardeners that I have no dislike of invasive plants.

Read more about this from Mr. Hemenway at http://patternliteracy.com/exotics.html .  He also weighs in on the issue in his book Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, if memory serves.
 
paul wheaton
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Gaia's Garden has to be one of the best books I've ever read.

While it is true that one would be wise to become an expert on plant species and prevent anything really bad from taking over - I think most folks are going to wait until they have a problem and then try to solve it.

 
paul wheaton
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Cruising some old posts and was reminded that skeeter wrote two whole posts here a loooooong time ago ....

 
rose macaskie
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Here in Spain they have a good system for covercrops, it is traditional and traditional things embarrass them, so the costume is likely to die out soon.
  They take sheep over bits of ground that have got bare so that the seeds in their feces reseed the land, Andi they do the same in the village wheat Fields.
      I read it in a book, "Encinas en el Centro y Sur Oest de España", Cesar Fuentes Sanchez, and an agricultural expert working in  San Lorenzo del Escorial, talked about it too, and i have seen the Fields left fallow green and observed all the plants in them.
    In districts mostly dedicated to live stock, in mountainous regions, it is traditional to have a few wheat Fields, or to grow some other cereal. These fields are in the valleys or flat bits of land usually near the village, they have what they call a three leaf system, one year cereal and two fallow, which really means turned into pasture.  These Fields don`t get to badly overgrazed as do the mountainsides. The vegetable gardens have very good soil in them so shepherds know wha tgood soil is and how its acheived.
    I don't know exactly how seeding the land with sheep works.
    In some farms the sheep are kept the night or taken to rest from the midday sun in  areas used for cereals, to fertilise them. If they are eating seeds this would also seed the Fields.
    Traditionally the stubble feeds live stock in summer. The habit of taking live stock to eat stubble would also i seed them if the sheep are also taken to eat other pastures .
    IN  many parts of Spain sheep are driven and taken to the stables at night. they are always on the move.
  I have seen the shepherds returning home from a day in the mountains, in the evening, Queue up to all pass one by one through the stubble. I don't know why, asking straight questions does not always get you straight answers here, but i thought maybe it was to seed them in the way i had read of in books.

    The sound of a herd of sheep eating stubble is great, something like rainfall.
    In England you did not give straw as feed, i think some of the races of live stock here are hardy ones.

  I have looked at what sort of plants you find in these Fields and the ones i remember are, vetches, clover, alfalfa's, i think, grasses, a sort of feathery leaved daisy, and lots of plantain. This is not a complete list of the plants in these places. I have a book on weeds you can eat as salads and such and it says that plantains are eatable and are full of vitamin bs of some kind. It seemed interesting to me that they had such a big presence in the Fields here and are eatable for humans and are full of vitamin b. 
      A shepherd said to me that sheep get fatter on a mouthfull of mountain plants than on anything else. I don't know if he meant these ones or the time and other bushes on the mountains.
   
 
rose macaskie
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Leaving feilds bare is one of my pet subjects . I imagine that it may increase global warming.
      Madrid, Spain, heats up a lot in summer. If you go out into the country it is coolish at night but here in Maddrid it does not cool down at night. The buildings release all the heat they have accumulated during the day making the night hot.
    Heat gets released from an object when there is a tempreature differential, when the air cools down and is cooler than the buildings, the bigger the diferential the quicker the heat loss. Earth, like buildings, has a high specific heat capacity . Stone only feels cold because it absorbes the heat from your finger, it is not as cold as it feels. Earth  is in the sun for much longer than the side of a building, the sun will only shine onthe side of a building when the sun is on it in the east or west or whichever directionthe building is in. The sun shines on the ground in fields, in most cases, from almost the moment the sun gets up to sunset. You can read about materials accumulating heat in articles on, -islands of heat-, in google.
      Vegetacion or dry, as it is on feilds here in summer or alive must  insulate the earth from the suns rays and stop it warming up. If the earth warms up a lot when there are too many global warmng gasses for it to cool down easily, it is a bad thing and if you think of how many miles of land are left bare, fallow, in summer, in all the world, you will see that this must be an important factor. Also as more and more poor countries get tractors their capacity for growing cereales increases. Here people complain because they say housing projects do for vegetacion, they don't have eyes, by far more vegetacion is done for by the great increase in  wheat farming here. I have seen lots of land that was once moorland turn into wheat fields.
  The other part of the problem is overgrazi9ng that bares land  and as i wrote in another part of this site, it is carried out as a method of reducing the fire risk. The meadow plants all driy in the dry season summer and if there were too many of them they would create a great fire risk, so the easieast thing to do is to do for shepherds to  greatly reduce the vegetacion on the mountainsides by bad farming practices, jtaking sheep over the same patches till they have done for the vegetacion,j in this way they can reduce it to such small amounts that it can be controled easily. They use herbicides to to do for the vegetacion.
  This as well as leaving the earth bare to be warmed by the sun, reducies the efficiency of the farming- If this where true in Afghanistan, for instance, just think how much more they could produce if you could think of alternative methods of reducing fire risk. These could be fire breaks or the use of mowers to reduce any meadow plants that where high at the begining of the dry season, so that the wieight of keeping pastures controlled would not be just in the shepherds hands. There are social pressures where i have a house for people with land to cut down all the vegetacion on it for fear of fires.
 
Brenda Groth
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you don't hear much of people planting rye as a cover crop like you used to I wonder why that is?

I had suggested to our neighbor that she plant rye where the ground has been completely torn up from the back hoe and tractors where they have enlarged the pond..this week they doubled its size..but also ruined a goodly measure around the outside of it with all the digging and traffic..left it barren..but open soil everywhere.

erosion control will be needed immediately upon finishing the work..and so i suggested that she buy a gob of rye and get it in..to stop the erosion down into the newly enlarged pond.

was I wrong in suggesting rye?
 
Leah Sattler
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I don't know brenda but your'e right, I don't see it mentioned that much. rye has always been the staple quick cover for cool weather here. don't know much about it ....isn't there both annual and perrenial rye?
 
Brenda Groth
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yes there is..i'm thinking of putting perennial rye in the areas where the grass has been killed where the tractor and backhoe have been working here..it would make a good deer browse.
 
Nicholas Covey
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Location: Missouri/Iowa border
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small wrote:
Just wanted to  mention that some weeds are non-native and invasive.  If left to germinate in your lawn they may seed and spread elsewhere.  Some invasives to watch out for are canada thistle, chinese silver grass, [glow=red,2,300]crownvetch[/glow], garlic mustard, hairy jointgrass, japanese stilt grass, lesser celandine,  mile-a-minute vine.  Because invasives take over the same habitats as our native species,  it is often not a great idea to "go natural" with the lawn by letting weeds take over.  Consider building a meadow instead of a weed field.  Meadows only need to be mowed once or twice a year, create habitats for butterflies and other critters, and look pretty.  Just make sure to plant native species and keep your eyes out for the invasives.  Good luck.


Crown vetch is considered an invasive? The Missouri State DOT has spent years propogating it along roadsides for erosion control. It's pretty difficult to get started actually.

Ok, back to the subject at hand... I garden in a ruth stout manner, so weeding isn't particularly difficult for me anyway. However, I have a patch of lowland near the garden that is considered "waste" land because it cannot be farmed. (my garden is part of my dad's farm, so it's considered inaccessible or waste as well) I cut the cattails out of the low wetland with a string trimmer and pile them on top of the garden for mulch. I have also been making small berms with piles of the cattails in the wetland. It may build up enough over time to work sort of like a chinampa or a swale of a sort, with high areas and low areas. Sort of a microclimate. If I can get the base raised up enough (a foot or so) I will probably start planting garden plants there because of there being no need to water.
 
                          
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small wrote:
Some invasives to watch out for are canada thistle, chinese silver grass, crownvetch, garlic mustard, hairy jointgrass, japanese stilt grass, lesser celandine,  mile-a-minute vine.


Wow, can I have the canada thistle and garlic mustard? Your invasives are edible herby goodness.

Ye can keep the lesser celandine though, it's toxic.
 
rose macaskie
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I wrote about cover crops or the lack of them because lack of cover crops on fields left fallow means the earth in fields heating up in the sun, land left fallow is land without the insulation of plants dead or alive, which must increase the amount of heat the world has to lose and i forgot to say that fields left fallow or over grazed and bare create millions of kilometers of earth that lack the plants that would be absorbing the carbon of the carbon dioxide in the air.
     The molecules of sugars, carbohydrates and proteins are mostly composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms. When the plants die these molecules become organic matter in the soil some carbon is returned to the atmosphere when th eorganic matter breaks down  but some stays in the ground as lookcked up in humus.  the usefull words for looking htis up are carbon in the soil or humus.
      People talk as if humus where semi broken down organic matter and it is in agriculture but in soil science humus is organic matter which has been broken down as far as it can be broken down and if conditions don’t change stays the same for centuries or millenniums. So does the carbon in it.
     It is a black dust, of colloidal particles. Colloidal particles are less than 0.0001 big, small but much bigger than molecules and being that small have strong electromagnetic forces round them, this means that they do useful things like gluing soil particles together, keeping the ph of the soil stable, and binding nutrients to the humus which makes nutrients easier for plants to absorb and behaving like gelatins, humus absorbs many times its weight in water with the nutrients dissolved in the water, so helping the earth to absorb and hold more water.
 The carbon in this type of humus is called old soil carbon, the carbon in organic matter is called new soil carbon, old soil carbon and remains bound up in the humus as long as the humus exists maybe for thousands of years. Humus is a good carbon sink.

  The detritus of junipers here is called juma, “j” is pronounced “h” here, it is an Arab word so maybe Arabic not Latin is the source of this word.

 
paul wheaton
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Hmmmm ....  I always thought of humus on the freaky tiny side of the OM in the soil. 

But!  my understanding is that all OM is constantly breaking down.  After all, if it got to a certain tiny size and didn't break down any further, wouldn't we have soils with 90% OM? 

My understanding is that humus breaks down into even tinier bits which eventually become either a gas, or a particle that will get rinsed into the ground water, or consumed by a plant.

The scary part is how it is so close to being a gas, that plowing releases so much of it into the air. 

At least .... that's my understanding at this point and I am open to being mistaken ...
 
rose macaskie
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Mr wheaton ,
I don't think that parts of the organic material get gasified when the land is ploughed, rather that there is a continuous release of gasses in the decomposition of organic matter as anyone knows who forgets to take out the rubbish for a few days.
    I don’t disapprove of ploughing, just of leaving the land fallow with no plants on it, cover crops, to take up the carbon in the air. We want as many plants as possible reducing the carbo dioxide in the air.
      I had to mention that some of the carbon that ends up in the soil in organic material got re-released into the air when the plants rotted or I would be falsifying the situation.
      If everyone knows that some of the carbon in organic material gets turned back into carbon dioxide in the rotting process then they can start to think of the best way to lessen the amount of carbon getting re-released into the atmosphere.
      For instance a documentary said that if organic matter rots slowly as it does in swamps, then less carbon gets returned to the atmosphere, though I wonder if maybe more methane, another more powerful greenhouse gas, does not get released from stuff rotting in a swamp.
      Also I have read that more carbon gets returned to the atmosphere if there is lots of fertilizer to help the rotting process, which is to say, less gets turned into old the humus of soil scientists the humus that lasts or that less carbon gets returned to the atmosphere if the organic material is rotted by fungi. if you wonder about humus reaching a stable stage where it no longer gets rotted down without a big change in conditions look up soil carbon or humus or humic acids.
    Why should the carbon get turned in to carbon dioxide again? Rotting is like digestion and our metabolism of food; molecules get broken down and turned into other molecules. The mycelium, roots of fungi, produce acids and enzymes that break down molecules of dead plant material or of dead insects in the soil . The gas carbon dioxide has the molecular structure 1carbon 2 hydrogen’s atoms. The molecules in living animals are often more complicated, I have a diagram of a sugar molecule during the jam making process jam, in a book I have on alimentation that was more serious than I expected it to be, in front of me and it has 12 hydrogen atoms, 6 oxygen ones, and 7 carbon ones, after it is broken down it may be restructured in different ways to be made into the sort of sugar the fungi wants.
      You advertise paul stamets book on mushrooms and he talks of how he trained a mushroom to digest VX toxin a nerve gas used by Saddam Hussein. He got the fungi to get ued to living wiht the poison and to break up the molecules of poison to obtain the atoms it needs by first he putting a little of the substance he wanted it to break down in with the feed the mushroom was used to eating and little by little he reduce the normal feed until the only way for the fungi to feed itself was to break down the nerve gas molecules to obtain the atoms it needed.
      He used oyster mushrooms to clean up hydrocarbons, of an oil spill, they produce an enzyme peroxydases that breaks down bonds between carbon and hydrogen in food molecules, carbohydrates, these bonds are the same in hydrocarbons, petrol molecules as they are in carbohydrates starch molecules. He taught oyster mushrooms to break down petrol and convert it into carbohydrates, fungal sugars.
      The digestion process in organic matter changes the molecular structure of things changing them into other substances and in the breakdown of organic matter fixed carbon in carbohydrate molecules that are part of the organic material, can turn back into carbon dioxide. I am not a chemist this is forcing my knowledge a lot.


      I wrote about cover crops or the lack of them because lack of cover crops on fields left fallow means the earth in fields heating up in the sun, land left fallow is land without the insulation of plants dead or alive, which must increase the amount of heat the world has to lose and i forgot to say that fields left fallow or over grazed and bare create millions of kilometers of earth that lack the plants that would be absorbing the carbon of the carbon dioxide in the air.
 
rose macaskie
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Mr Wheaton you mencion plougihng the land and letting off all the gasses. THere was historically a real case a bit like that .
    WHen i read about the dust bowl they talked of land being ploughed that had never been ploughed before in texas and alabama because good wheet prices persuaded farmers that it would be a good idea to go paralel. at first they got good crops and then on the third year the wheat didnot take because of bad wherther and sowhen some winter wind arrived it carried of all the fine black dust on the land the clouds where so dark the sun got blotted out and people thought the world was coming to an end.
  here in Spain when the wind carries of dust there is not much for it to carry off, much of the ground was first bared centuries ago. I reckon that the dust storms in the dust bowl where the enormouse accumulations of humus, in sense the soil scientist use the word, look up humus in google, colodial particles pof organic matter less than 0.001 long easily carried away and so abundant where the ground had never been ploughed as to make enormouse clouds of dust. So ploughing can raise enormouse quantities of dust into the air which probalby only got fixed again in such a way that the next wind would not take it off again,  on waterways or carried into waterways washed of the earth by rains and so ended up in the sea lost to the land. Of course there cant be any places anymore with that sort of accumulation of humus.
 
rose macaskie
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    I have thought of an easier way of talking about how living organisms change molecules of giving an easy example of how we change molecules that proves that living organisms do change the molecular structre of things there very nature. to prove that so carbo hydrates can be turned back into carbon dioxide by microorganisms and fungi and such rotting them in the earth. . 
        A more well known example than the complicated one i gave yesterday is that  we breath in the molecule, carbon dioxide, and trap the two oxigen atoms of the molecule for use in our body and breath out carbon.
      The other famouse example which is one of the reasons plants are so important and not putting cover crops on land left fallow  maybe increases global warming is that plants photosynthasising breath in the carbondioxide molecules in the air and and take fromthem the carbon part of them to manuñfacture foods, lignin, wood  and such with and let go of the oxygen part of th emolecule so helping us, taking carbon out of the system for a while, locking it up in their bodies.
 
jeremiah bailey
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Rose, I am confused by a point you just made. You stated that you are okay with plowing, but you are against the land being left fallow. My understanding is that because of plowing the land becomes fallow until the next crop begins sprouting. The only real way for a piece of land to not lay fallow is to not plow/till/harrow it. As soon as you plow the land would be considered fallow, in my understanding.
 
paul wheaton
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Mr wheaton


Cool!  Now I feel important!

I don't think that parts of the organic material get gasified when the land is ploughed, rather that there is a continuous release of gasses in the decomposition of organic matte


I am going to agree - sort of.  I'm going to say that, yes!  There is a continuous release.  And I want to add that I think that plowing is a massive accelerator.  So I would guess that some patch of fallow land could lose 30% OM every year, and that plowing that land would lose 30% the moment it is plowed - in addition to the 30% that is already lost each year. 

I don’t disapprove of ploughing, just of leaving the land fallow with no plants on it


My concerns over plowing are .... complicated.  I think there is a time that it is okay and there are more times that I would be uncomfortable.

For instance a documentary said that if organic matter rots slowly as it does in swamps, then less carbon gets returned to the atmosphere, though I wonder if maybe more methane, another more powerful greenhouse gas, does not get released from stuff rotting in a swamp.


Very excellent point!  I had not considered that!



 
Susan Monroe
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Agronomist Neal Kinsey says that nitrogen in soil is often washed away, esp in heavy-rainfall areas.  And then when the land is plowed, even more is lost as gas.

Way back when this thread began, Pilarski mentioned planting white clover as a cover crop, then plowing it under in its second year.

I would like to try an alternative to this, if I could work it out financially:

Sow white clover and let it grow for two years.  Then mow it short and immediately sow buckwheat (possibly more heavily than usual) and cover it with a thin layer of composted cow manure.  Let it grow, and when it begins to flower, break the stalks by rolling over it and knock it flat.  Then... just let it sit the until spring.

Theoretically, allowing the clover to grow for two years should produce a massive root system with nitrogen.  NOT plowing will not release nitrogen, will not expose the soil flora and fauna to sunlight and drying air.

Cutting the clover short will give the buckwheat a head start and the manure should provide some instant nutrition and cover the seeds.

The buckwheat is 'top-heavy' -- most of it's mass is produced aboveground (most of clover's is underground).  As the buckwheat grows, it should weaken the clover by shading it out.  Any clover roots that die will provide more nitrogen to the soil, without losing it due to plowing.

When the buckwheat has produced the majority of it's growth, it starts to flower and that when you knock it down to kill it (it's supposed to be quite brittle).  Once it hits the ground, it is now mulch, evenly applied, and I'm thinking that it will now finish killing off the previously weakened clover.

In the following spring, you would just rake what is left of the dead buckwheat (the soil will have been working on it all winter), and plant your new crop and then mulch it as usual.

Think it would work?

Sue

 
jeremiah bailey
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Susan, I am doing that right now. Two days ago, I mowed a section of grass and clover low. I then hand broadcast a mix of buckwheat and inoculated cowpeas. Half the area I made the seeds into clay pellets, to see if that helps the survival rate. I raked the seeds into the grass. I didn't cover with anything, I'm just letting the grass and clover act as a natural mulch. It has rained the past two nights and today. Yesterday, I noticed both the buckwheat and cowpeas started sprouting. My plan is to harvest the seeds in the fall, and possibly plant wheat or some fall crop there. I'm going to just throw the seeds of the next crop in a few days to a week before harvesting. Then I'll harvest and mow the cowpeas and buckwheat and leave it lay there as a mulch. The cow peas fix the N, and both help break up the soil. The harvested seed will go to repeating the process the following year, and the remainder will be eaten.
For your case, why not just plant through the buckwheat straw and use it as your mulch? Raking up mulch and laying mulch back in its place seems like too much work to me. Removing and replacing mulch also seems a bit like tilling. Wouldn't it release more OM back into the air than just leaving it lay and planting through? In my current garden, I've only moved my straw mulch just enough to expose the seed line and hoe a furrow, or dig a hole for transplants. Then, move the mulch back over the furrow or around transplants.
My thoughts with the cowpeas and buckwheat combines the steps of sequencing crops of clover then buckwheat. From what I've read, cowpeas and buckwheat make good companion cropping in the same field.
 
rose macaskie
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Jeremiah Bailey, We were talking of cover crops which is what you plant on the land after ploughing perhaps you can plant them on stubble , i don't know, so the land is not left fallow, I did not know that the land released so much carbon when you plough it as Paul Wheaton points out . I had forgotten about Masanobu Fukuoka and was thinking of the book i mentioned, I don't suppose Masanobu ploughs and he got really good crops i have only read articles about him. 
  The man  i read about who was restoring soil in his land was restoring the soil of an old piece of road not a used one.
 
jeremiah bailey
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Rose, in another thread, you mentioned that reading books is expensive. There is a free, online library of pdf books here: http://www.soilandhealth.org/ Go to the agriculture library there. You can find two of Fukuoka-san's books there, free for the download for personal use.
The method he uses involves broadcast spreading the next crop's seed over the current crop. This is done however long before harvest as the germination time of the next crop. When the current crop is harvested, it is threshed and mowed on the spot. The straw and chaff is left where it lies as a mulch. The next crop, as it was planted before the harvest of the first crop, will quickly begin growing through the mulch.
In the common method, the land is fallow from the time of harvest, through plowing, and until the next crop sprouts. Or for new fields, from the time of plowing until the first crop sprouts. Cover crops would be considered a crop for these purposes. With the overlapping crop method, at no time is the land fallow. This increases the growing season of the crops as well. The only thing that leaves the field after growing is the harvested grain or fruit. The rest is left as a mulch/manure for the field. The efficiency of this is that you don't need to haul off more than you harvest, and much organic matter is added to the soil, as the plants draw carbon from the air the create their mass. The only two operations done by the farmer are planting and harvest/mowing. No tilling, harrowing, baling, spraying. This saves the time of the farmer, fuel in the tractor, and no chemicals are used. You can rotate many crops in and out with this method. Fukuoka uses a rice and wheat rotation as an example. The time saved can be used to tend to other needs around the farm or for relaxing. Fukuoka claims the yields are as good or better than conventional farming methods.
 
rose macaskie
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HI Jeremiah Bailey it seems i am writting on one thread while you write on another. I did not know that you could buy Fukuoka's books i tried to find them and had no success. Nice to know i can find them on the internet.
  Fukuoka writes about how to grow really good crops, maybe the U.S. writer, the first i read about, who talks of how to restore a area that has been a road, has a point when he plants grass and current bushes, in the context of restoring land with no top soil, the currents being bushes would maybe send down some roots that would help restore land. Maybe it would be good to plant trees too.
    The book said something else very usefull, it pointed out that when we take off a crop somewhere else, we take off all the minerales the plant has absorbed and that debilitates the soil, apparently Sweet corn is one of the plants that absorbs most minerals from the soil. I suppose the teaching of all these people overlap.
n also it was always talking of how the roots also enrich the soil which is a useful thought it encourages me to htink about making lots of roots.
    I enclose a foto of the Fields with wheat growing on them turquoise green and the fields that have been planted by taking the sheep to graze on the stubble, the seed in there feces seeding the stubble, those fields that are grass green. The other foto shows all the parts of this farming tradition, the wheat Fields on the flat bit of terrain, maybe the terrain has been flattened by centuries of ploughing and the land that is on a slope covered in woods that are pastured. The leaves of maples are sited i a book i have as good for feeding the live stock. Some bits of Spanish farming are partially those permiculturist would approve of and i really like them.
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paul wheaton
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I saw one of fukuoka's students speak last night about fukuoka.  And I bought a copy of the book - hot off the press.

Apparently, there is even more damage when you till than what I thought.  And fukuoka did nearly zero tilling. 

 
rose macaskie
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paul Wheaton , I have only read two articles on Fukoaka. I have an article that says the build up in humus is unexpectedley greater in organic farming than in no till. It does not mencion the loss of carbon and ploughing as far as i remember. 

  I saw a documentary years ago about persuading farmers in North America to go organic by pointing out the enormouse price of herbicides and pesticides which was sucessful. One of the things about going for less destructive methods is  to go for what you can get or is how can you get it.
 
Susan Monroe
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"...why not just plant through the buckwheat straw and use it as your mulch? Raking up mulch and laying mulch back in its place seems like too much work to me."

Jeremiah, I was not very clear on that.  I didn't mean to rake up the whole area, I meant to just pull aside (with a rake) the mulch to expose the soil to planting, then it could be replaced after sprouting.  I am unsure of how much mulch will be left at that time, as buckwheat is said to be very dense.  I have never seen buckwheat growing.  This is all theory on my part.

Was your buckwheat literally dense enough to shade the clover and grass enough to kill it?

Sue
 
rose macaskie
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There is a question of prerogatives. When, in all the world, so many acres are left bare a year because of leaving land fallow, an enormous laying waste of what would naturally be green, covered and insulated by plants, though it be, in some places, by dry plants in summer, so that the earth  does not heat in the sun, and  making  an great difference in the amount of vegetation that could be absorbing carbon, is not changing that the first, the most basic thing to worry about.

    Sepp Holzers methods are fun and serious and make people interested and understand but the first part, for me, of all his ideas and other peoples, is to get the land covered. cover crops. or green fertilisers.

  A good example of the benefits of good healthy soil over soil that is meant to grow, what we want to grow, better, because we have killed competing life and used chemical fertilisers, is the enormous size of the onions that have fungi on their roots, that have been mycorizzised, something that does not happen when we have killed the life in the earth, that are part of the youtube clip of Paul Stamet and Daryl Hannah, that you can get by writting in the names of the two and, i suppose, at - dhlovelife-funguy -.
 
jeremiah bailey
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Susan, this is my first time planting buckwheat, so I'm not sure how dense it will get. It just sprouted this past week. My understanding, is the same as yours. The Buckwheat should get dense enough to out compete the clover. My patch shows signs after growing for a week that it could easily get that thick. I didn't even cover with anything, compost, etc. I just raked the seeds down in the grass with the back of a bow rake.
My planting is slightly different, as I mixed in cow peas with the buckwheat. Since the cow pea is a legume, it serves the same function as the clover. Except it is grown simultaneously with the buckwheat. Since you are taking a three year approach, perhaps you could do this experiment. In one patch, grow the clover for two years, then plant the buckwheat the third. In another patch, grow the buckwheat/cow peas for the three years. See which patch does the job the best. Since the buckwheat and cow peas are a summer crop, perhaps you could overwinter some wheat in that patch to keep the soil growing. That's what I plan on doing here. Sow the wheat about a week or two before harvsting the cow peas and buckwheat. Then harvest, and mow the straw down as a mulch.

Rose, the mix that I planted (buckwheat/cow pea,) from what I've heard is a great mix to cover the ground in most climates. Especially, I've read, if you mix in sorghum sundangrass as well.
 
rose macaskie
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Jeremiah, Could you translate that about buckwheat,  cowpeas and such into Spanish or at any rate English and find me a agricultural dealer near here. I will get the cow peas to drown out the buckwheat i am getting feminist in my old age.  I like the idea of the sundance grass best.
  Thats me being lazy i will try to translate it myself and find a dealer. This year i inherit a bit, I will get a bank card and buy things off the internet like toad stools, and buckwheat from America. I am sort of rich poor, i have the house in the country and my husband earns enough for me to get fat and write but i am short on other things so i do things like try to write about Spanish agriculture hoping it will earn me money soon and soon turns out to be later. Thats why i have so much information and so many pictures, i have nearly finished several books but in the mean time, it is really nice to get the information out a bit.
    I will look it up and try to get hold of the stuff. I get so jealous hearing people talk of digging holes with tractors, i will have to dig them with my hands. Still i enjoy outdoor work.
 
rose macaskie
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I said, on some thread, that i had read that organic agriculture produces more humus than no-till. I have been thinking about it, it is all so complicated, it might be that the writers were comparing no till in which you sell the straw and grain but don't plough up the Field and organic in which lots of organic matter is feed into the earth, rather than masanobu fukuoka type of no-till in which all the straw fron the crops is left on the ground to enrich it. If i where less absolutely addicted to writting here than i am at the moment, I would look for the article.

Did i give you the address for the  Tnn - Achieving excellence in sustainable and biological Agriculture-GENERA- that is good on humus and other substances they sell and at criticising the normal chemical fertilisers. At the bottom of the page is the direction WWW.tnn.com.au/_General0/0201information.asp.

  Other good articles for humus are wikipedia humus and  wikipedia soil carbon. I haven't read the other articles on these two things that come up if you put "humus" into google or "soil carbon" or at least i have only looked at one or two of them. It is probable that there are lots of interesting ones.
 
jeremiah bailey
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Rose, in the research I've done, I've found several sources recommending a combination of either two or all three of the following crops planted in a combination on the same acreage.  Cow peas, buckwheat, and sorghum sudangrass. The tops and root systems of these plants apparently make the foundation of a good basic ecosystem. They also provide a very nutritious food source. Cow pea, a legume, provides the soil with nitrogen and are a high protein food. Buckwheat provides a strong root system which helps build the soil. I haven't researched the sorghum sudangrass much, other than reading several sources that it compliments the other two crops very well. I may do some more reading on it tonight. I'm very interested in alternatives to monocropping. I like the idea of not having to till, use pesticides, fertilizer, etc. My little 500 sqft. experiment is coming up very nicely. I hope to grow enough seed to double its size next year, and have some left over for food this year. All I did was mow a patch of grass down low. Then I broadcast the seed and raked it in. The seed took off and is firmly rooted in the soil through the thatch. I inoculated the cow peas because I'm not sure if the proper rhizobium strain is present. I'm not sure where a place would be near you. I bought my seed online, mainly because I was too lazy to go to the local store.
 
rose macaskie
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Jeremiah Bailey , thanks for the longer description of mixed planting to better my soil, I shall try to buy seeds online when i do it. It is too dry to plant now, here in Spain.
    Now I want to kinow all about how you innoculated them your cow peas. I have to go on reading Paul Stamets book, to get how to innoculate plants with micorrizos and how to grow mushrooms and such, really into my head.
    I don't know how big my patch of ground is my husband said how big it was in hectares, in portions of a hectar but i can't remember numbers easily.
    I put in a foto of my garden here as a testimony to what i said, earlier about my garden.  Here it is as it was when i got it. This side of the house is its most humble looking side.
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rose macaskie
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  This is my garden as it is now some thriteen years latern after just letting anything that wanted to grow grow so that it would give organic material they produced to the soil. I had a lot of trees cut down which grew from the roots they grow quicker that way. The soil is still pretty bad in lots of spots but its getting better.
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jeremiah bailey
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Basically, cow peas are a legume. All legumes form a symbiotic relationship with a certain strain of the rhizobium bacteria. The legume provides the rhizobium with the food it needs, while the rhizobium takes nitrogen and fixes it into the soil in a form usable by plants. If your soil already has the strain of rhizobium that is symbiotic with your type of legume, then you don't need to inoculate.  If it doesn't, or you are unsure, then you should inoculate the seed at planting time. The rhizobium generally comes in the form of peat moss that acts as a carrier for the bacteria. Simply, you wet the seed with water and mix it with the inoculated peat. This inoculates the seed. Plant immediately after inoculation. The rhizobium should come with directions for inoculating, or you can search for them online. All the details should be outlined in those directions. Most places that sell legume seeds will also carry the rhizobium. If not you can search online, as was the case for me.
 
rose macaskie
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When i saw the documentary on persuading farmers in some parts of North America to go ecological, which they managed because farmers spend so much money on herbicides and pesticides that it was easy to persuade them ato take up new methods that obviated the used of these, I got the impression that it became necessary to change their machinery, like to have machinery that can weed between the rows or plant with wider rows.
  It could be necessary to have special bits for tractors to seed through mulch for example? I htink this is an interesting bit of permifarming etc..
    Isn't permaculture what they call ecological trends in Australia and organic in England and maybe America, all having diferent degrees of purity?
 
rose macaskie
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      I have just read Jeremiah Baileys piece of June the 16, saying that when you plough you leave the land fallow . In England leaving the land fallow is leaving it to rest for a year, so it does not get too exhausted from growing wheat or whatever cereal crop its growing . You lot are small holders, so am I but i lean a bit towards being a farming gook. I am worried about world wide farming which devasts enormouse quantities of land at the same time as trying to green up my own patch.
  planting a cover crop is an alternative to leaving your resting feild bare and open to being eroded, it  can also help thesoil a bit. If you have planted it to increase the fertility of the soil it can be called a green fertilizer.
    You could just plough and plant grass seed immediately again. Plough up your old pastures after four years because you can get more out of newly seeded grass, when your grass has got old,  to replant not to leave the ground fallow.
 
paul wheaton
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I thought we were past having a field being fallow for a year.  Are there still folks that do this?

 
jeremiah bailey
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I guess I had a warped sense of what fallow means. What I mean is that when you plow, you are left with bare soil until what whatever you planted starts growing. Even then, you have bare soil in between plants unless you go to the trouble of mulching or inter-planting with a cover-crop. In any case, I would think the idea of having bare soil for any length of time is a bad thing. Rotating cover crops between resource hog crops would allow the ground to remain productive. Soybeans, cowpeas, any number of other legumes would be advantageous to the soil, and would eliminate the need to lie fallow. Am I wrong? The only advantage to a farmer that I can see is when some bureaucrat steps in and decides to pay the farmer to leave his land fallow. Why work when he's paid not to?
 
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