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Kosha and foxtail how does it benefit the soil

 
J R Megee
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Happy Hump Day Permie people!!!
I've been shearching for info on what benefits kosha has on the soil. I haven't found anything except on using it for feed and how to kill it.
If there's any place I can find this info it's here. And I also have a fantastic crop of foxtail and I'm having a really hard time rapping my head around it's benefits. Can somebody please help me? Also in my searching I found a thread on gout weed which is really cool.
Would anyone know where I can get seed??
 
Kelly Smith
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Hi Jr,
I am not sure about foxtail, but kochia does a really good job of covering/shading the soil in my area.

here, with only ~12-14in of rainfall we get 5-7ft tall kochia in the improved soil areas and 3-5 ft tall plants in the unimproved area.

we have been letting them grow and allowing them to shed their "leaves" before we chop them down.
seems if we can keep up with the chop and drop it is a great plant to use as biomass/mulching/groundcover.

here is also a thread i started on kochia: http://www.permies.com/t/38516/plants/Bassia-scoparia-kochia-fireweed

 
J R Megee
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Hey thanks Kelly

I had thought of some of those things but you gave me a few more things to think about. Do you or anybody know if it's nutrient accumulator or a nitrogen fixer?
Now if I could make some sense out of foxtail that would be great. Is it like a pioneer plant? Will it choke it's self out? What can I plant to choke it out?
I'm not wanting to plow or till I don't have much organic matter in the soil as it is.
 
Fred Tyler
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Hi JR!
It seems there are several different plants called foxtail. Do you have a picture so we could narrow down the species a little? Then i might be able to find something useful for you.

 
J R Megee
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Hey Fred how are you?
You know how tech savvy I am. I finally got it. Here's a couple of pictures.
next batch 2015 163.jpg
[Thumbnail for next batch 2015 163.jpg]
foxtail
next batch 2015 166.jpg
[Thumbnail for next batch 2015 166.jpg]
 
Bill Erickson
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JR,
It looks like that is foxtail barley or horbeum jerbatum - and its best permaculture use seems to be as a way to pull salts out of the soil.Basically let it grow, scythe it or weed whack it down and transport off your property. Seems it is fairly aggressive in the way it holds on. It is also one of the nastier ones for critters and folks. I have pulled many of those stinking things out of my socks and skin as a kid. Used my google-fu to look it up and Wikipedia had some fairly comprehensive information. Linky Thing Here

Most likely the simplest way to get rid of it is to sheet mulch or hot compost.

Hope that helps, and others have suggestions for you as well.
 
Fred Tyler
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The good thing about plants that pull salt from the soil is that you don't have to remove them from the property to reduce salinity. The plant locks up the salt within it's cells and leaving them as a mulch layer can help reduce salinity further by reducing evaporation. One of the best ways to remediate salty soil is to add tons of organic matter. Both kochia and foxtail are salt tolerant plants. (I'm not sure if you're getting them both in the same area.) Letting them grow and die there will add organic matter. Eventually these plants will improve the soil to the point that something else can grow there. If you are adding salty irrigation water from a well, you might be perpetuating the problem.

If you have animals to eat the foxtail before it forms seed heads, that's good (it will occasionally injure animals after that). If you mow or scythe it, that will be good too. If you do nothing, that will do good, it'll just take longer. Foxtail (Horbeum jerbatum) has an extensive root system and is great for preventing erosion.

Animals can eat a small amount of kochia (Bassia scoparia), but if that is their only forage, they will become sick because of the high oxalate levels. The young leaves and shoots are edible when cooked, but the same applies to us humans - don't eat too much. The seeds are edible and a delicacy in Japan and can also be ground into a flour. Here is Green Deane's take on it.

If you want something else to grow in that area, you can speed up the process by adding tons of mulch.
 
J R Megee
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This is cool thanks for all the great information. I do have this question.
If the foxtail locks up salt in it's cells and you leave it as mulch when it breaks down the salts won't go back into the soil?
 
Devaka Cooray
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J R Megee wrote:
This is cool thanks for all the great information. I do have this question.
If the foxtail locks up salt in it's cells and you leave it as mulch when it breaks down the salts won't go back into the soil?


It will, eventually. The thing is that salt in soil is not the real problem - it's natural to have salt in soil. The real problem is the salt dissolved in soil water, which gets locked up roots or in cells that consume and carry water to the rest of the plant. It would take time for the salty minerals to get dissolved, but that depends on the level of water-layer in soil. But as Fred said, if you add salty irrigation water, you are speeding up the process.

MinuteEarth made a video on this yesterday:

 
Kellan Cook
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Location: PA
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I have an entire field of foxtails right now. I am wondering do they die back to the ground in winter? It would seem pretty hard for anything to grow underneath their canopy next spring. I have tried to scythe them down now, but they are very dry and fight back with the scythe.

Sheet mulching them doesn't pose a problem as far as future seed growth?
 
Tate Smith
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JR,

One way to rid yourself of this first succesional plant would be the same way we have removed cheat grass.

Early defoliation, either by mowing or grazing, followed by heavy introduction of wanted species. <- This takes a long time to reduce the seedbank to a point where it is outcompeted.

For other uses, and it looks like your stand may work well, would be to "hay" it when it was just tall enough with seeds on but not ripe. Take that bio matter and use it in your various compost situations.

When battling "weeds" without chemicals, time and perseverance are your only tools, eventually you'll kill through attrition of the seed bank.

Also, foxtail barley and meadow foxtail tend to be much more favorable of wet areas. So if this is an irrigated pasture, try backing off on your irrigation for a season and see what happens. Be sure to interseed wanted species that are a little more drought tolerant (western wheat grass, alfalfa/yellow sweet clover, or an intermediate wheatgrass would be perfect). Cut off the water down to a bare minimum and watch. If this was an irrigated pasture at one time and is now looking like this because of lack of irrigation, the field was weaned off the water improperly and the foxtail is present due to it still being a wet area, but not swampy. Typically in your country (as you probably know) timothy is a predominant hay crop which is very water dependent. So it might not be wet enough for timothy, but still wet enough for foxtail.

Are any of my assumptions right for your situation??

 
Thekla McDaniels
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My goats eat large amounts of Kochia scoparia, by choice, though it is never the only forage available. This year I am cutting the kochia before it dries, in hopes that it will decompose more readily, and bring some of its own green with its brown. Though I am trying to decrease the amount of kochia on my property, and in my pastures, when I think about the sheer biomass it generates in one growing season (C4, I think), and how much the goats eat of it, I wonder if I will regret my efforts to establish things they don't like as much.

The USDA has several pages of interesting information about Kochia scoparia, also called Bassia scoparia, and a few other official scientific names. It is a worth a read through because they include permie type info, eg erosion control and bioremediation uses, minerals they concentrate, and that kind of thing. They also include parameters under which kochia may become toxic to livestock. Here is the link

http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_kosc.pdf

I know this is scary to those of us in the kochia belt, but there is a perennial kochia. It is used as a fire break, and a winter forage. There are other uses for the perennial. Here is part of the description of forage kochia on the Great Basin Seed website

It is a long-lived, perennial, semi-evergreen half-shrub that is well adapted to Western U.S. rangelands.
Forage kochia (Kochia prostrate) is different from the weedy Annual Kochia (Kochia scoparia) that many despise. They are NOT the same and should not be confused. Because Immigrant Forage Kochia is a perennial, it is non-invasive to native perennial plant communities, and it does not cause nitrate or oxalate toxicity. Forage kochia out-competes many noxious annual weeds including halogeton. Once it has replaced cheatgrass, perennial native species can re-establish in the stand of forage kochia, thus leading to diverse, stable perennial plant communities. Forage kochia thrives during hot dry conditions.
Sowing is best done in the winter months, generally mid December through mid February. Condition (harrow or some form of agitation) your ground in the fall as weather permits then sow seed over snow or in cold bare ground. Sowing at any other time of year is not recommended.

and here is the link if you want to know more

https://greatbasinseeds.com/wordpress/product/forage-kochia/

I have not tried it on my place yet, but have the seed. I like the idea that it provides high protein in the winter, and it outcompetes cheat grass and other weedy invasive annuals. And having crowded them out allows and encourages the re-establishment of native perennials, thus encouraging a diverse and resilient community.

Thekla
 
Don Eggleston
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I just asked this question of a Peaceful Valley pasture seed salesperson here in CA and she suggested vetch might compete favorably with foxtail. Also I have noticed that of all the seeds in the mixed pasture seed I put out last year, bell beans did well and left a ton of seeds. Perhaps over time they will overtake the foxtails. What I call foxtail here is the pest equivalent of the gopher in the flora world. I've taken three dogs to the vet for foxtails in the ears, vagina, etc. It clearly is a pioneer plant. On my property it grows on disturbed, infertile soil. It makes sense to me that if bell beans or vetch can at least compete, over time the soil would be rich enough that foxtail would disappear. Throwing out some seed is much easier than sheet mulching or trucking the harvested plants off your land. Much more of a permaculture solution. Using nature.

Also, in one orchard I have kikuyu grass. That has outcompeted foxtail completely.

Don Eggleston
 
C. Letellier
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I expect kochia to become a bio fuels source eventually. Anyone who has ever burned a patch knows how hot that fire is and how black the smoke is. Given how black the smoke is the seed has to contain a fair amount of oil. It produces large quantities of bio matter on fairly poor soils on comparatively little water. It is one of the hottest fires I know of in an annual.

That said it is not a nitrogen fixer(someone correct me if I am wrong on this but I have never seen it listed) and is a poorer soil builder if you are grazing it off. Its advantage is that it will grow in nearly any soil that isn't to salty. Where it shines as a soil builder is as green manure. Because of its huge growth rate and the fact that it handles many poor soils it is a good soil starter as green manure. Be aware there are a number of sub varieties of this annual. In this area there are 3 distinct plants. There is a desert variety that the plant is pyramidal in shape and the leaves are a duller green and the plants produce far less seed with a max height of about 30 inches. There is a scrub variety that the plant is lower and flatter with a bit of redish color to the stems. And finally there is the one that gets big and tall and green with a oval shape to the plants. I have seen these plants just short of 7 feet tall in good ground. Common height is 4 to 5 feet. Stems are often an inch to an inch and half at the base.

As for your foxtail it is barley foxtail. It is a common perenial weed. So no it doesn't die back in winter It is an indicator of soil troubles usually. It pushes most stuff out and is fairly tough to eliminate because of its large seed bank and the fact that those seeds have a long life plus being a perenial that tends to choke stuff out because of its dense growth. In this area it typically starts in fields at the bottom end of irrigated fields where they get to wet for to long killing most stuff off. Once started there it out competes most other pasture crops till it takes over. The seed is barbed and digs in meaning it can cause eye problems, mouth problems, digestive problems and skin problems in livestock. It is best avoided. Decent early soil builder. Permies compatible kill methods are mostly tough. Best is mechanical cultivation followed by a heavy seeding of something else. If it has to start from seed other things will out compete it. The control in this area for it at the bottom ends of field is to plant Garrison foxtail. Garrison will withstand the same over wet conditions and thrive and is good livestock feed. Problem is that Garrison is hard to establish. It does make good filter strips at the ends of fields if it is left undisturbed. Once Garrison is started it will push barely foxtail out over time anywhere that it gets enough water.

Mentioned above is preventing the foxtail from going to seed as a control method. This is tough. Unlike cheat grass barley foxtail will put out several seed heads if needed to complete making seed. Once the seed head is far enough along for the plant not to produce a seed head again if mowed the seed head will complete the seeds in it producing viable seed that tends to blow and fall out of bales. So even swathing and baling works poorly. I have had this foxtail when being mowed produce 5 sets of seed heads in a single summer. Another control method in some places is to let it make seed and get just to the barely starting to blow dry stage and then burn the seed. You will set the plants back a bit but can burn most of the seed. A bagging lawn mower will also let you gather the seed heads but be aware that your timing has to be nearly perfect for this to work well. You need the seed head still mostly green but with the stem directly below the seed head starting to dry up. Mow it while the stem is still green and the foxtail will realize it didn't make seed and it will try again. With each mowing the plants get shorter and tougher.

Also be aware that barley foxtail is tough for sickle bars to do a good job on because it is so tough to cut. You know your set up on your sickle bar is nearly perfect when you can do second cutting in barley foxtail and get a clean cut and not have the sickle sounding like and hammer and anvil while it does it.
 
sue bee
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Bill Erickson wrote:JR,
It looks like that is foxtail barley or horbeum jerbatum - and its best permaculture use seems to be as a way to pull salts out of the soil.Basically let it grow, scythe it or weed whack it down and transport off your property. Seems it is fairly aggressive in the way it holds on. It is also one of the nastier ones for critters and folks. I have pulled many of those stinking things out of my socks and skin as a kid. Used my google-fu to look it up and Wikipedia had some fairly comprehensive information. Linky Thing Here

Most likely the simplest way to get rid of it is to sheet mulch or hot compost.

Hope that helps, and others have suggestions for you as well.
have a question.... do you think foxtail barley would be a good thing for erosion control on a creekbank. the creek is not far from house , but bank is really eroding in places. would it interfere greatly with wildlife that uses bank as nests etc... meaning ducks, birds. dont really want racoons around. could kill my chickens. so i guess more than one question. also we have long grasses growing at top of creek. would it interfere and come up and take over my yard. yes we are that close....
 
Kellan Cook
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C. Letellier wrote:
As for your foxtail it is barley foxtail. It is a common perenial weed. So no it doesn't die back in winter It is an indicator of soil troubles usually. It pushes most stuff out and is fairly tough to eliminate because of its large seed bank and the fact that those seeds have a long life plus being a perenial that tends to choke stuff out because of its dense growth. In this area it typically starts in fields at the bottom end of irrigated fields where they get to wet for to long killing most stuff off. Once started there it out competes most other pasture crops till it takes over. The seed is barbed and digs in meaning it can cause eye problems, mouth problems, digestive problems and skin problems in livestock. It is best avoided. Decent early soil builder. Permies compatible kill methods are mostly tough. Best is mechanical cultivation followed by a heavy seeding of something else. If it has to start from seed other things will out compete it. The control in this area for it at the bottom ends of field is to plant Garrison foxtail. Garrison will withstand the same over wet conditions and thrive and is good livestock feed. Problem is that Garrison is hard to establish. It does make good filter strips at the ends of fields if it is left undisturbed. Once Garrison is started it will push barely foxtail out over time anywhere that it gets enough water.


If I did not want to use roundup, what would be a typical procedure to convert this field of foxtail to say a perennial clover mix. I do not have a tractor, currently. I am wondering when would be the best time to seed would be? What would be the ideal species to choke out the foxtail. How would the timing look on this conversion (ie cut in fall or do nothing, cut in spring, seed in spring, etc)? I think my foxtail is the green foxtail. I am in zone 6a/b. I have a notion to use pigs as a disturbance prior to seeding. I do not think they will eat the foxtail, but am hoping that they will at least disturb the soil enough. Thoughts?
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Sue Bee,

I think there would be much better plants for bank stabiliaztion. If you establish the barley foxtail in such a place you will have a perpetual supply of very noxious seeds. They cause problems to domestic and wild animals and get in your socks and sweaters and any clothing that is not a very tight weave. And as you see being discussed, it is hard to get rid of or replace. Better to use a plant with fewer problems in the first place.

Thekla
 
C. Letellier
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Barley foxtail is incredibly tough to kill without chemicals and without tillage once it is established. As for pigs I am going to say the answer is yes simply because I am not aware of anything short of trees that they won't destroy if penned over it. Pigs will eat nearly anything if penned with it. Given your climate likely the pigs will want a wallow. So simply move the wallow by deciding where to add water.(assuming your climate is dry enough to need added water to maintain the wallow) Be aware the pigs will have to be penned in fairly tight quarters for this to work. Because of pig behavior I would start in the low corner of your area and work up the hill keeping feeding and watering areas up the hill with the wallow in the middle. Pigs will naturally tend to keep their bathroom area at the far end from where they eat and they also tend to prefer to keep it at the lowest point in the pen. So use these behaviors to your advantage. Move the pen in steps and plant behind. Once its root structure is destroyed so it is starting from seed most pasture materials will out compete foxtail.

I have pushed barley foxtail out with lawn grass by using controlled mowing but it is a slow process. It has taken a decade to get 40 feet wider expanding out from a grass center . I set the lawn mower really short and mow the foxtail while letting the grass go to seed. I only mow the grass when the seed head is drying out and I mow it way longer. This keeps the grass stronger than the foxtail and gives seed to blow out onto the foxtail occasionally managing to get small clumps of grass out in the foxtail. Carefully mow around them too were possible. The grass is slowly taking over from the foxtail. This is also how I know that foxtail can do 5 seed heads in a year in my climate if they are cut off regularly.

I have seen farmers push barley foxtail out using Garrison foxtail but that is also a really slow operation. Otherwise I am not aware of a crop that can be planted into established foxtail that will over come it without destroying it in some fashion first. For tillage kills we have always used plows, disks or roto-tillers but the one I have wanted to try but haven't is bean knife cultivator sweeps. The primary root ball is only about 3 inches deep with fine roots extending down beyond that. So if this could be cut under ground level say 1 1/2" or 2" down, during hot weather would the top be dried out before the roots could regrow down and would that then act as a mulch to kill the lower roots? This one is on my to try list.
 
David Stone
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I may be having success eradicating foxtail thru intensive rotation of pigs, sheep, and diversified poultry. I mowed the areas affected with foxtail early in the season (spring) in effort to make it more palatable to the livestock. In general livestock don't like it much but will eat it when left in the paddock and that is all that is left to forage on. I have seen them eat the seed heads. Foxtail is one of the earliest and longest persisting seed producers of all pasture grasses and weeds. Mowing it can worsen the situation thru seed dispersal. I let the livestock take the foxtail and grasses down to earth (not my usual practice for rotational grazing), and I brought the animals back into the affected areas a few times during this growing season after the foxtail returned (from seed or root mass), to maximize impact and decrease the foxtail seedbank. Now that is Fall and rain approaches, I will broadcast diversified seed into the pasture, especially the barren areas, including clovers, vetch, radishes, turnips, brassicas, etc. After seeding the animals will need to be kept off the area for a couple of months. Spring will tell how well this has worked, but by the looks of it, we are headed in the direction of eradication. Of all the livestock, I believe the pigs had the greatest impact on foxtail. They need to be brought back onto it several times to beat it down, shrink root mass, and impact the noxious seed bank. Pigs will bare the earth, but it is not really a till in the sense that they are not really disturbing soil architecture, instead they turn a thin top layer and get at the root mass. They sure are happy to move onto greener pasture at the end of the foxtail rotation. Its the most voracious I've ever seen the pigs eat grass, after moving the hotwire and moving them over and out of the foxtail paddock.

Foxtail is a truly noxious weed and potentially dangerous to livestock and other animals (but I would take foxtail anyday over herbicides). Foxtail nearly killed one of my valuable livestock guardian dogs. If you ever have an animal with discharge from an orifice and you have foxtail on your property, think of septic foreign body caused by the foxtail seed head. In my dogs case, they were in her nose. This is usually only an issue for animals in spring and summer.

Haying and removing the plant from the land, as someone had mentioned, I can say with certainty does not work. We have been haying for the past three years and the foxtails have intensified in this time period. Keep in mind after you hay, the foxtail will continue to grow and set seed throughout the growing season. Haying also disperses foxtail seed. Not to mention, nobody wants foxtail in their hay.

Also, I've been told in our region of southern oregon that roundup is not effective against most foxtail here
 
Thekla McDaniels
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And now that we are into a discussion on how to kill it, because the benefits are outweighed by the drawbacks, it's worth mentioning that chickens in a concentrated area for a long time can kill anything. I don't know how many chickens or the diversified poultry mentioned above per acre for how many months, but I think it will work, then followed by seeding to something else.

Did someone mention whether barley foxtail germination occurs more readily in cool or warm soil? I count on grasses to germinate in cool soil, and use that to combat the kochia, goat heads and sand burrs. The foxtail being a grass might make this strategy unhelpful, but if one seeded the earth bared by chickens to a tall thing, and seeded it very thick, way beyond recommended rates, then possibly the tall plants, such as corn or broom corn or amaranth (all warm soil germinators) could get ahead and shade it out.... and they are all annuals.

If the barley foxtail persisted in the understory, I'd try putting the poultry back in there. Actually, it's a puzzle I'm glad I don't have as I am plenty occupied with others, but putting animals on it seems like an important part of the solution.

Thekla

 
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