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Questions about the Fukuoka grain system.

 
Nathan Funke
Posts: 19
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So I'm rather new to the permacuture scene, but I'm trying to learn fast. I've been reading up on here about the Fukuoka grain system and I was wondering if I might ask all you green thumbed experts out there a few questions to clarify. It's my understanding that his system works like this...

  • You start by planting two grain crops at the same time, one is a split grow cycle grain like winter wheat, oats or barley and the other is rice.
  • You plant them both and cover with hay (preferably from the last seasons crop, but if you're starting out you just need something) to act as a moisture retainer, insulator, bird deterrent, compost, and then also put out a nitrogen infuser like white clover to help act as a ground cover.
  • When spring comes along the winter wheat, oats or barley pop back up and you harvest when ready, and shortly after the rice starts growing up as it matures in the summer, and then once that's ready you harvest that. this would give you two separate grain crops.

  • Did I get that correct?


    Here are my questions...

  • After reading Mollison's take on this he seems to insinuate you would want to flood the paddy in the summer in order to help keep weeds down, while the videos I've read of Fukuoka didn't have him flooding the fields. Has anyone tread these methods? What were the results?
  • Mollison also suggests to rotate the split cycle grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye) in order to prevent issues with disease. While Fukuoka seemed like he just planted barley. Is there a need to rotate? Should you also be rotating the rice out with something else? If so, what alternatives would you suggest?
  • Also, from the Fukuoka videos I've watched he never really seemed to suggest he rested the land. I'm a practicing sabbatarian, and I'd like to incorporate the 7 year rest into my growing practices. Would that be detrimental to this system or would that have its normal restorative benefits?
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    Terri Matthews
    Posts: 468
    Location: Eastern Kansas
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    Actually, Mr. Fukuoka planted his grain twice, at least in the book that I have!

    First he scattered seed balls of one type of grain, along with seeds of clover and such. Then, once that grain was well along and tall, he would scatter seed balls over the heads of the tall grain. Then when the grain was ready it would be harvested which left room for the new grain to come up and take over. The timing was important, here. If the second planting was done too early the newer grain would suffer from lack of light. Ideally the new grain, I THINK, would be a couple of inches high when the old grain was harvested. At least according to my memory.

    Seed balls were simply the desired seeds and clay. He often added a fungicide because his climate was so wet. Speaking of which, when I tried seed balls the resulting grain plants were weak: they looked like they were not getting enough moisture. What works in one climate will not always work in another.

    What I DID notice was that when some grain was spilled on my lawn, the grain came up and looked good. Apparently once the rain pounds the grain down against the soil it gets enough contact, and the grass hides it from the view of passing birds. I might try that this spring: if I could drop grain seeds where I want it, when the weeds were perhaps 2 inches tall so the grain was hidden.... I might try a row of that this spring. Mr. Fukuoka tried that but the seeds got eaten: however he lives in a different climate than mine and perhaps he has more crickets than we do!

    After it rains (or after I run the sprinkler) I might even walk down the row, to press the grain seeds into the ground more firmly!
     
    Terri Matthews
    Posts: 468
    Location: Eastern Kansas
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    Oh, yes.

    In my book Mr. Fukuoka alternated rice with barley. And, because of his long growing season, and because the second crop of grain would be a few inches tall before the first grain was harvested, he got two crops of grain a year.
     
    I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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