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How to start a small grain field

 
Mike Jay
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I have an existing grassy field that I'd like to grow oats and wheat on.  I'm imagining two fields (maybe I need more?) that I can alternate between those two crops each year.  I've researched a fair bit and think I understand most of the process but I'm struggling with how to sow the grain.  I believe they need to be planted .5 to 1 inch deep.  I believe that depth is important to prevent lodging with the taller heirloom varieties I'm planning on.  There is this nice youtube video of a gentleman in England who plants a small plot in rows within his patch of garden.  I can't imagine doing that on a 50' by 60' field though. 

I've tried oats already in my garden by broadcasting and then trying to rake them in.  They come up very spottily and I'm not getting very good yield.  I don't have a drill or heavy equipment.  I can get a buddy to till the field for me though.  The field is currently 80% grass, 10% wildflowers and 10% vetch.  The soil is sandy loam that is fairly fertile.

So, how would you guys recommend that I get the seeds in the ground?

Thanks!!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Mike Jay wrote:a gentleman in England who plants a small plot in rows within his patch of garden.  I can't imagine doing that on a 50' by 60' field though.  [...] So, how would you guys recommend that I get the seeds in the ground?


An Earthway seeder would make short work of planting a field that size...  I really like planting grain in rows, rather than by broadcasting, because it makes weeding much easier for me...  Basically when I plant via broadcasting, then I don't weed and yields are lower, and it's harder to harvest the grain. An advantage of using a seeder, is that the seed goes into the ground even more aligned in a row than digging a furrow and planting by hand within the furrow. The more aligned I can get the seeds while planting, the easier it is to weed later on. Since planting is easy, and weeding is hard, I tend to like to put more effort into seeding if it results in easier weeding later on.

Here's photos of what a couple of my grain patches looked like a few days ago.

A patch of wheat planted via broadcast: Plenty of bindweed, fennel, and prickly lettuce.


A patch of rye planted in rows spaced 1 foot apart. Weeds have been kept in check. (How about those fava beans in the foreground? My best crop ever!)
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Joseph!  I have seen those seeders mentioned in books but didn't think about them for grains.  Duh    So if you say the EarthWay will work with grain seeds, it's a no brainer.  They seem to run $75-90 on craigslist around here so I'll keep my eyes open.  Have you tried any other brands with good or bad results?
 
Jack Edmondson
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Mike,

Joseph has more experience than I do and gives you good advice.  I would add that planting too deep (for any seed) is the primary reason for germination problems.  The old rule of thumb is no deeper than 7 times the diameter of the seed.  If your buddy plows make sure you level out the ground and firm the seed bed; or it will be easy to get too deep.  Also plowing deep will disturb and stimulate seeds (weeds) that you would rather not have compete with your crop.  It may be worth considering lightly disturbing the row you will plant; perhaps with a hoe or rake.  Then coming through with a planter as above. 
 
R Ranson
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If you're planting an over winter grain like (some) wheat, rye, maybe even oats, you could till the field right now and plant something like buckwheat or a nice nitrogen fixing green manures.  Till this under in the fall before planting (or for less tilling, one could broadcast the seeds from the fall crop, then scythe the buckwheat to act as a mulch).  That way, the soil will improve and there will be less weeds to battle with during your first year.

One idea would be to till now, buckwheat as a green manure, till again in fall, then a winter crop like fava or fall rye.  Till it under in spring.  But that's a lot of tilling.  Tilling too much can harm the soil and let's face it, it's a pain to have to organize someone to come around and till the field three times a year.

I have a section I'm keen to grow grain on.  Directly entering into no-till grain raising was a bit of a flop.  I got a harvest, but not one worth crowing about.  I think, to do it again, I would probably green manure and till a few times the first year, then once the next year, then enter into no-till Fukuoka style grain growing.  I would very much like to find a crop cycle I can grow two staple crops a year on the same patch.  One grain and one pulse.  more on my no-till dreams here
 
eric koperek
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TO:  Mike Jay
FROM:  Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:  Sowing Wheat & Oats in Grass
DATE:  PM 4:20 Saturday 23 July 2016
TEXT:

(1)     MOW, SOW, & ROTOTILL:     Mow standing weeds with a flail mower, rotary mower, forage chopper, or common lawnmower.  The idea is to cut weeds and grasses into small pieces easily incorporated into the soil by a rototiller with REAR TINES.  Next, broadcast small grain seeds with a rotary seeder.  You can also broadcast lime and fertilizer if needed.  Rototill 2 inches deep.  Make one (1) pass only!  Your "pancake garden" will look trashy and awful but will produce a good crop.  Irrigate immediately or wait for rain.  Expect about 40 bushels of wheat per acre = 2,400 pounds per acre in average soil with at least 40 inches rainfall.  This method works with both spring and fall planting.  For fall planting, delay seeding until the Hessian Fly Date for your area.  Broadcast winter grain and Dutch White Clover seed at the same time.

(2)     SOW & MOW:     This works best with PELLETED SEED and FALL PLANTING.  Delay planting until after the Hessian Fly Date for your area.  Call your County Extension Agent to get the correct Hessian Fly Date for your farm.  Broadcast winter wheat and Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) into standing weeds.  You can also broadcast lime if needed.  Sow clover at 12 pounds per acre.  Immediately mow field with a SICKLE BAR MOWER or roll with a ROLLER-CRIMPER to cover and protect seed.  Do NOT use flail mower, rotary mower, forage chopper, or common lawn mower for this operation.  You want the grasses and weeds left whole = in big, long pieces = not cut up into tiny bits.  Whole plants cut or rolled provide best cover and protection for germinating seeds.  Irrigate immediately or wait for rain.  Expect about 24 to 28 bushels (1,440 to 1,600 pounds) of wheat per acre in average soils with 40 or more inches rainfall. 

(3)     Note:  To put these yields in perspective, conventional farmers now harvest about 100 bushels (6,000 pounds) of wheat per acre using chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, desiccants, hybrid varieties, tractors, no-till planters, irrigation, and large quantities of petroleum (about 1/3 gallon of oil per bushel of wheat).  Planting in weeds makes economic sense only because there are almost no input costs other than seed and 2 passes across a field (1 for seeding / mowing, and 1 for harvest).  Low input costs reduce economic risk.  Thus, growing grain in weeds often provides more income than conventionally cultivated grains. 

ERIC KOPEREK

end comment.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Mike Jay wrote:Have you tried any other brands with good or bad results?


I plant most of my fields with a stick/tube seeder. But I'm only planting hundreds of row-feet at a time, not thousands. I haven't tried any seeders other than tube seeder and Earthway.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks R, Joseph, Jack and Eric!  I'm torn between two of the ideas presented: tilling and then seeding in proper rows OR mowing, broadcasting and tilling 2" deep.

In my climate I believe I need to go with spring wheat so the grain sowing will happen in the early spring.  I like the guaranteed seeds/inch/row elements of Joseph's method but I would have to round up a seeder.  I like the simplicity of Eric's tilling method but I'm not sure what percentage of the seeds would be at a good depth (and not get destroyed by the tiller tines). 

I'm not sure if a cover crop would help if I have nature's cover crop on the site now (grass+flowers).  But I could probably get it tilled up now and plant some winter killing cover crop for the fall and then rake some rows open in the spring for the seeder.  But I'm not sure if that's any better than letting the field sit till spring.  I guess the winter kill debris would be nice mulch.  It's a well draining soil so I'm not worried about getting equipment in and out.

Thanks for the ideas and if anyone has more inspiration, pile it on

Here's a picture of my buddy tilling the garden last May.  The potential field is the same type of ground in the distance past the people.  (faces obscured to protect the innocent)
DSC01415mod.jpg
[Thumbnail for DSC01415mod.jpg]
Tilling the field in mid May
 
R Ranson
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Something to think about - the optimum depth changes depending on the weather, time of year, and all sorts of factors.  Carol Deppe in her book Resilient Gardner advocates sloppy seeding and sewing 4 times as much seed as necessary.  Broadcast and rake in ensures that at least some of the seeds will be at the right depth.

That said, I'm moving away from broadcast next year and plan to use a seeder something like Joseph.  I'll still broadcast my cover crop but probably not my main grains.
 
Mike Jay
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I was watching an industrial ag training class (from Canada) last night where they echoed the wheat farmer tradition of "planting into moisture".  He didn't describe it fully but it sounded like you plant as deep as you need to in order to get to damp soil.  He said wheat will grow even if you plant it 6" deep but it will take a while to come up.

My broadcast and rake attempt in my well maintained garden beds gave very spotty results.  If I'd've put down even more seed it would have been too thick in areas and probably still too thin in others.  Doing the same in a roughly tilled field with debris probably would be even more challenging (for me and my methods).

For my climate, moisture usually isn't a problem in the spring and early summer.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Wheat and oats really aren't different enough to be a good rotation.  You could grow clover or beans on half the field and oats and wheat  each on a  fourth. The legumes would make nitrogen for the grasses.

If you plant winter winter wheat, you can broadcast Lespedeza seed on it in late winter. This followed by soybeans the next spring,then planted in wheat that fall was once a very common rotation here. This might work with spring wheat and oats, but I haven't tried it.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Mike Jay wrote:the wheat farmer tradition of "planting into moisture". 


I love the Earthway seeder, because it has that roller behind the seeder that compresses the ground well, so that the seed stays moist rather than having loose/fluffy soil to immediately dry out. When I plant by any other method, I trample the row very well, so that the soil moisture gets in close contact with the seed.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Ken, I forgot about the rotation bit of my original post.  I'm not sure I have the room for more field, or the dietary discipline for a smaller yield...  But maybe I can figure it out.  I don't know the normal planting and harvest times for my area (not many grain farmers around my parts) but based on my little oat patch in the garden it seems like I can harvest in early to mid August.  Which would maybe leave time for a fall cover crop.  If that was a N fixer would that take care of my rotational needs?  Year 1: Spring oats, fall cover;  Year 2: spring wheat, fall cover:  Lather rinse repeat

I'm not up on my winter killing nitrogen fixers that can handle deer pressure.  Maybe austrian winter peas or some other cool weather legume?  I'm a little leery of clover since it wouldn't winter kill and I'd have to deal with it in the spring to plant the new crop.
 
Ken W Wilson
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I really like my Earthway seeder too. I haven't used it for grain. Which plate do you use?

I've always broadcast wheat and oats without any problems. I tilled them in. I was only growing them for a cover crop though,
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Austrian winter peas are not suitable for my climate... Around here, the Austrian winter peas would survive the winter, but they don't grow much over winter. And I want my bed ready for planting the spring wheat within a couple days of snow melt... Perhaps something like fava beans that will winter kill? (Grocery store seed often grows great.) Or another cover crop (pinto beans?) that can be grown from August to October, to get tilled under the first of November, just before the arrival of winter snow-cover. Then the field would be ready for planting as soon as the snow melts.

I use like 40 years worth of plates with different specifications for the same species. I think the Earthway seeders drop way too many seeds for most species, so I typically tape over every other hole or two holes in three. It's easier for me if I don't have to thin. I don't remember which plate I use (maybe radish?). If in doubt, I run it on the driveway to see how it distributes seeds before planting in the garden.

 
eric koperek
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TO:  Mike Jay
FROM:  Eric Koperek
SUBJECT:  Planting Small Grains into Standing Weeds
DATE:     PM 3:28 Monday 25 July 2016
TEXT:

(1)     Use a rotary seeder to distribute seed.  Divide seed into 2 equal portions.  Seed up and down the length of your field, then seed side-to-side = across the width of your field.  Seeding from 2 directions gives the most even distribution of seed.  If necessary you can mix live seed with a dead = inert filler to give you more volume for accurate dispersal.  For example, mix clover seed with cornmeal or live wheat with junk wheat (baked in shallow 1 to 2 inch deep pans at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour to kill seeds). 

(2)     Alternatively, use an old-fashioned hopper type lawn spreader set at its narrowest opening.  Rototill a long strip (1 rototiller wide = 20 to 24 inches) then run the hopper spreader down the tilled strip to deposit seed (and lime or fertilizer if needed).  Rototill again 2 inches deep to cover seed.  Till and seed as many strips as you need.  Leave a wide space of sod or weeds between each strip of grain.  The empty strips can be planted with other crops or left fallow.  Growing small grains in narrow strips makes harvest easy with a sickle-bar mower (or use electric hedge trimmer with a long extension cord).

(3)     Do not worry about seeding depth.  Rototill 2 inches deep and go as fast as you can.  You will be sowing far more seed than needed.  Some seeds will get buried too deep, others too shallow, but enough seeds will germinate and survive to make a good crop.  Small grains can be sown at widely varying plant densities and will produce about the same yields.  The plants compensate by growing more or fewer tillers.  Closely spaced plants tiller less.  Widely spaced plants tiller more.  Each tiller produces grain.  You only need 1 plant per square foot to grow a bumper crop of wheat, oats, barley, rye, millet, sorghum, or rice.   

(4)     You can purchase commercially pelleted seed for surface planting (SOW & MOW).  Pelleted seed greatly increases seed survival rates by decreasing predation by ants, birds, and mice.  These critters can eat 90% or more of surface planted seeds.  Grain encapsulated in clay (like enteric coated aspirin) escape notice by seed eaters.

(5)     Fall planted grains (especially wheat and rye) grow well in Northern Wisconsin as long as the plants are well established before the first snowfall.  In areas of exceptional cold, snow provides insulation that protects plants over winter.  Ask your County Extension Agent to recommend varieties adapted to your local climate.  You can seed Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) at the same time you sow fall grains.  The clover will suppress weeds and help fertilize the grain plants.

(6)     Do not over-fertilize small grains or they will LODGE = fall over.  Apply nitrogen fertilizer most sparingly in small amounts over extended periods of time and only to growing plants.  Do not apply nitrogen fertilizer to bare earth.  Plant small grains into clover and no nitrogen fertilizer will be necessary.

(7)     Irrigation can double small grain yields.  For small scale grain growing use drip irrigation hose (made from recycled car tires).  Set hose on top of soil in the middle of each rototilled strip (about 20 to 24 inches wide).  Apply 1 inch of water weekly as needed.  Irrigate at night to prevent water loss by evaporation.

(     RULE:  Always mow before rototilling.  Never rototill any vegetation higher than your rototiller tines (6 or 8 inches).  Mowing prevents grass and weeds from clogging rototiller tines.

(9)     MOW, SOW & ROTOTILL is the functional equivalent of commercial no-till planting.  The amount of soil disturbance is about the same provided you do not till any deeper than 2 inches.  Modern no-till planters are very big and very expensive = not suited to small farmers or gardeners.  One shallow pass with a rototiller is as close as you can get to no-till agronomy with small machinery that most folks can afford.

(10)     There is another way to grow small grains:  SOW & MOW.  This works best with pelleted seed, fall planting, and very weedy fields.  Look for the weediest field you can find.  Dense, luxuriant, high weeds are best, especially broad leaf weeds.  Look for thistles as these plants indicate good soil.  Fertilize and water your weeds if necessary (just like a mixed species cover crop).  Ideal weeds are 5 to 6 feet high = what you want is a JUNGLE of weeds.  Broadcast winter wheat and Dutch White Clover into standing weeds.  (Wade through the weeds and do the best you can).  Mow weeds immediately with a sickle bar mower as close to the soil surface as possible (or use a roller-crimper if available).  Do NOT use any other kind of mower = you want the weeds WHOLE = undamaged = in big, long pieces = not cut up into little bits.  Chopped weeds won't work.  You need a surface mat of whole weeds (just like hay) to protect seed and suppress weed growth.  Grain and clover will grow up through weed mulch.  Surface mulch will retard weed growth for 3 to 6 weeks, just long enough for the grain and clover to put down roots.  Once the grain and clover are well established they will out grow or overwhelm most weeds.  Dutch White Clover acts as a living mulch, a green blanket that smothers most weeds.  Any weeds that escape both clover and grain won't matter.  I don't bother to weed my fields; weeds increase field biodiversity = provide food and shelter for beneficial insects that protect grain from pests.  In Austria, Northern France, Northern New York, Northern Michigan, Northern Germany, Denmark and similar climates with 40 or more inches of rainfall yearly, Sow & Mow winter grain and clover yield 24 to 28 bushels = 1,440 to 1,680 pounds per acre on average.  With irrigation and fertile soil yields can reach or surpass 40 bushels (2,400 pounds) per acre.

ERIC KOPEREK

end comment
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Eric, that's a lot of great information.  I just got off the phone with the county extension guy a couple counties south of me.  No one grows grain in my area (tree/lake country) so I had to call down to "farm country".

He said that most grain farmers around there do spring wheat, not winter wheat.  Red is also the more common variety.  As for oats I'll likely go with the hulless ones for ease of processing.  He confirmed a normal harvest time of early to mid August for oats and wheat respectively.

I asked about crop rotation and he said that oats and wheat don't share many/any diseases except for rust.  Oats are light feeders and wheat likes some Nitrogen.  So he suggested a three field rotation of Legumes -->Wheat -->Oats. 

Of the planting methods above, he liked the seeder better than the tiller but I'm sure he has a bit more experience with commercial planting techniques.

I'll have to chat with my buddy to see if he can run his tiller on my land.  Last time he realized his insurance didn't cover him for use away from his house.

Lastly, we discussed winter killing cover crops and the only things he could think of were turnips or radishes to act as organic matter and a food plot for the local venison.  Probably not much weed suppression with them. 
 
Simone Gar
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Mike, did you get this figured out? I am kind of toying with the idea as I will have a bare, cultivated field in spring that is too big to plant at once. It's about 1 acre and I am thinking if I could crop it for a few seasons before I have a more permanent/perennial plan established.
 
Mike Jay
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Not yet.  I harvested my hulless oats and have a couple pounds of seed stock.  I know where the field will be and I've sized it to match the common size of tarps that I can buy around here (29' by 39').  That way I can use tarps to do weed killing pre planting or post harvest.  I think I'll just have it tilled up in the spring and then plant by rows.  I'll use a seeder if I can borrow one (haven't found the right friend yet) or plant it the hard way by hand.

One other option that has arisen though is that there's a farm supply place an hour away from here where they apparently sell 100 lb bags of organic wheat and oats for $30 a bag.  It is "animal grade" so I'm not sure if there's any reason it wouldn't be good enough for people?  So now the only reasons I can come up with to grow grains myself are:
1.  Feeling of self sufficiency
2.  Avoidance of modern grain genetics (I heard something happened to the wheat chromosomes in the 50's when they selected for better yield and shorter stalks) (I don't know if that's the case, just heard it in a few places)
3.  I'd save $30
4.  On-site supply of straw

So I'll debate the pros and cons this winter with the missus and see if we go for it or not.  Sorry I don't have a better answer for you.
 
eric koperek
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TO:  Mike Jay
FROM:  Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:  Small Scale Grain Growing
DATE:  PM 7:22 Thursday 1 September 2016
TEXT:

(1)  Winter grains will grow in your climate.  You get lots of snow (which covers and insulates plants) and your climate is warmer than here in Austria (where we grow both spring and winter grains).  I advise you to plant winter wheat AND Dutch White Clover = Trifolium repens together at the same time.  My family have planted grain this way for hundreds of years.  It's just about idiot proof.  Expect 40 bushel = 2,400 pound per acre yields on average soils in climates with 40 to 45 inches of rainfall yearly.

(2)  RULE:  Never follow a grain crop with another grain crop.  Wheat followed by oats is not a good idea.  Wheat followed by clover is a much better choice and will improve your soil's fertility and organic matter content.

(3)  You can plant SPRING OATS late in the season as a winter cover crop.  The first snow will kill the oats and you will have a nice, clean field for early season planting.

(4)  Similarly, you can plant long rooted Daikon Japanese Radish = tillage radish in late summer or early fall.  The radish will winter kill leaving a clean field (with thousands of rain intercepting holes) for spring planting.  Frost seed grain and clover together at the first opportunity in spring.  You won't even have to till the ground -- just broadcast seed over your field.  The radish does the "plowing" for you leaving soft soil ideal for grain growing.  See:  Tillage Radish Primer at www.worldagriculturesolutions.com

(5)  Tall growing (Heritage) varieties of wheat (or other small grains) grow best when planted with clover companion crops.

(6)  Yes, it is possible to grow grain and vegetables together on the same field.  The Chinese have done this for many centuries now, especially in Northern wheat growing areas.  Space wheat rows widely = 15 inches apart and plant vegetables between grain rows. 

(7)  Do NOT plant "feed" oats or "feed" wheat for human consumption.  Feed grains are specifically bred for animals -- or -- you get a grab-bag assortment of whatever the seed seller wants to get rid of.  Only purchase NAMED VARIETIES of wheat for bread flour.  Wheat varieties are specially selected and bred for baking quality.  Feed wheat is not intended for flour manufacture so baking quality is usually poor.

(  Naked seeded oats are a good choice.  Austrian farmers have planted hull-less oats (for oatmeal) and hulled oats (for animal food) since the Middle Ages.  Look for naked oat varieties that are HAIRLESS as this makes processing much more convenient.

(9)  Speaking as a plant breeder I can tell you that nobody has sabotaged the wheat genome in the 1950's or later.  This is just another urban myth propagated by anti-wheat and anti-gluten zealots who know less about science than the average Pilgrim.  It takes many generations of selection and crossing to develop a new variety of wheat, corn, or other grain crop.  The average time required to produce a new variety is 15 years.  Since the turn of the century plant breeders have selected wheat for shorter plants (more resistant to lodging = falling over), increased disease resistance (like wheat rust), and improved baking quality (higher volume sandwich loaves).  Wheat is not a Frankenstein food created with evil intent. 

(10)  Please write to me if you have any questions regarding the safety of your planting seeds.  Fortunately, Monsanto & Friends have yet to meddle with commercial wheat varieties so GMO wheat is not a problem you need to worry about for the moment.  Personally, I am frightened by current GMO technology because I know more about it than most folks.  I make a good living as a consultant to farmers and ranchers with herd health problems directly caused by feeding GMO corn. 

ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment
 


 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Eric, that is some more wonderful information.  I believe we are a fair bit colder here than in Austria though.  I don't have great data for the whole world but one site I found lists the average January temps in Vienna around 0C.  My area is around -8C.  I don't know where in Austria you are so maybe Vienna is the warm spot   Do you think I'd still be able to grow winter wheat at these temperatures?

My extension agent said that wheat consumes a lot of nutrients but oats don't.  Would it be bad to plant oats, follow with wheat and then follow with clover?  Failing that, what about oats with a fall crop of tillage radish, then wheat, then clover, then back to oats on year 4?

I didn't realize there was such a thing as spring oats (for a cover crop).  Would the hulless oats work as a fall cover crop?

Is there a way to use clover in a crop rotation or interplanted with wheat and then be able to kill it at the end of the season without tilling?

Thanks for the warning on the Feed Grain not being good for cooking.  I kind of assumed wheat is wheat....   Thanks!!

Thanks also for the genome change info.  In the presentation I was attending, it was described as a side effect of the normal plant breeding humans have always been doing (not GMO or evil).  They said that the number of chromosomes in the wheat changed as they did their variety development.  Then the assumption by the presenter was that a change in the number of chromosomes would likely not be a good thing. 
 
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I don't know a whole lot about growing grains, but in Ladakh, the traditional rotations was legumes, then barley, then wheat. They are all spring - autumn crops, as I think it's too cold for overwintering crops. Sme parts of Ladakh are too cold/short season for wheat, and then they just grow peas for fodder, followed by barley and back again. Some people put some mustard for oil into the rotation too, I guess.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Maybe this isn't the right thread for this, I got here through the daily.  I want to mention a type  of wheat called kamut.  I think it is an ancient variety of wheat, maybe propagated out off grain found in an Egyptian tomb or pyramid.  It is lower in gluten than modern wheat, but does have enough to make yeast bread.

I had a friend visiting and we like to do taste tests.  Her parents came from the east coast and she from the west to meet up at my house.  Neither my friend nor I eat much grain, but we do love  home made bread, and with that many to eat it, it seemed like a great opportunity for a taste test.  I got a bag each of kamut, spelt, and bronze chief (Montana, USA wheat). 

We made three separate loaves so we could discover if there was any difference in the flavor or character of the three grains.

They did not smell different in the grinding.  The kamut flour was a golden color which followed through into the bread.  The spelt was remarkably sour, as if we had used a sourdough starter, good flavor, and great to know if you don't want to mess with the sourdough.  And the wheat was very good, as that Montana wheat is very good.

My favorite now is the kamut, and if you are growing your own, you certainly have the opportunity to choose what ever variety you want.

For those who might grow more than they use, Kamut is more expensive, which is always a wonderful thing when you are on the selling end of the deal/
 
Bernard Welm
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks Eric, that is some more wonderful information.  I believe we are a fair bit colder here than in Austria though.  I don't have great data for the whole world but one site I found lists the average January temps in Vienna around 0C.  My area is around -8C.  I don't know where in Austria you are so maybe Vienna is the warm spot   Do you think I'd still be able to grow winter wheat at these temperatures?


You will not have any issue with winter wheat in WI, I am quite sure that is what is normally grown in the northern prairies and into Canada. The best reason to do Winter Wheat is because it gets a head start in the spring. The plants are growing already so they will be able to produce the wheat sooner (great for shorter summer seasons).
 
Nick Kitchener
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Hello all,
So Kamut is a trademarked name for Khorasan emmer that has been selectively bred for large grain size. I grow the original, obtained from a gene bank in Canada and while it is growing out to usable quantity I have been practicing baking with Kamut. I've found that the flour has quite a high absorption rate which means more water is needed in the dough, and I use it for 25% of the dry ingredients. I particularly like the effect it has on crust formation - nice and crunchy.

I've done a lot of reading and experimentation on growing small grains, and in small plots I have found seed tape to be a very productive method of planting as you can space the seeds with exact spacing and in a triangular format as opposed to a grid format, meaning that you get more plants per square foot while retaining optimum growing density.  You can then plant the bed at an exact depth rather quickly.

We have 4 months of snow here so the time consuming exercise of making seed tape is performed in the depths of winter.

Planting densities vary according to your growing conditions, but a 3 inch spacing is what you're aiming for as a general ballpark. One year I planted twice as dense as that and ended up with half the seed I started with. I've found that 1 seed every 3 inches is great. Don't double seed. Small grains tend to have high germination rates, and any that don't germinate will simply provide a bit of growing space for the surrounding plants. BTW, a barley or wheat plant will grow multiple heads of grain if given the chance.

Planting depth also varies depending on a lot of variable. The general rule here is 1 to 2 inches deep and the intent is for the seed to remain moist during germination but not so deep that the seedling can't reach the surface. With a wet, or clay soil, then you can go shallower, with sandy soil, you go deep.

This past season, I conducted some rather strange experiments and had some very interesting results. I have a particular heritage malting barley that grows extremely fast, and tall. This year it suffered from major wind and rain lodging, and although it looked terrible, it was still the highest yielding grain crop of the 7 small grains I grow. With this variety, I tried sowing directly into my lawn, with the hypothesis that the grass root mat would provide an excellent living mulch to lock in moisture as long as I could get the seed down below the root layer, and the seedling could emerge before the root mass closed over the entry hole. I used a lawn edging tool to slice through the root mat, and create a wedge shaped slot. I then planted the seed at 2 inch depth using a tube and a cable tie on the end as a spacing guide. I did this into dry ground just before rain was to come. I wanted the ground to be dry and "shrunken" so that when the moisture came, it would swell the soil and close up the planting cuts.

Barley takes 10 to 14 days to emerge after planting, and so 10 to 14 days later, I mowed over the area with my lawn mower so that the emerging seedlings would get some sun. 21 days later I couldn't see any barley (it looks just like grass so it was not as simple as it seems), and I figured that the experiment failed so I mowed the lawn again, and continued mowing every two weeks through the summer.

Then I missed a few weeks due to rain, and when I finally got around to mowing, lo and behold there is very clearly barley growing in my lawn! So I let it grow, and this barley has grown 3 ft tall, and has stiff, thick stalks. The same barley in my growing beds is 5ft tall and badly lodged. The number of plants in my lawn is low, but this might be due to my mowing. I'm going to have to see next season, but I did harvest more than I planted.

A thing worth noting with spring barley is that it is very frost hardy because the growth node is actually below the soil surface. Studies have found that planting as early as possible in the season produces a higher quality product, and so this year I planted as soon as there was enough thawed ground to plant into. That is to say, the ground was still frozen 3 inches under the surface in places. We got snow before and after the seedlings emerged, and they were just fine. The implications here is that you have more time at the other end of the season to grow cover crops in the space post harvest. It also means that with my heritage barley, I can feasibly mow it a few weeks to a month after it has emerged and still get a harvest. It might be an effective technique for managing lodging, and encouraging the plants to "bush out" and send up multiple heads.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Great idea Nick, planting the grain right in the lawn.

I could not tell, but I think by the end of your post you were talking about sowing in the fall for the next spring, and that's what I want to say yes to.  Wheat and barley do overwinter in my experience, and what I like about doing it that way is that the plant can decide for itself when conditions are right for it.  My spring is variable, with some years moist and some not.  I don't get irrigation water until the middle of April.  If it is a dry spring, then I wait to plant, but if it is a moist one, then things planted the previous fall can start when ever they are ready.

When I bake with kamut, I make the no knead bread recipe you cook in a closed heavy pan like a cast iron dutch oven, a romertopf, a crock and pyrex lid from a crock pot.

I don't notice the moisture differential you mention, but I grind right before I use the flour, and it may be coarser than purchased flour.  Since it does not rest in the flour phase, it may have more moisture to begin with, but when I switched from bought flour to grinding at home (using wheat) I did not notice a difference in the moisture, or make any kind of adjustment in the recipe.  It is lovely stuff, kamut.  I am planning to plant some (right out of the bag of kamut I grind) this fall.
 
Nick Kitchener
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I plant spring barley in the spring because although winter wheat does survive here, winter barley does poorly.

The challenge with planting and letting the seed decide when the best time to germinate is if the period is long, and mould destroys the seed. In the spring, I plant as soon as the soil at 2 inches deep measures 8 degrees Celsius (46.5). This together with moisture is the germination condition for barley.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Nick,
What are your winter conditions?  Here I think mold would have a hard time getting the seeds, as our ground freezes ~ mid December and thaws about March, maybe Feb.  My ground has a very gentle slope to the north, so my ground is slower than other places.  If we don't have snow cover the bigger problem is critters eating the seeds.  I just plan on that.
 
Nick Kitchener
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I live in zone 3, on the North shore of Lake Superior.

We have permanent snow on the ground from November through to the beginning of April, and in spring, the snow mold is everywhere. It makes for a very damp spring until the ground thaws and can drain properly.

For people unfamiliar with zone 3, we get temperatures (without wind chill) in late January down to -40. With the wind chill it's much colder. In weather like that, you can throw a pot of boiling water into the air, and the water completely evaporates to steam before any hits the ground. For almost 6 months of the year, all microbial action stops, and everything is frozen solid. My deep freeze is actually warmer than outside a lot of the time.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I'd like to try that pot of boiling water thing.  I thought you were going to say it would freeze before it hit the ground.  Either way it's outside of my experience.

Hard to believe that snow mold could live in those conditions, but that's fungi for you!
 
Nick Kitchener
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