suggestions much appreciated.
Izzy Bickford wrote:Are you planning to irrigate, or do dryland grain? In our area, wheat is pretty much the only grain that people can grow without irrigation and expect a reasonable number of crop failures. Usually it's hard red winter wheat, planted in October one year, harvested around June the following. Then the land is fallowed (either with tillage or herbicides to kill weeds) until the fall of the third year, when the cycle repeats. The fallow period is intended to "save up moisture" but my personal opinion is that due to a hard plow pan due to years of tillage, only about 50% of the fallow year's moisture is saved for the following year. But cropping every year greatly increases the number of crop failures. I have been pondering the possibility of using goats to maintain fallow rather than tillage or herbicides. They would need to be fed supplementally, as you wouldn't want the Russian thistle and kochia to get too big (uses too much water, less palatable to animals).
its for dryland with no till, everything will be hand harvested. I was kinda wondering if sonora wheat would work.
Im trying to figure out how to restore nitrogen content with the use of sunflowers sown under the wheat so that after the wheat harvest they spring up providing food for birds while they leave their manure behind. this is merely theoretical but finding a solution for getting nitrogen in the soil without irrigation will be tricky.
Growing grain last year, I found that if planted in late fall early winter it wont sprout but have a better germination growth early spring and will out grow other weeds or plants, this is where I got the Idea of sunflower since it tends to grow in dry conditions anyway, I also wonder if tepary bean would also work since they are adapted to drought conditions.
I have seen those weeds you mentioned, the fact that they get tall and crowd the feild, though probably a good source of forage for goats right?we had a field of those behind us but then slowly dissipated and was replaced with the natural grasses when the neighbors brought goats in.
Here's my brainstorming for the 1 acre scale:
I really think that incorporating livestock is the key. Perhaps use a small hand-powered seed drill to plant winter wheat, weed by hand the next spring. Harvest with sickle, leaving as much stalk on the fields as possible. The standing residue is essential for preventing wind erosion when the wheat is not growing. Stock chickens lightly in the first fall after harvest to glean fallen seeds (preventing volunteer wheat the second year). Run goats over the field as quickly as possible every few weeks in the spring/summer the second year to eat all the green weeds. It would need to be so fast that they don't start eating the standing stubble, or knock too much of it down. Probably would need to move them twice a day at least. Drill seed again the third fall and repeat.
Perhaps a cover crop could be drilled in the off year, but it would probably need to be terminated much earlier than cover crops normally are, in order to save some moisture for the second year. I know of some large scale farmers experimenting with brassica cover crops near the Dalles - 10-12" precipitation. It's been rough going for them. As far as I know, no one has even attempted doing cover crops or annual cropping in areas with less precipitation than that.