Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wheat Growth Stages

Following up on Community garden grains, the seven varieties of wheat in the Emerson Avenue Community Garden are in different growth stages.
Black Einkorn
The Black Einkorn and Russian Timopheevi show early leaf and root development.
Timopheevi
The soft white Sonora has developed some plant height as the distance between leaf nodes increases.  The inflorescence, or fruiting body, is just beginning its travels up the elongating pseudo stem.  The Emmer is approaching boot stage, with the seed head nearing the flag leaf, at the top of the pseudo stem.

Emmer
Sonora












 Much of the Vavilov is in boot stage, or showing a swollen boot.  


The Brazilian Lavras is perhaps the most remarkable.  Several show fully emerged seed heads, with very long awns.



Awns on Flag Leaf




while other plants reveal just the tips of their awns above the flag leaf collar as the heads begin to emerge.




























 The India Jammu is currently in the lead, showing most of the heads in anthesis, or blossoming stage.  This means only final seed development and ripening remain before harvest.
India Jammu in Blossom


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Community Garden Grain

Seven varieties of wheat are growing, side-by-side, in Westchester's  Emerson Avenue Community Garden, located on the grounds of Orville Wright Middle School.  Two land race varieties mark the far end of the row. 


India Jammu                                            Sonora                      
On the left is India Jammu, developed by farmers in northern India.  Grist & Toll  contributed the seed for this planting. 

On the right is soft white Sonora, grown from seed contributed by Kenter Canyon Farms.  




Sonora, with India Jammu in the background

You can see the relative pace of development in these different varieties.  At this stage, the India Jammu, in the background, is taller.  The Sonora shows a shorter, more dense growth.








 Plots just to the north include varieties from Russia and Brazil, along with Emmer and an ancient Black Einkorn.

Timopheevi             Emmer                Brazilian Lavras                Vavilov              Black Einkorn 
Timopheevi, also known as Zanduri, is widely grown in Russia's western Georgia region.  A hard red tetraploid wheat, first domesticated in southern Turkey.  Like its ancestors, Timopheevi is a hulled wheat.   Bluebird Grain Farms provided organic seed for the Emmer plot which is developing well and showing colorful pseudo stems.
Timopheevi                                                   Emmer                            
Brazilian Lavras                                      Vavilov   

Brazilian Lavras is an amber wheat, with a reputation for growing to more than six feet. 

Vavilov, a  hard red winter wheat dates from the 1920s and is named for Nikolai Vavilov, likely to be the man who developed it, and certainly one of the world's foremost agronomists and plant breeders. 

During a time of enormous need for his country, Vavilov sent out 140 expeditions from Russia to 40 countries, assembling a collection of more than 200,000 species.  He was a leader in restoring Russia's ability to feed  its people.  Ironically, he was caught up in Stalinist purges and died of starvation in the gulag.  Vavilov wheat is considered rare and is being grown and evaluated by seed companies and universities.



Black Einkorn, considered the oldest cultivated wheat, is not widely grown today. 


 It has a reputation for doing well on poor soils and is known for its flat black seed heads.    In the Emerson garden it has yet to develop much height, but if it sets heads, we expect those ancient berries will be a challenge to unhusk.

You can visit the garden and see the wheat plots on school days from 4pm to sunset and on weekends from 9am to sunset.      The wheat demonstration plots are related to Dana Morgan's LA School Wheat Project which gives students the opportunity to plant, grow, and harvest wheat, right in their school gardens.  For more info about the LA School Wheat Project contact:  danahmorgan@gmail.com

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Backyard Wheat

Mark Stambler sent pictures of grain plots thriving in his back yard.


And some interesting progress in our front yard, across town.  Some of the Sonora, planted on New Year's day, is more than four feet tall, with heads that seem quite large. 

The kernels are in four rows, each of which has ten or twelve berries. The plants which lodged (tipped over) in the February downpour have recovered and are now standing on their own.

       















Three different small test plots of India-Jammu are showing off.   Shorter and less verdant than the Sonora, the plots seemed thin and rather spindly.  But recently we have seen significant enlargement of the seed heads after blossoming.
India Jammu in blossom
India Jammu three weeks ago, approaching boot stage.



Impression is that the plants are focusing on the seed, rather than lush leaf development. 

Multiple India Jammu seed heads in soft/medium dough stage.

     
Complex seed rows










They have not shown any vulnerability to lodging.  Most of the heads are approaching maturity and are now in hard dough stage.   It is possible that their shorter growth and less lush foliage gives this variety improved drought resistance.

While the India Jammu is mostly headed out, two areas of Red Fife are in boot stage, just beginning to emerge.  Where the two varieties were planted in partial shade, the India Jammu is past the blossom stage, while the Red Fife is less than half as tall and not yet in boot.



 A plot of Kamut, planted in January, is setting heads which are remarkable for having extremely long awns.  Some of the awns, or beards, are significantly longer than the seed heads.  This variety seems vigorous and is almost as tall as the Sonora.  The wide, lush foliage does not suggest this is a drought tolerant strain.
Test plots of Red Fife           Kamut           Emmer       (Durum in foreground)
Awns emerging




Kamut heads with very long awns






















 A test plot of Emmer (Farro) is three feet tall, but not yet in boot stage.  And recently planted Durum only a few inches high, with three or four leaves so far.
Four week old Durum, with 10  week Emmer behind
Two very small test plots of soft white spring wheat are showing heads.  Louise was released by Washington State University in 2005.  It has a quite unique head shape.  Surprise was developed in the 1870s by Cyrus Pringle of Charlotte Vermont.  In 1919 USDA records show more than 60,000 acres of Surprise were planted in the U.S.   In this test plot, both varieties are quite short, but that may be the result of shallow soil conditions.
Surprise
Louise



Saturday, April 5, 2014

Update from Santa Ynez

We last saw Curtis Davenport's field of young Sonora in the first week of March.   Almost exactly a month later, here's how it  looks. Those rains have made a big difference.
    
  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wheat Sprouting near Santa Ynez

We last visited Curtis Davenport in mid December when he was collecting soil samples for analysis.











It's been a dry couple of months, but he was able to plant 8 acres of Sonora on February 17th.




Still looking dry.

The seeds did come around and the late February rains helped a lot.














Curtis' Sonora White is on its way, putting down roots in Santa Barbara county.


Should we care about where and how our food is grown?






Here is what French entomologist Jean Henri Fabre had to say about that:


  "History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns the plowed fields whereby we thrive.  It knows the names of the King's bastard children, but cannot tell us the origin of wheat.  That is the way of human folly."





Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lying Down on the Job

A short report on wheat growth in our front yard.









I'm skeptical that our small planting of India-Jammu will add much to our technical understanding of this interesting land race variety or its appropriateness for Southern California.






But it is a lovely sight ...
 





... particularly when its small blossoms are displayed.







And a  patch of Sonora White illustrates the risks of raising big seed heads almost four feet above the ground.

Lodging is when wheat is pushed down -- or just tips over -- making it a challenge to ripen and be harvested.  It is not a condition I was expecting to see in our front yard, but our very welcome end of February rains push over some of those tall plants.



Makes me quietly proud that our yard can demonstrate challenges that are usually only experienced  by real farmers.


I tied up those rascals against a stake, in hope they'll regain their footings and once against stand on their own.



It is of interest that the Sonora seed heads have between 42 and 48 kernels developing.  About twice the number in the India Jammu which kept standing.





 A big head seems a good thing, until it tips you over.