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A good substitute for rice in Fukuoka style crop rotation

 
Vincent Berg
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Hello,

I'm reading the book:
The Natural Way of Farming: The Theory and Practice of Green Philosophy (Masanobu Fukuoka)

Mr. Fukuoka does not plow or apply chemical fertilizers or prepared compost, or spray pesticides or other
chemicals. He practice what he calls "do nothing farming". He is harvesting each year close to 1300 pounds
of winter grain and 1300 pounds of rice per quarter acre. You have probably heard of.

My problem is that the climate where I live is not suitable for growing rice? (At least, I think so.)
Climate where I live:
https://weather-and-climate.com/average-monthly-Rainfall-Temperature-Sunshine,Vlissingen,Netherlands

So I'm looking for a good substitute for rice. Can I replace rice with corn? (Corn in rotation with winter grain?)
Or is there a better crop to grow in rotation with winter grain?

Thanks,
 
Bryant RedHawk
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As far as I know there is nothing close to rice but there are many small grains that have been used for eons.
Quinoa, Barley, Millet, Flax, Buckwheat, Bulgur. Then there is Wild rice, actually a grass which should grow well in your latitude.
 
Casie Becker
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Are you looking for a replacement for the rice in the kitchen? Or just an edible crop that can replace the rice in the planting rotation?

From my understanding of the Fukuoka method it's a kind of no till crop rotation with nitrogen fixing companion planting. Assuming that's an acceptable one sentence summary, then you need to know both winter and summer crops to plan the garden. Choose two crops (preferably not in the same family) that have growing seasons barely overlap at the ends and find a suitable nitrogen fixer for your climate (ideally a perennial that tolerates mowing).

Have you made a decision on one of your crops yet? That could help narrow down the next choice.
 
John Weiland
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Vincent,

First thing I would do is look at the nutrition that rice offers and see which northern adapted grain would do the same. Then look at which northern grain(s) you can integrate with your growing plan. I would think that in the Netherlands, some documents or contacts from the Wageningen Agricultural University might be quite helpful, especially if there are specialists there in multi- and inter-cropping methods. Off-hand, I would think that some combination of wheat, barley, rye and some of the wild progenitors of those grains may be of interest.
 
Cristo Balete
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Amaranth is a good grain, easy to grow and harvest. Harvesting of some grains is more complicated and takes a lot of effort. Be sure to look on YouTube where people are harvesting a grain you may be interested in.

But the most important thing is storing the grain so it won't mold. If yo are going to grow a lot of grain, you've got to have space for it, the proper containers to store it in, a place that is dry with a lot of airflow. There should not be an condensation inside the storage room. It's important to follow the drying and storage procedures since grains have varying levels of moisture in them when harvested. Grains should not be stored near other root vegetables and winter vegetables that have a lot of moisture in them, like pumpkins, winter squash, storage onions.

Check out how to store things in a root cellar, and you can apply those principles to a spare room or pantry or basement.
 
John Weiland
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Vincent B., Out of curiosity, I just spoke with an acquaintance who mentioned that there is rice production in northern China near the border with Russia. Although I don't know for sure about rice production either large or small scale in other cold climates, it would seem that if you have your heart set on rice, you may be able to find seed adapted for that latitude and growing season if you do a bit of sleuthing to find seed stock.
 
Ian Rule
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Its my understanding that rice is a grass, and a grass is a grass. Pseudograins too, they could all theoretically work so long as they're comfortable in the climate.

Gave up on corn and started planting amaranth - haven't looked back
(you can even pop amaranth!)
 
R Ranson
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I too am looking for grains or staple crops that will do well with Fukuoka's method.

I have two main problems: 1, our wet/dry seasons are very different than Fukuoka had, and 2, I'm much further north and some crops are sensitive to day length.

So far I've experimented with growing Barley over winter like Fukuoka did. Fukuoka's barley ripened in April or May, mine is ripening in June or July. His is obviously a very different kind of barley to be able to ripen so early. Because that's well into my dry season, I can't plant something again until Oct - unless I irrigate, which does not strictly go against Fukuoka's four principles (No cultivation of the soil, no chemical fertilizer or prepared compost, no weeding by tillage or herbicides, and no dependence on chemicals. ) but puts too much pressure on the water supply at that time of year.

There is a winter rice that they grow in Vancouver. Not sure if that's far enough north for where you are, but it might be an option.

Some of the other crops I'm considering trying:
Plant: planting time, harvest time (my local observations)
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
 
Alder Burns
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I too am enamored of Barley as a staple grain adapted for my climate (Mediterranean rainy winter, bone dry hot summer). I've grown wheat also, but when planted side by side at the same time, the barley grows quicker and matures sooner....which means less water used per unit of yield. The hulls are a bother, which the wheat doesn't have, but a good blender, like a Vita-Mix, run on medium speed for just the right length of time makes short work of them. Winnow off, and then cook it up just like rice. I find it makes a good substitute for rice in most ways that I would otherwise use it....
 
R Ranson
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I too love barley. It just doesn't ripen at the right time for me... yet. I'm like you, wet winter, dry summer. Rain stops May 1st, and starts Oct 15th (give or take a few days - on an average year). If I can find (or create) a barley I can harvest in May, I think it would be perfect for fukuoka style growing with a summer crop, maybe a dry bean or soup pea. Barley plus pulse would be a good foundation for a balanced diet.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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I've done a great deal of research on this for my own climate. Options I've found are as follows:

Very Short Season Corn [there are many varieties that take less than 90 days to mature a grain crop]
Flax
Buckwheat
Amaranth
 
R Ranson
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I found Amaranth does very well in our weather, as it only needs the morning dew to germinate. I don't know yet, how it will grow in a no-till situation, as I've only seen it volunteer where the earth is dug. It may be that under mulch, it's too deep to get the morning dew. Mulch dries out very quickly here once the rains stop, and is impossible to get damp again without excessive watering. I'm hoping to experiment with no-till amaranth a lot during the summer.

I had a look at the link in the OP, and the rainfall there is very different than what I'm use to.



It looks like a nice, steady amount of rain year 'round. So, they wouldn't need to worry about what grows well.

Maybe a focus on crops that have short season, like the ones by Kyrt just above me.
 
Alder Burns
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Fava beans are one possibility of a legume crop for the winter-wet, summer-dry climates, as are certain field peas. They are not as winter-hardy as the small grains though.....
 
Vincent Berg
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Thanks for the many responses. You have've given me food for thought. I have to think about it. Just a quick response so far:

Are you looking for a replacement for the rice in the kitchen? Or just an edible crop that can replace the rice in the planting rotation?

I'm searching for an edible crop that can replace the rice in the planting rotation.

Have you made a decision on one of your crops yet?

No I did not. I am still wondering:
1- Can I grow rice in this region? As far as I know rice is not grown here. (But I love rice.)
2- I want good quality, but also high yield. I want to use as little space as possible for my livelihood.
(I want to use less than 2.1 hectare / 5 acre. [Ecological footprint])
A good substitute for rice might proposes me to use less space, and maybe gives me a better harvest security? (I'm in doubt.)

I have two main problems: 1, our wet/dry seasons are very different than Fukuoka had, and 2, I'm much further north and some crops are sensitive to day length.

This is what I've found on the internet today. Someone who wants to grow rice in the United Kingdom:
http://sustainablesmallholding.org/growing-rice-in-the-uk/
He states:

The obvious reason for not growing rice in the UK is our climate, but my reading reduced that down to two specific limiting factors:

The relatively short frost free growing season.
Sterility due to low temperatures at flowering.

Here refers to a variety named: "Hayayuki".


 
R Ranson
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a bit about growing rice in BC, Canada. It's interesting that...

Shiroki boasts the world’s most northerly rice paddy. Gimpu rice, which provides the seed for Shiroki’s three-year-old Abbotsford farm, comes from Hokkaido, Japan, located at latitude 43 degrees north.


He's growing it at about 49 (and a couple of miles) degrees north. Not too far south of you, I think.

The yields are less than in Japan, but there’s no disputing the elegant, aromatic character of the sake the rice yields.


However, with the climate change, the article suggests that this would be a good crop for marginal land in the area, as there are many fields that are now flooded year 'round.



How far north are you Vincent? You asked a great question here, by the way.

Thanks for the link about growing rice in the UK.

You say you're in the Netherlands? Do you know what the main crops there during the middle ages were? I've been looking a bit about English crops pre 1350ish, and some of the crop rotations look like they might work with Fukuoka's method. Fukuoka, after all, took the traditional crops and planting times from his area. Maybe there is something in your local history that can offer inspiration.

 
John Weiland
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My colleague who is from China suggested that there is rice production in a large part of northern China near the border with Russia although I would have to pin him down on whether that means all the way from the eastern coast through Mongolia. He offered that the history of rice production in the US, being mostly southern, is more a consequence of other food grains being available already in the Americas as well as those being brought by the Europeans. There was no hesitation in him feeling that one could give rice a go even in the northern Red River Valley, south of Canada, as long as one chose as starting material seed accessions from a region in China that would most closely resemble the climate in this region. Historically, outside of the long-term management of wild rice by the Native Americans here, this area has been a huge wheat/barley/oat production area. Ironically, the Red River Valley was a swamp that needed much drainage to turn it into small grain (and other crop) production, so I can imagine poorly drained areas may be just right for the properly adapted rice varieties. It would be interesting to see how some of the BC-Canada, Chinese, and other northern rice accessions that have been deployed more coastally would perform in northern, inland regions.
 
Annie Hope
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Thse links may give you some ideas to play with:

- http://www.agriculturesnetwork.org/magazines/global/monocultures-towards-sustainability/how-to-grow-winter-wheat-the-fukuoka-bonfils

'http://www.permies.com/t/1568/fukuoka/Fukuoka-Bonfils-winter-wheat-method''
 
John Polk
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Italy's Po Valley has been growing rice for centuries.
Their climate is not that much different than SW Holland.

 
Cristo Balete
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R. Ranson wrote: Mulch dries out very quickly here once the rains stop, and is impossible to get damp again without excessive watering


R. Ranson, why are you trying to keep the mulch wet?
 
Cristo Balete
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Rice requires a flooded area, right? A rice paddy. So that is essentially a shallow pond. Ponds bring in birds that poop and bring in pond plants on their feet, mosquitoes, weeds grow like crazy around the edge. Whatever soil berms are holding the water in place need constant maintenance from gophers and moles. Even a gopher hole in the bottom of a home-sized rice paddy would drain it. Lots of work involved.

Unless there's some other kind of rice you guys are talking about.
 
R Ranson
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Cristo Balete wrote:
R. Ranson wrote: Mulch dries out very quickly here once the rains stop, and is impossible to get damp again without excessive watering


R. Ranson, why are you trying to keep the mulch wet?


In hopes that some moisture might penetrate the mulch and get into the soil. Without mulch, the morning dew can get into the soil, but with the mulch, the moisture just stays on the surface of the mulch and evaporates off quickly.
 
R Ranson
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Cristo Balete wrote:Rice requires a flooded area, right?


Some rice does. It's what we are most use to seeing when we think of rice growing. People working up to their knees in flooded rice paddies. Like something out of a Kurosawa film.

There is also dry land rice which was very common before people started flooding the fields for pest and weed control. Fukuoka worked with dry land rice, and only flooded his fields for a week or so to help reduce the weeds. The rest of the time he let the rain water the crops.
 
Vincent Berg
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R Ranson:
How far north are you Vincent?

I'm about 51 degrees north.
located at latitude 43 degrees north
He's growing it at about 49 (and a couple of miles) degrees north

I hope it is 49 degrees north. (Still it is about 140 Miles.)

What I've read in "Natural way of farming" what would confirm that it is possible:
Factors affecting photosynthesis: carbon dioxide, stomata closure, water uptake, water
temperature, sunlight.

Factors affecting respiration: sugar, oxygen, strength of wind, nutrients, humidity.

One way of raising rice production that immediately comes to mind here is to
maximize starch production by increasing photosynthesis while at the same time holding
starch consumption down to a minimum in order to leave as much unconsumed starch as
possible in the heads of rice.

Conditions favorable for high photosynthetic activity are lots of sunlight, high
temperatures, and good water and nutrient uptake by the roots. Under such conditions, the
leaf stomata remain open and much carbon dioxide is absorbed, resulting in active
photosynthesis and maximum starch synthesis.

There is a catch to this, unfortunately. The same conditions that favor photosynthesis
also promote respiration. Starch production may be high, but so is starch consumption,
and hence these conditions do not result in maximum starch storage. On the other hand, a
low starch production does not necessarily mean that yields will be low. In fact, if starch
consumption is low enough, the amount of stored starch may even be higher—meaning
higher yields—than under more vigorous photosynthetic activity.

How often have farmers and scientists tried techniques that maximize starch pro-
duction only to find the result to be large rice plants that lodge under the slightest breeze?
A much easier and more certain path to high yields would be to hold down respiration
and grow smaller plants that consume less starch. The combinations of production factors
and elements that can occur in nature are limitless and may lead to any number of
different yields.

Various pathways are possible in Fig. 2.13. For example, when there is abundant
sunlight and temperatures are high—around 40°C (I04°F), as in Course 1, root rot tends
to occur, reducing root vitality. This weakens water uptake, causing the plant to close its
stomata to prevent excessive loss of water. As a result, less carbon dioxide is absorbed
and photosynthesis slows down, but because respiration continues unabated, starch
consumption remains high, resulting in a low yield.

In Course 2, temperatures are lower—perhaps 30°C (86°F), and better suited to the
variety of rice. Nutrient and water absorption are good, so photosynthetic activity is high
and remains in balance with respiration. This combination of factors gives the highest
yield.

In Course 3, low temperatures prevail and the other conditions are fair but hardly
ideal. Yet, because good root activity supplies the plant with ample nutrients, a normal
yield is maintained.

This is just a tiny sampling of the possibilities, and I have made only crude guesses at
the effects several factors on each course might have on the final yield. But in the real
world yields are not determined as simply as this. An infinite number of paths exist, and
each of the many elements and conditions during cultivation change, often on a daily
basis, over the entire growing season.



I'm starting to get the idea that it should be possible. A second point of attention:
If the conditions are not optimal. Then there exists the chance that the rice plant will be more
vulnerable to diseases? Again, a good root development will provide a strong and resistant plant?

The bottom line is that you choose the right variety to grow.
Then the question is: Which variety is the best choice? And how do I get it?
 
Vincent Berg
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In this part of the country (Where I live) whe have sea-clay-soil. (Free translation)
On sea-clay-soils large scale farming. Sea-clay-soil is in fact very rich in nutrients, holds water for a
long time and delivers high yields!

Crops (Eligible for crop rotation) and which were cultivated here in the past: (And still are cultivated.)
Barley (mainly grown on sandy soil.)
Oats
Wheat
Rye
Spelled
Various legumes

I'm still looking for what varieties they used here in the past.
Older species are more resistant to diseases. The yield is lower, but yield stability is also a plus.
Eons ago, the also used white clover like fukuoka does.

Italy's Po Valley has been growing rice for centuries.
Their climate is not that much different than SW Holland.

Wheat bread baking characteristics are not so good here.
French wheat is much better suited for the baking of bread.
Paris (France) = 48 degrees north = (51-48= 3x111Km=333Km/+200Miles south from here.) 200 Miles is a big difference!

Po Valley in Italy is 45 degrees north. Thats + 666Km/400 miles. (At the same height as the South of France.)
Lots of grape orchard, with grapes with a sugar contend higher than in the Netherlands will ever be possible.

In the Netherlands we go on vacation direction France / Italy because of the nice weather. And that's not for nothing:
Here the wind direction determines the weather. On the one hand sea, and on the other hand land ensures
that the weather is extremely hit and miss.


 
Cristo Balete
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R. Ranson wrote: hopes that some moisture might penetrate the mulch and get into the soil. Without mulch, the morning dew can get into the soil, but with the mulch, the moisture just stays on the surface of the mulch and evaporates off quickly.


I see. I get a lot of dew as well, and the top mulch actually absorbs that, even though it looks like it's disappearing.

But the real moisture mulch is keeping in the soil is the moisture down underground. If the mulch is at least 6" deep, (more if you've got it) it will shrink to a dense 3" or 4" and will keep the underground moisture in the soil. Yes, the top of the mulch is dry, but if you feel the top of the soil at the bottom of the mulch, it will be damp, unless there's been more than 15 dry and sunny days, or really dry windy days. Then it's time to add more mulch, as many inches as you can manage. You've got enough mulch when the top of the soil stays damp. I even walk on new thick mulch sometimes to press it down. It does not press down the soil underneath because there's a lot of mulch, but it avoids air and sunlight getting through it.


Then the mulch rots, worms come up into it, it is a working compost "pile". I've actually stopped even having a compost pile. I just spread it all out and heap on the mulch.

I start using drippers in about mid-May, but in a normal rain year I rarely have to add water before that, except on new transplants.

 
R Ranson
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These are great ideas for most places. I've done a lot of trials with mulch here, and um... well... have only had one success. I'm still doing trials. The biggest problem is that the mulch keeps the soil too wet in the winter, thus suffocates the plant roots, and too dry in the summer, preventing what little moisture there is from getting to the roots. We get about 160 to 170 days without rain, or if there is rain, it's usually less than 2mm at a time (and only then about 1 or 2 days out of a month).

I see so many people celebrate mulch. And that's great. It's obviously working for them. But I'm with Carol Deppe on this, mulch isn't for everyone.

I haven't given up on mulch altogether. I'm hoping it might be useful in a fukuoka style grain patch. It will take a few years to see if there is any benefit to it, and with luck, it will work.
 
Cristo Balete
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R. Ranson, yeah, we share the same dry periods, and sounds like you have the similar wet clay as I do. For what it's worth, here's what happened to me. I struggled a lot with the clay until I started mulching it very deeply, 10" all the time. Clay will be saturated in winter whether we've got mulch on it or not. I slipped on my can many's the time on that slick, wet clay!

What made the biggest difference is finding what plants will work in wet clay. I don't think it's possible to really change the clay as far as how wet it gets in winter. In my wet clay I found that Victoria Rhubarb does much better than other kinds. Took me several years to figure that one out. Heirloom chards and dinosaur kale work best. I got fruit tree rootstocks claiming they worked better in damp clay soils, but my healthiest fruit trees are on their own roots, and yet those were the ones that made it. Jersey Giant asparagus. Some types of plant just can't do wet clay. I don't think it's the fault of the mulch. I've even got blueberries growing in dense clay, which they wouldn't do, thanks to years of mulch breaking down around their roots. Not all the types I tried made it, but the ones that did are doing really well.

I keep mulch over wet clay, even in winter, to help suppress early spring weeds and feed the worms. I've had squash seeds overwinter and volunteer in that thick mulch in March. Surprised the heck outta me! If a perennial doesn't make it after two years, it is usually the clay that is the culprit. Although I like the clay, it's great stuff, but the little transplants and available perennials in nurseries aren't always the ones that work.

You've seen those great air tunnels the worms leave, that helps aerate the clay even in winter. But worms need mulch and tiny organic matter to pass through their systems. It might take them 6 months to a year to show up. But I've never seen worms in clay up with the plant roots without mulch over the top. The clay I left exposed to the sun that got crusty just never is productive.

 
Dave de Basque
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I really would urge you to push the envelope a bit and actually try rice!

Ben Falk of Whole Systems Design in mid-northern Vermont seems to be very happy growing rice in his location, which of course was "impossible" according to conventional wisdom. See a video of his in the "All time FAVE permaculture videos" thread (third one down, "Regenerative Landscapes") where he discusses his discovery of rice as an appropriate crop for his location, among many other interesting things.

I know Vermont is a measly 44 degrees N latitude, but Vermont does have very, very, long and bitter cold winters, much harsher than you get in the balmy coastal south of Holland. So maybe if you find a variety that grows in Vermont, Manchuria or on Hokkaido, and is not too sensitive to day length, the experiment will work. It would certainly propel you to rock star status among your local gardeners, perhaps you can convert the whole of the Netherlands over to permaculture. Sounds like a fun experiment anyway, hey -- life is short, no?

I read on an otherwise uniformative thread on another site that rice needs 3 months a year of nighttime temperatures over 15C, and Wikipedia says that Rotterdam at least qualifies in that regard.

In addition to varieties already mentioned, you can of course call up Ben Falk and ask him what varieties he plants, and for what it's worth I ran across an article from a Japanese PR agency that did a project to promote Hokkaido rice that mentions the variety Kirara 397.

I really want to grow rice where I am one day, no one I speak to has ever heard of such a thing around here, but at only 43N that will not be an earth-shaking accomplishment by any means, just a lot of fun.

I hope you go for it!
 
John Weiland
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@Dave Forrest, Thank you for that information! This is where a forum like Permies.com really excels IMHO.....great information that cascades as more is added. When my wife and I first moved to our property which is bisected by a slow moving river, the water-way had wild rice so thick that we joked about driving an amphibious combine down the middle of the river in order to harvest the rice like the wheat and barley in the region. Now I'm thinking I might live to see the day when specialty rice varieties might be grown here as a complement to the wheat production. And as a home gardener, I'm hoping to see heirloom rice varieties pop up similar to the kind of heirloom soybean offerings shown here: http://www.victoryseeds.com/search.asp?keyword=soybean
 
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Cristo Balete wrote:R. Ranson, yeah, we share the same dry periods, and sounds like you have the similar wet clay as I do. For what it's worth, here's what happened to me. I struggled a lot with the clay until I started mulching it very deeply, 10" all the time. Clay will be saturated in winter whether we've got mulch on it or not. I slipped on my can many's the time on that slick, wet clay!


No clay here. Have to dig 20 feet to find clay.. and that's in the valley. We're on the ridge.

We're on a ridge that was left by a glacier. It's rocks, sand, rocks, more sand, and more rocks. Topsoil is about 1/4 inch thick except where we built it up. Basically, we have great drainage. It makes winter gardening possible, so long as we don't hold too much moisture in the soil, but tough in the summer. The water just wicks away through the soil rather than evaporating... so mulch not so good for most of the farm. Got more trials to do as I suspect it might be useful for soil build up around perennials.

Sounds like mulch is working great for your situation. I enjoy learning about how mulch works in other parts of the world.


But back on the topic of finding a suitable grain for our OP. If it's difficult to find a grain that works, maybe it's possible to create one. Landrace varieties are surprisingly easy to create, and there are some good threads on the topic around the permies.com
 
Cristo Balete
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R. Ranson, rocks, yeah, that's tough. Could it be the case that your water table is so high in the winter that the roots are going into water and rocks? Is there standing water not far below the surface?
 
John Weiland
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One source in the U.S. (in addition to Seed Savers Exchange) for a northern adapted rice: http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/?item=4312

 
R Ranson
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Cristo Balete wrote:R. Ranson, rocks, yeah, that's tough. Could it be the case that your water table is so high in the winter that the roots are going into water and rocks? Is there standing water not far below the surface?


There is standing water on the surface for much of the winter. In the summer, the water is near enough 40 feet down, in a dry year, much lower.

Getting back to the original topic... This side conversation about mulch, soil and water tables, really highlights how different each location is. Only by experimenting and observing can we discover what works where. My thoughts for Vincent is that it's worth while to try everything. Get some of all the types of grain you think might work and grow them. We can recommend all sorts of things, however, it's no substitute for actually growing the stuff.
 
Vincent Berg
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John Weiland wrote:One source in the U.S. (in addition to Seed Savers Exchange) for a northern adapted rice: http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/?item=4312

Thanks John
 
Vincent Berg
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Dave Forrest wrote:
In addition to varieties already mentioned, you can of course call up Ben Falk and ask him what varieties he plants,


I have sent an email to Ben Falk two days ago.
Asked him what rice he is cultivating...
I hope he is responding.
 
Heda Ledus
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Ben Falk likely uses an older Japanese variety from Hokkaido from the USDA, that being said I wouldn't use him as a great example since he doesn't seem to be growing rice all that well past his first try from what I gathered from people. Would like to see some outside party taking in harvest yields.

The Japanese couple in Vermont that started the whole New England rice movement are exceptional sources of information, they host the Northeast USA Rice Conference another source that seems to get ignored as well is the Bhutanese refugee community who grew rice in Vermont who've been growing 1K+ lbs in a year as of '13. Not many updates from them but I'd argue they've made some of the highest yields so far that north.

There is a Russian upland rice that was grown in Illinois, you can find it almost anywhere with rice seed for sale though.
 
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