We’re experimenting again. The first experiment is to grow a mix of grains and legumes as done for at least 2000 years in the Pamir mountains to be able to grow something edible on marginal land. So we’ve mixed Wheat, Oats, Barley, Fava Beans and Peas, we sow them together, harvest them together, mill them together and then use them to make pasta. This reduces the need to weed our land and is a low emission way to create a lot of biodiversity on our crop land and still make a product, so we will have income and carbon stored. Unfortunately with the war in Ukraine the organic Wheat and Oats were no longer available. Since we’re not certified at our test plot we can be flexible and try things out…
In most books on regenerative agriculture from outside the EU a bit of conventional pesticide and artificial fertilizer use is allowed, so we thought that a bit of Conventional Wheat and Oats would not be a problem, boy were we wrong and we were wrong on 2 counts. First conventional seeds don’t like nature much, so for them to grow they can’t really handle neighbors that aren’t conventional and second they came with their own seed coating of fungicide.
This second issue gave me personally a deep experience, I had never understood viscerally what the difference between organic and conventional meant, until the day I used organic/regenerative seed coating on conventionally coated seeds.
The conventional seed looked cute, it was all pink and fluffy. Then(15-04-2022) we started the process of seed coating, we had some forest soil, put it in a sieve and passed water through it. This water was caught in a bucket. Then we put the seeds(40kg’s) in an old cement mixer and added about 2 liters of forest water(This water contains millions of microbes and thousands of different species). We turned the mixer on and let it mix for 5 minutes. All the seeds were now coated with the water and therefore with the forest microbiome. After this we had to put the seeds back in the bag and let them dry for about 2 hours in the shade.
With the organic seeds the above process was fine, but with the fluffy pink seeds, the pinkness started dripping off and covering my hands and arms. Checking the bags again, this pink stuff turned out to be fungicides and you could really only handle these seeds with full protection gear on.
This was very difficult for me as the image of a farmer making food does not include a chemical hazard suit when handling the seeds that are supposed to grow into the food I eat.
Anyways, back to the experiment. We coated organic seeds, and half of the conventional seeds after getting the proper protection. Then we seeded them in different plots. On the right you can see them 6 weeks after seeding. The conventional without coating failed to come up, with coating it came up but had a hard time competing against nature, while the organic seeds came up much faster and more uniform and we will harvest them in September.
So the experiment was a success we won’t be using conventional seeds anymore, we most definitely will be seed coating our seeds so they can start growing with their symbiotic michorizal fungi partners. But we basically had about 50% of what we’ve sown not come up so this feels like a failure. We’re starting to become farmers :-).