Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Test Plots

Remember planting on the 29th? Well, there is one major thing left to discuss: the test plots.

In the NW corner of the cultivated land, we marked out a test plot to hold twelve varieties of wheat which haven't been grown recently in our neck of the woods. The purpose is to see what grows well in our area, so that we might gather information that could be beneficial for future wheat growing in SoCal.

Of the twelve varieties we planted, 11 were donated by Dr. Stephen Jones, of Washington State University Agricultural Research Center. He is working on growing wheat in the most north western counties of Washington state, and although the climate there is quite different, his goals are similar to ours: to redevelop small and medium organic wheat farming on the West Coast. The information gathered from our project will hopefully aid him in his, as his research has in ours.

These 11 varieties were Surprise (soft white club), Poole (soft red wheat), Gold Coin (soft white winter wheat), Marquis (hard red spring wheat), Pacific Bluestem (hard white spring), JP (spring club wheat), Kelse (hard red spring wheat), Glee (hard red spring wheat), Clear White 515 (hard white spring wheat), Louise (soft white spring wheat), and ML EM118-Z-G (hard white spring wheat).

There is an interesting old bulletin on some of these varieties HERE.

The 12th variety was India-Jammu (hard white wheat), which came from Monica Spiller of Whole Grain Connection.

We had enough seed from each type of grain to plant two rows, about five feet in length. Each row was drill-planted. This means that narrow holes were "drilled" into the ground (i.e. poked with a stick), about 1-1.5" inches deep, approximately 2-3" apart. 2-4 seeds were then dropped into each hole.

This placed the seeds deeper than the seeds broadcast over the furrowed or unfurrowed land to the east. This could be one factor in their ability to germinate, and the speed at which they do so, especially in comparison to the abundant growth of the Sonora, Red Fife, and Glenn.

These seeds were then covered with a gentle raking to bury them and protect them from predators.

We are excited to see which of these strange varieties grows in the Southern California climate. The order of the rows was as follows, north to south:

ML EM 118-Z-G, Clear White 515, India Jammu, Louise, Kelse, Glee, Surprise, Pacific Bluestem, Goldcoin, Poole, JP, and Marquis.


When we went to check out the plots yesterday and plant, we took a careful look at the test beds to calculate their growth. Loyal LABB member Paul Morgan noted that

"In comparative terms, the five most prolific and fastest appearing species so far are:

1) JD, a 2009 Washington State Univ. release; soft white club
2) ML EM110-ZG hard white spring wheat
3) Louise, a soft white spring wheat, released in 2005 by WSU
4) India Jammu a hard white winter wheat, a landrace from India, released in U.S. in 2010. This is considered one of the most promising new wheats for our area.
5) Surprise. A soft white club that was grown extensively on the West Coast in the early 1900s. 
The remaining varieties had a modest start, with Marquis & Gold Coin very sparse, and almost no Pacific Bluestem."

We have lots of hope for all the varieties, and with the right conditions, we hope that they may prosper.  Although the small sample size will not give us too much specific data as to what to expect for larger plantings, it will at least allow us to judge which grains grew well enough to try again.

1 comment:

  1. Saul, Thanks so much for the notes and commentary. For all us neophytes, would you please add a primer on the categories of wheat:

    soft vs. hard, red vs. white, landrace vs. modern (which you've pointed out, below), and club vs. ?? Just so it's all in one place.

    Also, will you be doing the same helpful research and analysis for the Glenn and Fife that you did for Sonora? And what is spelt, anyway?

    Thanks again!