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Straw mulch for growing grains

 
Nick Kitchener
Posts: 464
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Hi all,

I'm growing out some spring wheat and barley and next season I'll be needing 3,600 square feet of land to do it on.

The land only just became available and the ground i now frozen for the next 4 or 5 months.

It's currently in pasture, but has been idle and un-kept for a number of years now.

My current plan is to roto-till the pasture, plant the seed, and then cover it with straw mulch to a depth of about half an inch (about the same amount as would be there if straw from a previous years harvest was left in the field as in a no till / Fukuoka type system.

How many bales of straw am I likely to need? Any thoughts on the approach, or alternatives?

I've heard that the ecosystem is so out of balance around here that the bear pressure on grain crops is so bad that you need electric fencing around the crops to keep them from eating and trampling the entire field. I was planning a buffer zone of barley (the prefer barley to wheat) around my crop, but apparently this won't stop them as they will eat through 100% of the field.

Any thoughts on that?
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Nick Kitchener wrote:Hi all,

I'm growing out some spring wheat and barley and next season I'll be needing 3,600 square feet of land to do it on.

The land only just became available and the ground i now frozen for the next 4 or 5 months.

It's currently in pasture, but has been idle and un-kept for a number of years now.

My current plan is to roto-till the pasture, plant the seed, and then cover it with straw mulch to a depth of about half an inch (about the same amount as would be there if straw from a previous years harvest was left in the field as in a no till / Fukuoka type system.

How many bales of straw am I likely to need? Any thoughts on the approach, or alternatives?

I've heard that the ecosystem is so out of balance around here that the bear pressure on grain crops is so bad that you need electric fencing around the crops to keep them from eating and trampling the entire field. I was planning a buffer zone of barley (the prefer barley to wheat) around my crop, but apparently this won't stop them as they will eat through 100% of the field.

Any thoughts on that?
I don't know anything about your bear problem, When I lived in N Idaho all I ever saw was bear butts .......as they ran away fast as they could run. Haven't even seen any here in OK.

But, if you are a committed permaculturist, you might consider this no till technique for pasture cropping grains developed by the Aussies.
Why Pasture Cropping Is Such A Big Deal

It's a different climate and you'll probably be the only one in your entire region doing it. So it will probably take some serious experimentation to get it right. BUT with great risks comes great rewards if you ultimately succeed. I am experimenting with it on a small scale with sweet corn here in OK. I wouldn't call it the greatest crop in the world, but I got a decent crop the first year I tried it. Do you have access to a no till planter and a bush hog that can mow right down to the ground? It is the permaculture way unless you have a bunch of pigs to do your plowing for you, best bet.
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 329
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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The federal agency that helps farmers rents out no till drills. I think it's called FSA, but I'm not sure. It used to cost about 10.00 per acre, but you need a tractor too.

I would think that if you plant grain into pasture, it would need to be plants that don't grow at the same time of the year. I haven't tried it. Very interesting idea though.
 
Ken W Wilson
Posts: 329
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Scot, what kind of grass did you plant the sweet corn into? About what date?
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Ken W Wilson wrote:Scot, what kind of grass did you plant the sweet corn into? About what date?
Mixed grass and I started in June and plant every 2 weeks. A lot of that grass is bermuda grass, but there are maybe 10 or 12 species? Plant dates of course will vary every year. I grow sh2 supersweet sweet corn. It requires warm ground to germinate well.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Drilling the seed in rather than tilling has several benefits.

A: you don't have to worry about the dead dry brown grasses sucking nitrogen out of the soil

B: after the seeds are drilled you should be able to sweep through with a scythe [or mower at a larger scale] and mow down those grasses to serve as your mulch rather than buying in new mulch.

C: Soil foodweb and carbon stores remain undamaged.
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:Drilling the seed in rather than tilling has several benefits.

A: you don't have to worry about the dead dry brown grasses sucking nitrogen out of the soil

B: after the seeds are drilled you should be able to sweep through with a scythe [or mower at a larger scale] and mow down those grasses to serve as your mulch rather than buying in new mulch.

C: Soil foodweb and carbon stores remain undamaged.
Pasture cropping works on a different principle. Think of the second bite principle from Voisin in reverse.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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I wasn't actually addressing Pasture Cropping specifically.

That being said, I haven't found any decent free online information on Voisin grazing, would you happen to have a link?
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:I wasn't actually addressing Pasture Cropping specifically.

That being said, I haven't found any decent free online information on Voisin grazing, would you happen to have a link?


http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1097378.pdf

and

http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/A3715.pdf

and wiki helps somewhat:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andr%C3%A9_Voisin

But keep in mind for pasture cropping we want to temporarily suppress the grass just long enough to establish our crop, without actually harming the grass. So we use Voisin's principles in reverse just prior to planting the crop. Then after harvesting the crop, we go back to following his principles.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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If you mulch with straw, you are going to be seeding your grain crop with whatever grains are in the straw. Maybe that works for you, maybe it don't...

Around here, a small bale of straw contains 5.25 cubic feet, so 57 bales would put 1" of straw over 3600 square feet.



 
Ann Torrence
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whoa, that'd be $300-350 for what I pay for straw around here. You might get spoiled hay cheaper.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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I had a section of fence line where the watertrough had been that was hollowed out and compacted by the horses. I had removed the fence and water trough and wanted to restore it so I had the neighbor rototill it with his tractor then covered it with grass from my field and carpet as is my custom. It was about 8' wide and 20' long. The next fall I uncovered it and sowed winter wheat which grows all winter here then covered with more grass. The wheat sprouted through the mulch and made a very thick stand. Though the heads were mature by the end of May I left it standing until July when our dry period starts.
 
Nick Kitchener
Posts: 464
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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So I planted my backup plots here in the city (20 sq ft for each variety) and covered them with straw mulch. I was surprised at how little straw was required.

I'll be going tomorrow to check out the rural land. Sinc I don't have access to a tractor, a horse, or a plow, I'm seriously contemplating using one of those disks people use to edge their lawns as a tool for "disking" the pasture


Then follow the cut with a precision seeder like this:


Then walking the cut to close it with my foot.

Sounds time consuming, but I have my doubts that a domestic rototiller will be up to the task.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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The back wheel of the model you show is what presses the soil back into place, no tramping required.

This link is to a similar machine that does it all as you push it along. cole planter jr.
 
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