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Natural Farming with Barley experiment  RSS feed

 
master steward
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Some good ideas Thomas.

I hope in future experiments to work with a large variety of plants, not just barley. But for this year, the main requirement was that it can be transformed back into 'lawn' at a moment's notice. For this year I've used just barley and clover. We'll see how things go over winter, but hopefully I have a chance to experiment again.

Looking forward to having my own land where I can really go to town with Fukuoka style grain growing.
 
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I'd be really interested to see an update for this thread.

Although my environment is quite different from yours, it's the principles and the inspiration to just do it that I think are amazing. Good on you! My area get's a pretty severe winter compared to yours, but our rainfall pattern can be somewhat similar... but climate change is reeking havoc on that here too. We do get adequate moisture, thankfully, for most crops, but it's the frost (that could happen any time in the growing season) that kills things, and also the dramatic spring heat that we have been getting. I don't know if this is a problem with grains here, though folks around here are not planting as early as you, of course. I have the great fortune to have Twin Meadows Organics in my area; they grow out heritage grains, and are friendly enough to share not only grain but the knowledge to grow it. Definitely will be getting some other seeds from them, so I will ask about grain too.

Did you carry on with any successive crops?

One thing, perhaps strangely, that further drew my attention, is that you did this in a patch of hawk weed. This is a plant that I have a large patch of and am contemplating sheet mulching in patches and planting out squash, potatoes, and other large plants, while de-stabilizing the hawk. I had not thought of fukuoka in that area of my field, though I'm itching to do some Natural Farming at some point somewhere in my crazy feral meadow.

I read through most of this whole thread, but I have my thoughts (and doubts) sometimes coming from the same, or similar, ideas expressed in the last two posts, by Gilbert and Thomas. It's great that you are trying this, especially in less than ideal conditions. I was thinking at one point in reading your thread (I should have been taking notes, so I could say where exactly), that you might want to do a bit of digging, not to cultivate, but to do some minor micro-swale work prior to the rains, so that you get full benefit of the rains as they would be able to penetrate. Your cool wheel plow thing might be perfect for this... Woot!
 
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You and me both Roberto. I've been postulating on a Fukuoka-style double-cropping for well over a year myself. Unfortunately, last season I didn't have the stones to start experimenting right away like Ranson did, instead wasting a year seeking out 'the right crops' that don't seem to exist on the English Internet.

One crop I do have to contribute to this thread, though, is Super Early Corn [Super Early as a descriptor, not a variety name.] There are grain varieties bred for the Canadian Prairies with listed ripening time of less than 50 days. Although my and Ranson's Maritime Northwest summers are fairly cool, they're still long days without clouds. It seems highly likely such varieties should ripen for us within 60 days.

Which means if we can manage to breed a winter Barley that is harvested by mid-June when planted with the first of the Autumn Rains, one of these varieties should be able to fill the gap.

As a note though, the one I've been looking only grows to about 2 feet tall. Which is actually great if you wanted to run poultry through the field to self-harvest the crop and fertilize while they're at it.
 
r ranson
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Hmm, an update. Where am I at today?

I'm still stoked about this project. There is a lot of promise here, and several challenges to overcome. Taking Fukuoka's philosophy and applying it to a method that works locally is an adventure I'm enjoying.

We are moving in the next year or two. I don't know when. It could be in two months, it could be a year and a half.
This causes two problems challenges to my Fukuoka farming:
  • The yard has to be 'tidy' from a buyers point of view
  • If I plant something, I may not be here to harvest the seed


  • With that in mind, I can't do another try at the proper, no till, farming.

    Instead, I'm focusing on experimenting with different varieties of grain. So far, nothing fits my needs, so I'm also attempting to breed my own landrace grain. At the very least I should be able to bulk up my seed and acclimatize varieties to our local weather.

    Looking back on the last year and what I need to grow grain with minimal human assistance, I need a grain that can be planted in Oct, and harvested by the end of May, and another grain that can be planted at the start of April, and harvested before the end of Sep. Both grains will need to tolerate frost. The winter grain needs to withstand too much water. The summer grain needs to tolerate too little.

    They also need to...
    Create a mulch
    Not be too close to each other so that they can break up pest and disease cycles
    improve the soil
    Compliment each other with things like requiring different soil nutrients
    be yummy to me

    I know I've written this out already, but I just need to cement in my brain and writing helps.

    What I really need is data on different varieties and how they perform in our growing conditions. There is very little information that localized or specific available to the average joe, so I experiment. Last year I learned that chickpeas germinate moderately well in no-till conditions, but aren't tall enough and are smothered by weeds. But then I wonder, if grown over winter, like some sources suggest might be possible, they wouldn't have the weeds to compete with. But are these sources right when they casually suggest that chickpeas can be grown overwinter? Enquiring minds need to know. The only way to find out is to try it a few years in a row and see what happens.


    So that's mostly what I'm doing this year and next. Learning about different plants in hopes of finding ones that will work well in Fukuoka style farming.

    I have a few grains that I am trying for the first time, like wheat and oats, as well as working on my barley landrace.

    I'm also thinking that a pea or bean might be a good addition to my crop rotation. Maybe a field pea that is planted in late March, or maybe a bean that overwinters.

    Or maybe, it will turn out I need to do a three crop over two year kind of thing, with a few months having the field left fallow and being grazed with animals.

    There is so much to learn and discover. I'm having a blast.


    Part of this experiment is to see how the land improves with no-till gowing.


    A lot of the barley straw is still visible on the ground. It's decomposing slowly, but steadily. The ducks love rooting around in it.

    Has the mulch actually improved the soil? I don't know. The hawkweed is growing taller there than elsewhere, so I'm guessing yes.

    None of the clover took...again...as usual. Clover just won't grow there.



    I feel in my heart this project can work. It will take many years of trial and error to find a way, but Fukuoka's philosophy is sound. It's just the method that needs adapting.

    It is a bit frustrating for me that he's starting with active or semi-active rice fields. Fewer weeds and previously tilled land... then again, he's written about it working on untilled land.

    The more reading I do about it, the more firmly I believe that the only way to truly perfect a method is to actually plant things and observe.
    IMG_0554.JPG
    [Thumbnail for IMG_0554.JPG]
    Winter Barley
    IMG_0556.JPG
    [Thumbnail for IMG_0556.JPG]
    Landrace Barley - grown for the first time overwinter
    IMG_0559.JPG
    [Thumbnail for IMG_0559.JPG]
    Last year's Fukuoka style field. See the straw and the hawkweed.
     
    Kyrt Ryder
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    R Ranson wrote:Looking back on the last year and what I need to grow grain with minimal human assistance, I need a grain that can be planted in Oct, and harvested by the end of May, and another grain that can be planted at the start of April, and harvested before the end of Sep. Both grains will need to tolerate frost. The winter grain needs to withstand too much water. The summer grain needs to tolerate too little.


    Considering you're planning to sow your summer grain into the winter grain in April, it doesn't necessarily need to be frost hardy. It should be protected inside the Winter Grain's canopy until you harvest that.

    I do have a few varieties that are worth experimenting on for the Summer Grain, it's the winter one that's perplexing me [and seems to require breeding work.]

    EDIT: also, it occurs to me that your barley may have performed a little better if you'd been able to get your hands on a non-Pooideae [yes, that's the name of the family that contains Wheat, Rye and Barley, no I am not shitting you. Makes you wonder if the Paleo people might be onto something ] mulch. Such as leaf litter or something. Fukuoka makes a big point about not using like as the mulch for like because of diseases.
     
    r ranson
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    Kyrt Ryder wrote:
    Considering you're planning to sow your summer grain into the winter grain in April, it doesn't necessarily need to be frost hardy. It should be protected inside the Winter Grain's canopy until you harvest that.



    I hope so. But we can still get a good killing frost into the middle of April. Actually, they've changed our frost dates (again) this year to be about a week later in April... so... well... I'm guessing with climate change, the summer grain needs at least some frost hardiness at the start of it's life. For our farm, it's a bit colder in the winter than the rest of the city. Micro climates and all that jazz. Over the last 6 years, our last frost is a few days before our last rain. Hoping that our next home will be a little bit kinder with the weather.


    Kyrt Ryder wrote:
    I do have a few varieties that are worth experimenting on for the Summer Grain, it's the winter one that's perplexing me [and seems to require breeding work.



    Nice about the Summer Grain. Can you tell us more?

    Looking at history, winter grains were extremely common in medieval times, even in Northern Europe where it gets a good deal colder than here. There must be something that would work for our more mild winters. I keep looking for seed, but in the meantime, I experiment and work on my landrace.

    Thankfully developing a landrace is fairly easy (if the plants will promiscuously polinate - Barley is suppose to be 10%, but then again, it wants a huge isolation distance which tells me that it crosses more readily than you expect). a thread about landrace creating and resources
     
    r ranson
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    Kyrt Ryder wrote:
    EDIT: also, it occurs to me that your barley may have performed a little better if you'd been able to get your hands on a non-Pooideae [yes, that's the name of the family that contains Wheat, Rye and Barley, no I am not shitting you. Makes you wonder if the Paleo people might be onto something ] mulch. Such as leaf litter or something. Fukuoka makes a big point about not using like as the mulch for like because of diseases.



    Very likely right!

    First year was more proof of concept. Yes! I can grow grain without tilling and just using mulch. Sadly the mulch isn't the best, but it's what I had available. Then again, what is popularly considered 'the best' often turns out to be 'a very good, but not the only option' when put to the test.

    Definitely looking forward to experimenting with different kinds of mulch in future years. Will probably come to the same conclusion as everyone else, but I'm one of those people who wants to try things for themselves.

     
    Kyrt Ryder
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    R Ranson wrote:

    Kyrt Ryder wrote:
    Considering you're planning to sow your summer grain into the winter grain in April, it doesn't necessarily need to be frost hardy. It should be protected inside the Winter Grain's canopy until you harvest that.



    I hope so. But we can still get a good killing frost into the middle of April.


    When's the last time you've seen frozen ground deep under a thick evergreen tree canopy? It's the same principle.

    If something can survive down to freezing, and it's planted underneath a thick stand of Barley/Wheat/Rye/Etc, then it should be fine so long as the air temperature doesn't drop below 20ish. Granted I haven't actively experimented with this in grain form, so take it with a grain of salt. [In fact... next time we get a decent freeze overnight I'm going to go check the soil under some wild grass on my property. Just to test this.]

    Kyrt Ryder wrote:
    I do have a few varieties that are worth experimenting on for the Summer Grain, it's the winter one that's perplexing me [and seems to require breeding work.



    Nice about the Summer Grain. Can you tell us more?


    The very shortest season summer grain I know is

    Gaspe Flint Corn, bred in part of Canada with a MUCH shorter growing season than you and rated for 45-60 days. The ears are small and the seed difficult to find in the USA, but it certainly should ripen quickly enough for you and it's pretty good quality Flint Corn. If nothing else it's a nice additive to the feed for poultry and pork. Stalks are only a hair over 3/4ths a meter tall though, so depending on the density you grew them you might prefer to experiment with...

    Amazing Early Alberta flint corn, rated 75 days, 1-1.3 meters tall, bit more of a gamble for the short cropping season you're aiming for [given we have much less summer heat than the prairies] but should outyield Gaspe Flint both in grain and mulch if it does ripen.

    early Flax, the variety I'm looking at right now is called Omega, and the farmer in Whatcom County [the county due south of Canada along I-5] rates it for 60-70 days. 2/3rds to 1 meter long mulch production.

    Buckwheat, most varieties are claimed to mature seed in 45-50 days. http://sustainableseedco.com/buckwheat/ has several of the varieties bred for use as food.
     
    pollinator
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    Very interesting experiments, thanks for posting about them.

    Not that I have ever tried anything like this, but I'm thinking corn would definitively be good to try. The Natives didn't have plows or draft animals, it is used to dealing with roughish land. You might even be able to use a hand corn planter to plant the seeds through the stubble/ weeds.

    But again, I don't really know what I am talking about.
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    These folks have been successfully growing some pretty amazing Heritage Grains up in my area, including working with Universities and Government agencies. If anybody knows which varieties might be good for you, this family, the Lowes, might be the people to ask, or they could refer you to other sources: Twin Meadows Organics
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    The Heritage grains they grow at Twin Meadows Organics: linked through their heirloom seed page

    We are currently propagating five wheat varieties:

    Emmer, the second oldest wheat known to man.
    Marquis (a cross between Red Fife and Old Calcutta) that was developed in Canada approximately 100 years ago.
    Akmolinka (from Kazakhstan).
    Maparcha (from Afghanistan).
    Black Einkorn (the earliest wheat recorded by mankind).
    Hulless Barley is also a very interesting grain, which we have also been developing as seed for a number of years. The importance of this grain is that it naturally grows without a hull, while virtually all modern barleys have been bred to have hulls. When you purchase pearled barley, it is barley that has been processed, with all of the nutrient hull removed. Hulless barley can be eaten as a whole grain, as we can digest the whole grain in it's natural state.

    We are currently propagating two hulless barley varieties:

    Tibetain Hulless Barley
    Himalayan Hulless Barley
    Winter Rye, Yellow Peas, and Spelt have also adapted well to our farm environment.
     
    r ranson
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    Compiling the data from last years growing season, I've discovered a few crops that might make a good trial for Fukuoka style growing in my area. These all grew with minimal irrigation.

    2015 growing season on our farm

    Plant: planting time, harvest time
    Barley: Sep-Oct, Jun-Jul
    Fava: Oct-Feb, Jun-Jul
    Amaranth: Apr-Jun, Aug
    Ash neeps: Jun-Jul, Aug-overwinter - short crop that likes wood ash, may not be tall enough to compete with weeds in no-till. But fast grower.
    Soup pea: Feb-Apr, July-Aug
    Squash: Apr-May, until frost
    Giant Kale: Mar-Jul, overwinter
    Sunflowers: Apr-May, Aug-Sep
    Beans: May-Jun, Aug-Sep

    The challenge will be how to incorporate them into a cycle where I can get at least two harvests a year. I'm almost thinking a 4 crop cycle over two years might be the answer for this location. But which crops in what order? That's the challenge.

    I'm very keen on Amaranth right now, but I know it's not good to follow a legume for fear of too much nitrogen build up in the leaves.

    Another idea is to over-winter giant kale and have fava beans growing under it. Come spring, harvest the kale for the livestock and let the favas take over.
     
    pollinator
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    I did not know you had this project going. I had some success with winter wheat I planted a packet of barley that I got from Uprising seed at the same time but it did not survive the neglect. The wheat was feed quality soft white. The year before I had the neighbor rototill the spot because the horses used to stand there by the fence and it was cup shaped and compacted. I mulched it heavy with mowings from the field and tried transplanting squash there after I removed the carpet but they did not produce because the soil dried out to much even with watering. Spilled wheat grew well nearby where the the chickens had spilled it in the chicken tractor. The roster would bend the stalks down for the hens to eat the grain out of the heads. So I decided to experiment; I sowed the whet into the mulch in the fall and left it alone. It grew, matured at the time of the gravenstine harvest when the movie was made. I thrashed, windowed, and ground about a quart of flour. I still have a few scattered spots where the wheat comes up and self sowes.

    This is the blade design I use instead of the string trimmer; it windrows as you cut just like the scythe. If you play the video you will see me cutting the wheat.
     
    Kyrt Ryder
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    When exactly did you harvest that wheat Hans?
     
    Hans Quistorff
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    According to what else I was harvesting at the time it was July. It could have been harvested earlier but I was just going to pull the chicken tractor over it and let them harvest it. You can see by the feathers in the movie that did not work it left enough gap that the raccoons got in and ate them.

    I was also going to comment on the pattern of rain shadows and convergence zones that we have in this area, for the benefit of readers outside this area. Ranson I believe is in the rain shadow of the Olympic mountains. The early summer rains coming from the southwest drop all there precipitation on the mountains leaving a dry shadow. On the other hand the air flow around the mountains comes together again at Seattle and just north of there and they get a double portion of rain in early summer. I am just enough further south so that my rain shadow is from the lower coastal range and is inconsistent. Some times the rain storm will go up the other side of my peninsula and sometimes it will go up my side. I have been out mowing with my shirt off and gotten a phone call from the other side and it was snowing there. We usually plan on the last rain being the 4th of July but last year it was dry most of June. Alternating northwest and southwest storms then start again mid September.
     
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    This is a really neat project! I'm south and inland of you (Western Washington), but your climate is close enough in some ways for this to be very useful. I think you're right that the most important thing to do is get the plants growing, and learn.

    I just discovered recently that some people use flour mixed with compost or soil to make seedballs. As far as I can tell, the purpose of the clay is simply to be a binding agent that is easily available and won't harm the soil. Flour fits the bill, I'd think. It ought to decompose and add organic content to the soil, and you should be able to buy a 5, 10, 25, 50 pound bag inexpensively anywhere.
     
    Kyrt Ryder
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    Jason Padvorac wrote:I just discovered recently that some people use flour mixed with compost or soil to make seedballs. As far as I can tell, the purpose of the clay is simply to be a binding agent that is easily available and won't harm the soil. Flour fits the bill, I'd think.

    Wouldn't flour smell awfully tasty to some of the things that seedballs are trying to keep the seeds protected from [rodents in particular]?
     
    Jason Padvorac
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    The tasty smell of flour might be an issue, Kurt, but I was thinking that the preponderance of soil/compost would largely mask it. I'm going to make some with flour, and I'll report back if mine get eaten.

    Of course, animal visitors vary greatly in kind and appetite, so even if it works for me it may or may not work elsewhere. Three cheers for local adaptation of methods!
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    Just to be clear: The clay is not only used as a binder agent but is used specifically so that animals do not eat the seeds. But there is more. Clay provides a lot of benefits the system: it has high ability to hold nutrients, it is a good mineral base-providing trace minerals right where the seed is germinating and developing, it holds water very well and expands with water, and if it's really wet some of it 'melts' to enter/connect it to the topsoil. Because of all these things, the clay is a much more integrated part of the process than you might assume; and far superior to flour. It becomes a synergistic part of the just-add-water seedball in ways that flour could not possibly.
     
    r ranson
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    Great ideas guys. Yes, I am in the rain shadow... although you wouldn't know it today. Most of the country measures their rain in inches per hour, we measure it in millimeters per 24 hours. We're at 50mm so far today, and it's cats and dogs here (as in it's raining cats and dogs).

    It would be interesting to try the flour, perhaps with a bit of chili pepper added in to deter the bugs. Not everyone has access to clay, so I think it's worth an experiment to see if it could work.

    In case you missed it, check out this grain.



    I discovered it over the weekend, growing on the edge of my new winter garden. Most of my winter grain are only about toe high, but this one is only a few weeks away from harvest.

    This is where I jump with joy and yell at the top of my lungs...

    So it may be possible to harvest a winter grain before the end of May!

    It looks like a european wheat.

    I'm saving seeds from this and will spend the next year or two bulking up the seed. Once I have enough seed, the plan is to divide it into three sections. One is to go in the freezer for long term back up storage. One is to be planted a small patch each month of the year, for a few years, to see what effect planting wheat at different times of year has on it's harvest date. The last part will be grown mixed with hardy, winter wheats to see if we get any sort of advantage from the offspring. It's going to take a few years to make this happen, but it's a wonderfully inspiring starting point.

     
    Kyrt Ryder
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    Any chance you could split that division four ways, so as to sell [or trade or whatnot] some to your fellow PNW permies for bulking up and experimenting?
     
    r ranson
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    Kyrt Ryder wrote:Any chance you could split that division four ways, so as to sell [or trade or whatnot] some to your fellow PNW permies for bulking up and experimenting?



    That's a good idea. It would be nice to have back up seeds spread among the permies community.

    I'll have to see how many grains I get this year, if there's enough, I might be able to send a few... but well have to see. Some of the migratory birds are moving in early, so I'm keeping a close eye on the grain to try to catch it sometime between being ripe and being eaten by birds.
     
    Roberto pokachinni
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    Drop a rabbit cage over the grain so the birds can't get at it?
     
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    R Ranson wrote:Many people seem inspired by Fukuoka's writings, but I've seen very few people growing grain using his philosophy or method.



    i managed to grow rice fukuka style , check out this post
    fukuoka style rice field in brasil
     
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    The stunted growth and yellow leaves you experienced, I also experienced last summer with my spring barley and wheats.

    I too, was using newly opened ground, and I too, had added some soil amendments such as composted manure.

    However, at the same time I also planted into an existing bed with no soil amendments, and with a very specific seeding rate. This planting grew like crazy, and resulted in a 20 fold return and big, plump seeds.

    I have come to the conclusion that barley and wheat is very sensitive to plant density. My broadcast methods ended up with a seeding rate roughly three times what is optimal (approx 20 seeds per square foot for non irrigated crops).

    This year I'm going to prove my conclusion by planting into the same ground, but using precision seed placement. I am also mulching with straw.
     
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    They do grow Barley in Alaska. They are also good at sharing information.
    https://www.uaf.edu/files/snre/C135.pdf

    If you are just going to prodcast seed, why not put in a mulch cover crop that will die and form a mat.
    In some places they use velvet beans and roll up the mat, spread seeds and put the mat back down over the seeds.
    Could you do radish and cow beans or other beans that can handle dry weather?
     
    Kyrt Ryder
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    alex Keenan wrote:

    They do grow Barley in Alaska. They are also good at sharing information.
    https://www.uaf.edu/files/snre/C135.pdf



    The varieties successfully grown in Alaska are Spring Barley, sown in the spring to harvest that fall.

    This experiment is about Winter Grains, sown around September [possibly August, but we don't get rain in August and Ranson is dryfarming] and harvested the following year [ideally in April/May for this experiment. Myself I'd be happy with early June.]
     
    r ranson
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    I've been meaning to give you guys an update about the land where I grew the barley last year.

    I used straw (mostly barley) from several different sources. The patch where I got the straw from this one farm, the weeds are struggling to grow. Even hawkweed is doing poorly. The rest of the area, the weeds show a marked improvement from the non-barely growing places.

    This causes me to wonder, what if the weeds are not growing well there because of an herbicide? These were supposed to be all organic, but... I wonder.
     
    r ranson
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    Second year's barley harvest is almost in.  This year I'm using natural selection for my landrace, as well as selecting for ease of processing.  This year, I did NOT grow no-till.  Sad to say, but that's the way things worked out.

    One of the main things that is keeping me from going full on Fukuoka is that my barley matures too late to put anything else in the ground.  Perhaps plant breeding will help with that, or perhaps I need to plant at a different time.  So this fall, I hope to experiment with different planting times, starting in August, then planting every two weeks from then.  Let's see if that makes any difference.  
     
    Kyrt Ryder
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    R Ranson wrote:One of the main things that is keeping me from going full on Fukuoka is that my barley matures too late to put anything else in the ground.  Perhaps plant breeding will help with that, or perhaps I need to plant at a different time.

    Are you sure about that? Your autumn rains seem to come a bit later than mine do, so you very well might have time to mature a Very Early Corn or possibly some other short season crop.

    These People only ship to Canada, but you're in Canada so that works out for you if you chose to go this route. The seed is a bit pricey but odds are decent you could ripen a plot of Gaspe Flint for use as Seed Corn to get a harvest next year.

    Unless when you say 'too late to put anything else in the ground' you're referring to rainfall patterns in which case you may be right. Your best bet for a Fukuoka style field without irrigation might be some sort of depression with a bit of catchment and TONS of organic matter in the soil to capture and hold moisture through the dry season. One advantage of a winter grain is that it does the much of its growing [and thus uses up much of its total water needs] during the autumn and early winter, meaning more of the spring rains stay in the soil shaded by the canopy for use by the next crop.

    Alternatively is there any chance you could rig up some kind of water storage with a release valve/flood gate. Our climate has far more precipitation than evaporation -especially with some sort of shade provided to the storage- so its pretty easy to capture a few feet of depth of water for simple gravity irrigation. Even moreso if you're able to put some sort of water-permeable cover on it [fabric being the easiest, cheapest and most readily available that I'm aware of] to allow the rain to fall through but keep the sun and wind off the water storage.

    DISCLAIMER: the corn I linked was bred on the plains with far more heat units than us. It's probably going to take at least 60 days to ripen it, possibly closer to 70
     
    pollinator
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    Here is a picture of where I threw out organic non-GMO chicken feed last year.  Stands of a grain grew in over the winter and have fully ripe seed heads.  Through the weeds. Through the maritime winter.   No help whatsoever.   I don't know my grains well enough to know what this is, but I'd definitely consider giving it a go.   Except, it appears this is what the chickens did not like in the feed, so....





    I also had really good success with winter rye as a cover crop and am growing my best crop of potatoes yet right into their roots.   It has made enough of a positive impact on my garden that I think I will seed my raised beds entirely with winter rye this fall or at least up the portion of rye to legumes.
     
    r ranson
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    Thanks for the link.  Very interesting.  I haven't considered corn for a Fukuoka method crop, mostly because I don't see how I can use the corn 'straw' as mulch.  Also, corn isn't a crop that I have a lot of interest in as I find most new world foods difficult to digest.  But it might be worth trialing some to see if it can survive my conditions.

    Kyrt Ryder wrote:

    R Ranson wrote:One of the main things that is keeping me from going full on Fukuoka is that my barley matures too late to put anything else in the ground.  Perhaps plant breeding will help with that, or perhaps I need to plant at a different time.


    Are you sure about that? Your autumn rains seem to come a bit later than mine do, so you very well might have time to mature a Very Early Corn or possibly some other short season crop.




    Am I 'sure' that the barley matures too late for a second summer staple crop?  At the moment, yes I am certain.  With the crops that I've found, the traditional timing of planting and harvesting, and the conditions where I live, I don't think it is yet possible to do a Fukuoka style, two crop rotation in my specific conditions.  

    Key word: yet.  

    I have just finished bringing in my barley in the last week of June/first week of July this year.  

    On a normal year, that would be two months into our 6-month summer drought.  I haven't found anything yet, especially not a staple crop, that can germinate and thrive in our summer conditions without irrigation of some sort.  I have yet to discover a corn that can germinate with zero water.  If you find one, please let me know.  It would be nice if it could also thrive with zero irrigation or rain, cool nights, but some dew.
     
    For Fukuoka's method to be worthwhile for me, I need to plant the summer grain during the rainy season, so it needs to go in the ground in early April at the latest - which is a good three weeks before our last frost date.  Which means I need my winter crop to come ready in May.  About 6 to 8 weeks earlier than my barley is currently coming ready.

    Cockspur grass shows some promise, as it will germinate in June in the part of the farm with a heavy dew.  But it is not yet at a suitable stage for a staple food crop.  Nor does it receive enough dew to germinate cockspur where I hope to grow my Fukuoka crop.

    The summer crop needs to be harvested in early Oct  (at the latest) to avoid the possibility an early rain.  


    Those are the requirements my weather puts on me.  I continue to experiment with different grains and also work on breeding an early barley with a view to start breeding overwinter oats, wheat, and some legumes this winter (the last two years have been spent trialing and bulking up seed).  I'm hoping for an over-winter snow or soup pea (or a snow pea that doubles as a soup pea, which I'm having massive luck with lately).


    Unless when you say 'too late to put anything else in the ground' you're referring to rainfall patterns in which case you may be right. Your best bet for a Fukuoka style field without irrigation might be some sort of depression with a bit of catchment and TONS of organic matter in the soil to capture and hold moisture through the dry season. One advantage of a winter grain is that it does the much of its growing [and thus uses up much of its total water needs] during the autumn and early winter, meaning more of the spring rains stay in the soil shaded by the canopy for use by the next crop.

    Alternatively is there any chance you could rig up some kind of water storage with a release valve/flood gate. Our climate has far more precipitation than evaporation -especially with some sort of shade provided to the storage- so its pretty easy to capture a few feet of depth of water for simple gravity irrigation. Even moreso if you're able to put some sort of water-permeable cover on it [fabric being the easiest, cheapest and most readily available that I'm aware of] to allow the rain to fall through but keep the sun and wind off the water storage.  




    Although interesting ideas, and ones I employ elsewhere on the farm, I don't feel it's fitting with what I'm looking for in my Fukuoka fields.  I want to work with the natural rain cycles and keep things as simple as possible so that once it's going strong, I can easily repeat it in different locations.  No preparing of the soil prior to begining the growing cycle, not reliance on irrigation or stored water, nothing fancy.  I want to make a system where all I need to do is add seed to get it started.  That way it would be easy to expand or move the Fukuoka fields as required.  
     
    Kyrt Ryder
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    R Ranson wrote:Thanks for the link.  Very interesting.  I haven't considered corn for a Fukuoka method crop, mostly because I don't see how I can use the corn 'straw' as mulch.  Also, corn isn't a crop that I have a lot of interest in as I find most new world foods difficult to digest.  But it might be worth trialing some to see if it can survive my conditions.


    Perhaps Omega Flax might be more to your liking? I recall reading you favoring flax but that might have been for fiber rather than food. Not sure if this variety [or a similarly early variety] is available in Canada but this is in the Western-Washington State county closest to the border.
     
    r ranson
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    A good idea.  Flax is a possibility and I like it as an oil crop.  I've been doing a lot of work with fibre flax for cloth production over the last few years.  At the moment, the best planting time is in March and harvest in July/August.  This requires some irrigation in May and June.  Most people locally plant flax in April or May, which means a lot more irrigation.  Historically, there are over winter flax varieties, so it might be possible to find (or create) an overwinter flax that would replace barely.  As the summer crop, the roots don't seem to go deep enough to thrive here, without irrigation.  They are also a moderate feeder, so the soil would need to be improved prior to adding flax to the Fukuoka field.  

    Other summer grains I've been experimenting with include sunflowers and amaranth.  Both of them grew well last year (an extra strong drought year) with zero irrigation in the valley part of the farm.  This is the place with high dew and ephemeral springs, so even in the drought, the water table is fairly high.  This year, I'm trialing them in a dryer part of the farm.  Even in this, an unusually rainy year, the amaranth is only a couple of inches tall so far and the sunflowers are looking pretty darn sad at under 2 feet (in the valley the sunflowers are currently over 6 feet, and in another part of the dry field, with light irrigation, they are over 8 feet).  The sunflowers pose a challenge as they can't be stepped on at a young age, so growing them would mean the winter grain needs to come in in April (highly unlikely).  Amaranth is better this way but has the same problem with the 'straw' that sunflowers and corn does.  The 'straw' may be too large to spread around in a Fukuoka field.  The stems of the plant are also part of the harvest, in that they may make a fantastic cooking fuel (if the back of the seed packet is accurate) which would mean less organic matter to return to the soil.  

    Another summer 'grain' I've been playing with is safflower.  This makes a splendid saffron substitute, dye plant, and oil crop.  At the moment it does well with a March/April planting and comes ready in August/Sep.  


    Another possibility for a summer crop would be to discover a perennial that dies back to the ground during the winter and comes up in April or May.  Is harvested in Sep, then goes dormant again.  This growth pattern is similar to my perennial sweet peas, but unfortunately, these are a toxic plant.  But what if they weren't?  
     
    r ranson
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    Quinoa is another possibility for a summer crop.  It's my first time growing it and I put it in back in March.  Well, my first time successful growing it, last year it failed to germinate.  It's growing well in the dry part of the farm, with zero irrigation.  Knee high and massive big blooms on it.

    Big problem is I don't like Quinoa.  I like it even less than I like amaranth and find quinoa very difficult to digest (even when prepared properly).  New world crops, in general, don't make a good staple for us as they trigger inflammation and other health issues.  Even still, it would be worth experimenting with quinoa to see if it can be successful in a Fukuoka field in our area.  
     
    Hans Quistorff
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    I have been trialing Quinoa, millet, red and white amaranth and flax where I have taken up my carpet covering. This is clay soil at the edge of the sandy hill and the beginning of the floodplain which is sub irrigated.
    Observations so far:
    The Quinoa leaves quickly covered the surface and prevented the clay from drying and cracking. It also was thoroughly eaten and scratched up by the chickens as I moved the pen over it. So as a summer ground cover it is working excellent. Not sure how it will work out for harvest and use. It also is not my favorite but seems to work when I directly make it into flour before cooking with other seeds.
     The millet is growing well. Corn has grown there very well in the past. It should have been planted earlier but I was not ready. This is my favorite and I am looking forward to a possible harvest.
    The amaranth did not germinate as completely as the other but is growing well and not bolting to seed like the endemic lambsquarter. Some have red at the center of growth and others powdery white like the lambsquarter; not sure if that indicates the color of the eventual seed or not.
    The flax was planted late but has germinated well and I will try one area for the chicken tractor and another that is in a 16" x 20' patch will grow for harvest.

    The perennial flax in the field is stunted again this year. It started out well after overwintering but slowed way down after the early heat this spring which dried up the ponds by the beginning of June.
     
    pollinator
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    I find it hard to imagine clay is nowhere around you. I have never been to inland BC but in the NW US clay is very common, even dominant, in many soils. To find it think about how deposition plays out. Clay is the last particle to fall out of suspension as water slows, and deposits regularly and predictably around any current or historical lakes or streams. Fukuoka even pointed out that it need not be any fancy kind of clay in particular, he just used the type from his local riverbed. I bet you can find it on some roadside near a river or lake if you keep an eye out and nobody will mind you taking it.  That or next time you head to the coast grab a tub full out of someones building project.
     
    Hans Quistorff
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    I took some pictures for another thread and some belong here as an update of my trial of spring planted seed crop. I did not take one of where there is also millet which is looking really good for a test harvest.
    quinoa.JPG
    [Thumbnail for quinoa.JPG]
    with some red & white amaranth foreground came op after chciken harvested leaves
     
    r ranson
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    Another year gone and where am I?

    Barley landrace is coming along nicely.  I'm selecting for early harvest, ease of thrashing/hulling and ability to grow in an abusive relationship with their human.  

    Where I did my first experiment, the soil is still pretty dead.  The weeds are shrivelled, and nothing grass like is growing there.  I'm really regretting importing straw from outside the farm.  It was supposedly organic, but now I see it was obviously not.  There's some sort of long-lasting herbicide.  Not sure what I can do to recover the soil there.

    Which means, the whole experiment is going slower than I had hoped because I'm growing the mulch on site.  Start with crappy soil, grow pathetic crops, save what seed I can, then use what's left to improve the soil.  Not doing no-till yet, but plan to get back to it when I have enough home grown straw.
     
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    Very interesting post. Something that has worked pretty good in northern Kentucky is winter wheat/turkeys and ducks. Wheat is cheep in the fall so I spread it over the garden beds several times in the fall. Let the birds eat on it over the winter. They seem to plant as much as they eat and eat on the greens.
    They go to another spot in late winter so the wheat can grow and harvest it when the wild birds start eating it.
    I imagine it would it would work with barley if you have a source cheap enough to use as bird food as well as seed. Oats would work in milder climates.
     
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