Progress report for FW22-402
The drought associated with the climate change has left some traditional agriculture unsustainable and farmlands uncultivated in California. A new perennial cropping system offers sustainable economic opportunities for farmers. Our project will test a grain-type intermediate wheatgrass Kernza, that is genetically related to common wheat, in our local climate. We will develop the protocol and best practice to establish Kernza in our farmland and demonstrate the marketability of the grain and biomass products from the crops. If successful, the perennial Kernza will provide substantial environmental benefits relative to annual grain crops, including reduced soil and water erosion, reduced soil nitrate leaching, and increased carbon sequestration, which will help alleviate the effect of climate change. The reduced input of seed, tillage, energy, labor, and savings on fertilizer and pesticides all translate economic benefit for farmers. Our findings will show the viability of growing Kernza in southern part of the country, which so far is only grown in the northern part. We will communicate with agriculture professionals nationwide and statewide with our results and host outreach activities in our local communities and Indian reservations. We will also educate student and future farmers about the new cropping systems.
- to test if a perennial grain crop system can be established in the place of winter oat in local climate and find the best practice to grow it
- to measure grain and biomass feed production in year 1 and year 2 and determine the marketability and environmental benefit of the new crop
- to perform outreach to farmers in the community and educate students and next generation farmers about the new sustainable agriculture system
Please see the Gantt chart uploaded in support document if not showing up here by clicking "timeline"
- - Technical Advisor
- To test if Kernza can be established as a perennial grain crop in the place of winter oat in local climate and to determine optimal conditions to grow it.
- to measure grain and biomass feed production in year 1 and year 2 and determine the marketability and environmental benefit of the new crop.
- to perform outreach to farmers in the community and educate students and next generation farmers about the new sustainable agriculture system.
We manually prepared the field to get rid of weeds and set up various conditions to establish the new crop in the first year.
A. planting time
September and October were the hot time of the year and wild fire season due to local Santa Anna wind conditions. Seeds could not germinate without rainfall or watering because the soil was so dry. Even with daily watering, seedling was not observed until 15 days after planting. The germination rate was 81%. The results in colder climate showed early planting time help the plants to establish and yield grains in the first season, for example, in Upper Midwest, Kernza needs to be planted by September 1 for the root to have enough time to establish before cold winter. But it is impractical in our climate to plant large field without irrigation as rain is rare. However, our mild winter may still allow the root to establish in a late planting time in November or December.
We planted on November 7 and December 26 just before a rain as we do with dry farming of winter oat in large fields. We will find out the relatively late planting time will yield grains in the first season. It took 10 days before any seedling appear and overall germination rate is 82% for November and 85% for December.
B, seeds density
We obtained only 150 g of seeds. So we planted only one density at about 5 seeds per inch in 2 feet rows. More variable conditions will be tested in the second year. Planting depth is about 1 cm.
C. Soil type
We planted in one area with sandy loam prime soil and another area with soil with more clay content.
D. Effect of fertilizer on the growth and yield
We will test organic fertilizer in the second year.
Temperature recorded. We have a mild winter and larger than average precipitation so far.
F. Animal pest control
We planted in both fenced and unfenced areas. In one unfenced area, the seedlings were kept eaten by unknown critters, possible rabbits, rodents or insects. It is likely due to no other palatable vegetation around. It should be okay when planting in a large field, where plants on the edges of the field will be eaten but, in the center, will survive.
We are excited to observe that in fenced area the wheatgrass Kenza is growing well.
2. to measure grain and biomass feed production in year 1 and year 2 and determine the marketability and environmental benefit of the new crop.
Too early to report the yield of grain and biomass.
3. to perform outreach to farmers in the community and educate students and next generation farmers about the new sustainable agriculture system.
will report later
Education and Outreach
I spoke to county officials on Pilot Carbon Farming initiatives to introduce our project.
I attended San Diego County Voluntary Conservation and Land Management Assistance Workshop to speak with agriculture professionals and farmers/ranches to spread words of our project.
Education and Outreach Outcomes
I had a meeting with Ariel Hamburger and Clare Moss from San Diego County Pilot Carbon Farming Program to introduce perennial crop as a way to reduce carbon emission by farming. They are very interested in the outcome of this project and possible impact on the region.