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Growing & perserving grains and pulses organicly???

 
Jeff Hodgins
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Problem#1

I have been growing from 1-5 acers of corn and pole beans each year in the way I learned from the Mexicans (deep till and frequent cultivation). Due to the fact that I don't own the land and can't get more than a one year lease, I can't do much to make the land better.

Current suloution

Now that I own a small farm I plan to stop renting at least for this year and grow the corn and beans using a no till method. I do still move the soil but only localy (I take a large hoe and make a hole about a foot around and eight inches deep). I would rather mulch but I just dont have enough mulch to do the job yet. When the corn gets to be about two feet tall I cut the fodder from around the hole then hoe and shake the soil from the plants surounding it into the center. This covers the weeds near the plants. The hole is now about 20 inches in diamiter and 3 inches deep. I then sow other plants in a circle around the corn, bean and sometimes squash patch. I have been exparimenting with sowing the following plants at this stage, a fodder pea called evo (in spanish{there are winter and summer evos}), wheat, oats, sorghum, clover, ryegrass, swiss chard and quinoa. We had hard frost this fall and only the corn and beans produced much but the other plants survived and may still produce something now that the frosts have passed.
Ultimatly I want to do something similar only with mulch.

Problem #2

I still use insecticide, If I dont the grasshoppers will just eat all the corn's leaves and there's a green beatle that sucks the beans flowers and they all just fall off and I get few beans. . There is also a bean burrower in many of the dry beans and I have to fumagate both grain and pulse while in storage to keep them from turning to dust. 

Current soulution

Chickens controle the grasshoppers but; only on my home farm (one acre). They dont seem to eat the beatles so I settle for reduced yeilds.
 
                                              
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  1. Im not sure the issue with number one. Is it that you cant fertilize the rented land due to costs? because if your not renting it, then theres no problem?

    for a cheap fertilizer you can brew some compost tea. it actually works rather well, even if you dont take it to the scale many do. it seems to be readily available to plants.

    you can also dilute urine 10 parts water to one part urine. this is a perfectly safe practice, if no one you use it from has disease, and you might not want to take it from a women during certain parts of the month. though im sure a controversial one.

    im having trouble picturing what you described here on the rest of the first part.

  2. i had a huge grass hopper problem also. and it accounts for 95 percent of my pest issues to date. the first year, I actually just caught them with a pillow case...  i was feeding them to a horny toad actually. hes still around but doesnt let me feed him anymore.

    you could clear an area around the plants you want to protect. No weeds or anything. mulch or stone ok of course, but no plants. 10 feet or more. It creates somwhat of a buffer zone, though might not work for all set ups. tilling in late fall, and early spring can expose their eggs to the air. Issue is, they lay them everywhere, especially the ignored corners. but on a farm scale thats a common tactic.

    there is also things you can spread, like NOLO Bait, which is a protozoan. It only works when they are young, but it can do pretty well. never 100 percent, but will effectively take out a huge chunk, and isnt dangerous to anything else but the hoppers as i understand it.

    youve also got diatomaceous earth. this is ancient diatom shells i believe. To humans its a soft powder, to insects its super abrasive and will cut right through their shells and dry them out. most say it is safe for worms, but some claim otherwise. It is for sure negative for other beneficial insects. But safe for humans, and no synthetics involved.

    another route is to buy i think they call them cysts, of insects that will eat your pesty ones. Like praying mantises for grasshoppers. I had them show up naturally. Youd be surprised how few it takes to keep the hoppers in check.

      then you could also use pesticides, but grow it yourself. pyrethum from chrysanthemums. It is utterly effective if used right. It breaks down well and is thought to be rather safe. it WILL kill beneficial insects though. but its better then the commercial stuff..... http://eap.mcgill.ca/agrobio/ab360-02e.htm

    Lots of other ways to deal with insects to, just not sure how much they work for grasshoppers. If anyone knows of a grasshopper trap, whether plants that attract them or actual traps id love to know. I know with farms back in the day, they had these pull behind containers for tractors that was shaped so that as they went over the fields it caught the hoppers. if you farmed grains and used machines, that would be a great tactic.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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You can add fertilizer to compost tea, but compost tea in and of itself is not considered a fertilizer, most do not consider compost a fertilizer either. I suspect that the OP does not want to put the effort into earth works and the like to bring the land from simple garden status to permaculture status because they have no claim on it and cannot be guaranteed a ROI.
 
                              
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Hi Jeff,

I’m not a commercial grower, so I don’t need to worry about yield.  There is always more than enough for us to eat and I aim to produce quality rather than quantity.  Therefore, I don’t use fertilizers, chemicals or even manure.

My situation is different from yours, in that I have plenty of mulching material.  We have 30 acres, but due to dryness, it is only possible to cultivate a small part, all the rest goes to biomass production.

I think if you improve your soil with organic matter, you will over time find that there will be a lot more organic matter grown per square foot.  We have heavy clay with very little organic contents.  Putting a thin layer of topsoil back onto the clay will do wonders.  Even just a layer of mulch will produce double the growth already in the following year.  With very good soil it is possible to farm a field without any biomass inputs from outside that field (no fertilizers either).  But this degree of fertility is typically only reached in a wet climate where you have a lot of biomass production.  In a dry climate we will need organic matter input from outside the field for producing most food crops, if we want to farm without fertilizers.

I basically use the same crops you do: the three sisters (pulses, corn, pumpkin) for dry land, and all other vegetables in my improved garden soil.  I think you should try to experiment with different crops including weeds and grass, to figure out what will produce the greatest amount of biomass in your area.  It also depends very much on when you cut weeds or grass.  Green grass will disintegrate rapidly and leave the soil exposed; fully grown dry grass will cover the soil for many months.  I don’t worry about weeds anymore, since I decided to grow with weeds and not against them.  I just cut when necessary.  I usually broadcast corn, pulses and pumpkins into the tall grass; then cover the whole with mulching material cut from another field.  I do this in April or May when we still have enough irrigation water, so I place a sprinkler on the field for a couple of days to make sure the seeds germinate without soil-contact. Pre-germination is also possible with most pulses.

If you speak Spanish, you may also want to look into “frijol tapado”.  That is a traditional no-till method used in Latin America that doesn’t require herbicides.

I live in the South of Portugal where it gets very dry and hot during the summer.  We have a lot of pulses that will grow almost without humidity.  I use different types of dry beans, chick peas and what they call chichus around here.  I don’t know the English name.  It is a flat pulse that is almost square with round corners.  It looks a bit like the white edible lupine bean.  Anyways, it will grow even in very poor soil almost without any humidity at all.  Well, perhaps dryness is not a problem where you live.

We do have a lot of grass hoppers too, but they only pose a problem for seedlings or small plants.  I learned to place my seed boxes for growing seedlings in the shade of trees, where they don’t normally go.  They seem to prefer sunny places.  After 16 years, I have given up hope that there will be a natural predator appearing on the scene.  I think if it got worse, I would have to get farm animals.  Last year, I lost a lot of dried beans and chickpeas to worms too.  For the moment, I just wait and see what happens.  Pesticides are not an option for me.  I think when the soil improves over time, the plants will become stronger, and the problem may go away.

Cheers,
Dieter

 
Jeff Hodgins
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Dieter
Do they sprout up thruogh the mulch and how thick do you put it? I would like to try this using the little mulch I have.
Do you cut the grass before you spred the mulch?
 
                                              
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Emerson White wrote:
You can add fertilizer to compost tea, but compost tea in and of itself is not considered a fertilizer, most do not consider compost a fertilizer either. I suspect that the OP does not want to put the effort into earth works and the like to bring the land from simple garden status to permaculture status because they have no claim on it and cannot be guaranteed a ROI.


Well it can be used as a fertilizer, no matter what you call it.
 
                              
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BDAFJeff wrote:
Dieter
Do they sprout up thruogh the mulch and how thick do you put it? I would like to try this using the little mulch I have.
Do you cut the grass before you spred the mulch?


No, I don’t cut the grass/weeds before covering it with mulch.  I use about an half inch of mulch or as much as necessary to cover the grass/weeds completely.  Crimp down the tall grass in one direction by stepping on it with your foot or whatever instrument you choose to use; then place the mulch on top to keep it down.  If you crimp it down all in one direction, it will be easier to apply an even layer that covers the grass well.  It is more important to cover the top of the grass, than the bottom part, because it is at the top where it will try to grow again.  I usually keep a few heaps of mulching material as reserve to cover the places where the grass grows through the mulch.

Under the cover of the mulch the grass will decompose within a few weeks together with the roots and, together with the mulch, will turn to soil after a few months.  The decomposing grass will generate heat that facilitates the germination of the seeds.  Still, germination rate can, depending on conditions, be a bit lower than when seeds are covered by soil.

It will take some experimenting and experience to figure out how much mulch or how many seeds you need.  It is also important to familiarize yourself with the lifecycle of the native weeds and grass in your area: when is a plant fully grown? what is the best time for cutting/crimping? when is the maximum biomass or N production? and to combine the answers with your cropping schedule.

The ideal is to have our soil permanently covered by plants and to figure out how we can grow food crops together with weeds or grass without even using mulch.  For example, as I already explained in another thread, I can grow broad beans in a field of crab grass without tilling and without mulch.  In Japan, I know of a natural farmer who grows carrots together with crab grass, also without tilling and without mulch.  A precondition for growing food crops together with weeds is a very intimate knowledge of the lifecycle and behavior of the plants on our land.  This is a very exciting way to learn about nature.

Dieter
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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Location: zone 7
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Problem#1

I have been growing from 1-5 acers of corn and pole beans each year in the way I learned from the Mexicans (deep till and frequent cultivation). Due to the fact that I don't own the land and can't get more than a one year lease, I can't do much to make the land better.


what are you currently doing with the left over biomass from the crops( stems, leaves, etc..)

I still use insecticide, If I dont the grasshoppers will just eat all the corn's leaves and there's a green beatle that sucks the beans flowers and they all just fall off and I get few beans. . There is also a bean burrower in many of the dry beans and I have to fumagate both grain and pulse while in storage to keep them from turning to dust. 


i encourage small birds to eat things like grasshoppers. this is a little hard to do in a plain field of corn and beans though. somewhere along the line you have to diversify imo.


 
Jeff Hodgins
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soil wrote:
what are you currently doing with the left over biomass from the crops( stems, leaves, etc..)

i encourage small birds to eat things like grasshoppers. this is a little hard to do in a plain field of corn and beans though. somewhere along the line you have to diversify imo.




I feed the corn stalks to my livestock and I mostly use the manure on land that I own. The rented land has improved in fertility due to the beans but' I think that the only way to realy fix this problem is to stop renting. Or maybe I'm being too greedy with my precious manuer. One year I spent $20 and had a hectar of weeds raked off of a rented feild then I spent 2 days carrying them home but I feel this is perhaps unethical (like robbing Peter to pay Paul). The crop I got from it was nice though even after two accidental grazings by my sheep.

somewhere along the line you have to diversify.

This year I tried brodcasting a fodder pea called evo one day before what we call the "second distopping" (the dirt is heaped up into the rows with a cultivating plow). Unfortunatly Due to the high price of winter evo seed I used summer evo and we had an early frost wich destroyed them. I got a great corn & bean crop though.
I think if you dont own the land its hard to move past peasanthood to permaculture. I just found out today that my father in law is renting the same feild again this year, so looks like Im still a peasant for at least one more year. 
 
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