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can cereals seed themselves in a productive system?

 
thomas jahn
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I was wondering if cereals could seed themselves in a system that could still be harvested.

The background is as follows:

1. Different wild emmer varieties have awns of more uniform length than domesticated wheat.
The awns are known to be important for seed dispursal. A character that probaly was not selected for, under traditional breeding for 10.000 years. That would mean that new varieties may have lost their dispersal structure or at least the structure may not have preserved this function.
2. Also, new varieties are specially bred to not loose their kernels during harvest. Meaning that old varieties (or better populations) might loose there seeds easier during harvest, which for selfseeding must be an advantage.

Therefore, there may be both, a genetic background for selfseeding and a also certain form of management that could allow e.g. emmer to go for several years with only harvesting because of selfseeding.

Holzer's Urkorn, an ancestor of rye, on the other hand has perennial character. The plants either set fruit, or when damaged go into the next year. A german permaculture consultant says on a youtube film, that this can go on for up to 5 years.

My further thoughts to this: Maybe there could be populations of cereals that combine charaters of being perennial and being self seeding.

How long would it take until other species take over the ground? Or in other words, what would be the most propper plant to be associated with the cereal to be most stable over years.

Does anybody have some valuable insights or thoughts?

regards
Thomas
 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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I had a perennial rye that lived for about 5 years but it didnt seem to sow itself.The problem seemed to be the lack of disturbance around the plants.Eventualy perennials filled in around them.I have beaten seed stalks (with the seed still on them) on recently disturbed sites with some luck.One would have to be present in the garden(relationship wise)to be creating alot of disturbance but I guess most land based cultures are.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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it seems that some seeds would fall during the harvest that might reseed the plots..but I do tend to believe that if it isn't a perennial..that it woul be better to rotate them to a different area anyway each year to prevent disease that might remain in the soil and to change to a more fertile area ..which crop rotation provides
 
thomas jahn
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It may sound a bit dogmatic, but some say that crop rotation is just the desperate trial to compensate for an over exploitation during the previous season. And I must say, I quite agree with this interpretation. Crop rotation in my eyes is not permaculture.

I am rather thinking of a polyculture or intercropping that can be maintained at the same spot for many years. Like the examples from Fukuoka and Bonfils.

Newer studies with rice in China have shown that the use of mixed cultivars has great potential for fighting pests. On large areas - still with conventional methods and only rice - but with mixed cultivars it was possible to grow rice without any application of fungicides.

Cereal crops are very typical crops for conventional and industrial farming. Therefore we tend to abandon cereals almost completely, as we associate all the problems with these crops. I believe that the problems relate to the varieties and the management, and that there is a much bigger potential in cereals when we really exploit the cropping systems.
Cereals must have been used before Babylon and in very different settings. Now, the old genetic material is still available. I would love to know more about the management and harvest method of cereals from our ancestors. And I expect that some radical differences to common practices would need to be employed, and of course in combination with these old and robust genetic populations.



 
              
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Location: Choiceland, Saskatchewan
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I've been told that oats will shed enough seed that they don't need to be replanted the next year.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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The Anishinabe/Ojibway had a method of harvesting wild rice in the great lakes region.

Paddle the canoe over to a stand of wild rice. Tip the seed heads over the canoe with a stick, so some of the rice fell in the canoe, and some fell out of the canoe, reseeding the rice.

The elders also would specify which family was to harvest rice for how many days at all the known locations.

Probably not an easy system to replicate, but it does provide a precedent for the idea.

Of course, the Anishinabe were hunter-gatherers with extensive managed gathering range, not farmers with intensive managed production.
 
John Elliott
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Lorne G wrote:I've been told that oats will shed enough seed that they don't need to be replanted the next year.


I can vouch for that from observation from my own garden. This year I am going to try to actively encourage the volunteer oats in one area, recreating the origin of agriculture from the distant past.

Back when I lived in Colorado, there was some vacant land where the street dead-ended, and every year it had a crop of barley. Pretty nice stand too, with absolutely no human involvement.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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