Wes Jackson – http://modernfarmer.com/2017/03/wes-jackson-the-land-institute-kernza/ – talks on the subject of agriculture and a 10k year year problem. This is exactly what I tell people when they see the field i’m working with. I’m trying to grow grain without ploughing or digging. I’m finding it darn near impossible (to use a phrase an American would be used to) to find a growing solution that doesn’t require planting annually, and all that goes with this process; sprouting the seed or vernalisation (the process of a little moisture and then a period of cold to make the seeds heads appear later on), clearing the ground, drilling or broadcasting. If you leave your field, like I did, to the life then you’ll be facing the prospect, if you have planted complementary plants well, of a carpet of plants, ironically most of them being perennial. How you get your seeds down to the soil, past the leaves and shoots, is a challenge. Then you have the problem of the seeds being crowded out. I also had the problem of the seeds being eaten by mice, slugs and snails. In the end I had to plumb for scything and a light till of about 2 inches then broadcast sowing and another run over the ground with the rotivator. This took me five days on one acre. Because of the work involved my strategy took another sharp turn: I elicited the help of two organic local farmers to plant about four acres each. If I had perennial grains I wouldn’t need to undertake this process at all…..
We cannot carry on this myth of western farming – this is the one where our food is better grown under tight control by farmers using synthetics as they produce higher yields. Conventional, AKA synthetic farming, has for 10k years sped off in the wrong direction. Thank goodness there are people like Wes Jackson treading a different path. This project, grain of truth, is part of that different breed. Our products wont be like Wes’s as we are growers not breeders but we will support perennial grain breeders when ever they have a product for us to try. In the meantime we will plant heritage grain populations, heritage grain, heritage vegetables and fruit and nut bushes and trees – as much perennial as possible. I’d also like to find a use for dock, chicory seeds and burdock plants.
Most of my plants are in now. The new Blacktail mountain water melons have been sprouted – ‘Blacktail Mountain’ was developed by plant breeder Glenn Drowns of Iowa when he was a teenager in 1977, and time after time it beats all the other early watermelons in trials – it is widely acknowledged as one of the earliest varieties available.’ and i’m already salivating about the Irish sweet million Tomato’s im growing again this year. (Sourdough toasted bread with garlic, basil and Toms).