MANAGING WEEDS AS COVER CROPS

The trick to biological farming is knowing how to manage weeds.  “Manage” does NOT mean “kill”.

Internet trolls are bombarding my e-mail box with comments like:  “You can’t plant crops in weeds!  That’s why they invented tractors”.  Horse power is irrelevant and yes, you can plant crops in weeds:  I manage 90,000 acres without herbicides or mechanical cultivation.  Here is how I do it:

(1)  Manage Weeds as Cover Crops.  Think of weeds as a multi-species cover crop that costs nothing to seed.  This will save you about $40 per acre, right off the bat.  $40 x 90,000 acres = $3,600,000.  We are not talking tree-hugging here.  This is serious agronomy.

Grow weeds to protect your top soil.  A typical corn-soybean farmer in Iowa loses 2 1/2% of his land yearly = 20 tons of earth per acre = $450 per acre at $22.50 per ton (U.S. average top soil price, delivered).  Weeds have value.

If you don’t have enough weeds for a winter cover crop, seed 3 to 4 bushels of oats per acre.  Oat roots prevent soil erosion over winter.  Oats winterkill so no herbicides are needed.  Surface trash is minimal and will not interfere with conventional planting equipment.

(2)  RULE:  Keep Fields Green.  Photosynthesis is the process where plants use water, air and sunlight to make sugar.  More photosynthesis = more sugar = more plant growth = higher yields.  Bare fields are not profitable.  Smart farmers keep their soil covered with growing plants year-round.  Plant cash crops whenever possible.  Sow cover crops for mulch or fertilizer.  Seed weeds when there is no time or money to grow anything else.  The goal of biological farming is to produce the most possible organic matter per square foot.  Grow anything rather than leave soil bare.

The underlying principle of biological weed control is plant competition.  Keep the ground covered with growing crops year-round and weeds do not have a chance to get established.  Never leave the soil bare, not even for a single day.

For example:  Plant winter wheat into standing Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) using no-till equipment.  Next summer, harvest wheat then immediately (the same day) plant turnips into wheat stubble and clover living mulch.  Field stays green year-round.  Weeds cannot grow because they are constantly shaded by competing plants.

(3)  Sow Weed Seeds.  If you have tired, sick or dead ground, or no top soil, go to your nearest grain elevator and fill your truck with weed seeds.  These are usually free.  Some elevators charge a nominal fee for “elevator screenings” which contain many weed seeds.  Sow liberally, at least 40 pounds per acre.  Prepare for amazement.  Weeds are Nature’s Band-Aid, a fast growing cover crop evolved specifically to heal bare earth.  On steep slopes or mine reclamation sites, spread straw or spoiled hay mulch to protect germinating weeds.

(4)  Fertilize and Water Your Weeds.  Every time I say this, half my audience leaves the room.  No, I am not crazy.  Yes, I do know what I am talking about.  I farm without any government subsidies and each acre earns substantial profit.  It pays to feed and irrigate weeds (if possible).  Remember:  Weeds are a cover crop.  You want every field blanketed with a luxuriant jungle of weeds at least 6 feet high.  So water and fertilize as needed, and do not worry about what your neighbors say.  Farming is not about yields; farming is about the bottom line.  Weeds put money in your pocket.

(5)  Feed the Weeds and the Weeds will Feed Your Crops.  Weeds have enormous root systems in proportion to their stems and leaves.  Many weeds also have tap roots that plunge deep into the subsoil.  Translation:  Weeds are great at scavenging nutrients that would otherwise leach away.  Weeds have quick growth response to plant food so a little fertilizer goes a long way.  A few pounds of nitrogen create a vast jungle of vegetation that makes good mulch and fertilizer.  The average weed contains twice the nutrients of an equal weight of cow manure.  Broad leaf weeds rot quickly so fertilizer elements are rapidly recycled for crop use.  Plant crops and weeds together and yields often increase.  The reason is ecologic synergy = plant symbiosis.  Weeds both compete AND cooperate with neighboring plants.  Water and nutrients are shared so crops and weeds grow better.  I learned this lesson farming melons.  The best fruits came from the weediest fields.  So I started planting melons into weeds.  The weeds provided light shade and the melons followed weed roots down into moist subsoil.  Come drought and clean cultivated fields produced little or no crop.  Melons and weeds yielded fair crops.  Irrigated melons and weeds overfilled my trucks with fruit.  Think about this the next time you buy a drum of herbicide.

(6)  Use Weed Seed Meal Fertilizer.  How would you like to slash fertilizer costs?  Get weed seeds or screenings from your local elevator.  Grind them with a hammer mill or roller mill.  Broadcast 4 tons per acre or drop 10 pounds per 25 feet of row.  Unlike chemical fertilizers weed seed meal will not burn crop roots so you can hurl nutrients with wild abandon.  If you do not have any weed seeds, use any other waste seed like spoiled corn, brewer’s grain, or broken soy beans.

To use LIVE weed seeds as fertilizer broadcast seeds into a standing cover crop like Red Clover (Trifolium pratense).  Earthworms, ants, beetles and other critters eat the weed seeds.  Clover kills any weeds that germinate.  Caution:  Don’t try this unless you have a tall, aggressive cover crop that blankets the soil with dense shade.

(7)  RULE:  Apply Chemical Fertilizer Only to Growing Plants.  This rule covers all crops (including weeds) without exception.  It makes no sense to spread fertilizer on bare ground.  Chemical nutrients are wasted unless there are live roots waiting to absorb them.  For best results, synthetic fertilizers should be applied in small doses throughout the growing season, ideally diluted in irrigation water.  Feed growing crops only and well water stays pure = free of nitrates.

(8)  Good Farmers Grow Fungi.  The Fungi Grow the Crops.  Think of all the pipes, wires and roads needed to run a modern city.  Without these conduits life would be nearly impossible.  A corn field is no different.  Under the soil surface is a jungle of lifeforms, a whole zoo full of critters exceeding the combined population of the world’s largest cities.  And every one of these underground citizens depends on fungi for survival.  Millions of miles of microscopic fungi tie the underground world together.  Fungi are the interstate highway system of the soil ecology.  Water and nutrients are conveyed to hungry roots.  Plants share resources through fungal networks.  Many crops are so dependent on fungi that they cannot exist without these symbiotic micro-organisms.  Kill the fungi and the soil ecology collapses.  Yields plummet and fields become sick and barren.  Try to farm dead soil and you will spend vast sums for synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation.  Today, this is called “conventional agriculture” and most growers lose money on every acre they plant.  There is a better way to farm.

Fungi like cool temperatures, a moist environment, plenty of air, and lots of organic matter.  Rip up the ground with plows and the fungal network is destroyed.  Soil temperatures spike, the earth is parched, a cyclone of oxygen rushes into the ground, and organic matter burns away in a firestorm of excess decomposition.  The result is like dropping a nuclear bomb:  Billions of critters die and the soil ecology is devastated.  Recovery takes years.

Sell your plows, disks and harrows — you don’t need them.  Grow weeds or other cover crops and leave the fungi alone.  Open the soil just enough to get seeds or transplants into the ground.  Further disturbance cuts profits and yields.

(9)  Till Your Fields with Earthworms.  My Grandfather taught me:  “Feed the worms and the worms will tend your crops”.  Common earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) eat organic matter and excrete enough manure to grow 200 bushel corn = 11,200 pounds per acre.  They also burrow 6 feet into the subsoil.  My fields average 1 million worms per acre.  That’s about 23 worms per cubic foot = 1,200 miles of burrows per acre.  When thunderstorms drop 2 inches of rain per hour my neighbors’ fields wash away.  My soil stays in place.  When drought bakes the county, my corn yields over 100 bushels per acre (without fertilizer, herbicides, cultivation or irrigation).  How is this possible?  Plant clover and earthworm populations double.  I seed clover into weeds and the worms feast on the multi-species “salad bar”.  Mind you, this process does not occur overnight.  It took 12 to 15 years to wean my fields off synthetic nutrients.  That’s 4 to 5 generations of earthworms.  I used to borrow mountains of cash to buy farm chemicals.  Now I plant clover and have no debts.

(10)  Grow Your Own Fertilizer:  Conventional green manures are plowed into the soil.  A less invasive technology is called Chop-And-Drop.  Use a rotary mower, flail mower, bush hog, forage chopper, or common lawn mower to cut plants into small pieces that decompose quickly for rapid nutrient cycling.  Immediately sow or transplant another crop before weeds start germinating.  Alternatively, knock down cover crop with a roller-crimper or sickle-bar mower then plant through the mulch using no-till equipment.  For example, I sow Hairy Vetch = Winter Vetch = Vicia villosa in October then roller-crimp vines in May.  Vetch controls weeds and fixes sufficient nitrogen for 200 bushel corn or any other crop I want to grow.  Remember:  Chop plants into small pieces for fast-acting fertilizer.  Crimp or cut whole plants for mulch.  Finely chopped plants will NOT control weeds.

(11)  Use Mulch-In-Place.   Think of how much money you will save if you don’t have to buy herbicides or cultivate fields multiple times.  The savings in diesel fuel alone will pay for a 2-week vacation anywhere you care to go.  Let your neighbors plant seed in cold ground.  Be patient and give your weeds more time to grow.  Wait until the soil warms and weeds are at least 5 feet high.  Kill weed cover crop with a roller-crimper or sickle-bar mower then immediately seed or transplant through weed mulch with no-till equipment.  Mulch retards weed growth 4 to 6 weeks — just enough time for your crop to germinate and start covering the rows.  Once the crop canopy closes weeds are shaded and there is no more work until harvest.

There are many variations of Mulch-In-Place.  For example, use a forage chopper to deposit weed mulch into convenient windrows then transplant pumpkins or other fast-growing vine crops through the mulch.  Alternatively, mow strips through weed covered fields.  Transplant vine crops down mowed rows then roll out drip irrigation tape.  Use mowed weeds to mulch crops until plants are established.  Once vines begin to run they overwhelm weeds between rows.  Standing weeds protect vine crops from insect pests.

If you do not have weedy fields, sow winter rye = cereal rye = Secale cereale at 3 bushels per acre.  Roller crimp or sickle-bar mow when rye reaches 5 to 6 feet high or when grain reaches soft dough stage.  Immediately seed or transplant through rye mulch using no-till equipment.  Note:  Mulch-In-Place works with just about any cover crop that grows at least 5 feet high and produces 4 to 5 tons of mulch per acre.

Who needs Monsanto?  Grow mulch crops and never buy herbicide again.  Sell your spray rig and pay off farm debts.

(12)  Use Weeds to Control Insect Pests.  Plant weeds with your crops and you will never have to buy insecticides again.   Set 4 rows of tomatoes then leave a strip of weeds.  Seed 4 rows of sweet corn and leave another strip of weeds.  Plant 4 rows of sweet potatoes with a third strip of weeds.  Drill 4 rows of sunflowers and a fourth strip of weeds.   Alternate crops and weeds across fields and farms, following land contours.  Adjust strip widths to match planting and harvesting equipment.  Weeds provide food, shelter and alternate hosts for beneficial insects.  The good bugs eat the bad bugs.  Native weeds should cover at least 5% to 10% of every farm, even if you also grow insectary plants.  I learned this lesson the hard way.  I grew dozens of crops with small flowers especially to feed predatory and parasitic insects.  Biological control was only partly successful until I planted native weeds next to crops needing protection.  Close proximity is essential as many beneficial insects penetrate only 200 feet into a field over the course of a growing season.  Remember:  You need a mix of native weeds AND insectary plants to protect cash crops.  Maintain biological diversity and pests rarely cause economic damage.  I have not purchased insecticides (organic or synthetic) in 18 years.

(13)  Plant into Standing Weeds (Sow-And-Go).  This works best with fall planted winter grains like wheat, barley, and rye.  Seed directly into standing vegetation using no-till equipment.  (Standing weeds trap winter snow).  If desired, you can seed Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) at 8 to 12 pounds per acre with winter cereals.  The clover provides 90% to 95% weed control, about as good as glyphosate (Roundup).  Expect 60% to 70% of conventional yields without fertilizer or irrigation.  In a dry year you might lose your crop.

If you do not have no-till equipment, try surface seeding = Sow-And-Mow.  This works best with pelleted seed.  Broadcast seed into standing weeds then immediately roller-crimp or cut vegetation with a sickle-bar mower to cover and protect germinating grain.  Come back next summer and harvest your crop.

Alternatively, broadcast winter grain into standing weeds then mow with a rotary mower or flail mower to chop vegetation into small pieces.  Immediately till field with a rear-tine rototiller set to skim soil surface at 2 inches depth.  Make only 1 pass across field.  Your field will look ugly but will make a good crop = 40 bushels (2,400 pounds) of wheat per acre in cool, temperate climates with 40 or more inches of rainfall yearly.

If you have no farm machinery, try the ancient Roman practice of Stomp Seeding.  Fence field securely.  Broadcast seed into standing vegetation.  Turn in livestock (cattle, sheep or goats) until they eat about 1/2 of the vegetation and stomp the other half into mulch.  Livestock must be well crowded in order to make this work.  Allow each animal only enough space to turn around = use very high stocking densities = mob grazing.  For example, 600 to 1,200 cows per acre.  Directly forage is exhausted, move livestock to a new enclosure or fresh pasture.  If field is “tired”, “sick” or barren, feed livestock in their enclosure until they deposit 1/2 to 1 pound of manure per square foot = about 11 to 22 tons per acre, then move animals to another enclosure.

(14)  Plant into Living Mulches.  This is ideal for transplants or crops with large seeds.  For best results use no-till equipment and low-growing legumes like Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) or Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum).  Seed Dutch White Clover at 8 to 12 pounds per acre, or Crimson Clover at 14 pounds per acre.  Seed or transplant directly cover crop reaches mature height of 6 inches for Dutch clover or 12 inches for Crimson clover.  It is good practice to mow clover before planting to give crops a head start.  Watch field carefully.  When the FIRST seedling emerges, immediately mow field as close to soil surface as possible.  If clover is especially vigorous, it may be necessary to mow again 2 weeks later.  Note:  If desired, you can grow corn (Zea mays) with tall-growing Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) using the same method.  No fertilizer, herbicides or cultivation are necessary if clover grows a full year before planting maize.

Planting into clover is a good way for farmers to learn how to work with weeds.  Clover is convenient to grow because its height is easily controlled.  Alternatively, you can make your own cover crop mix and use this as a substitute for naturally weedy fields.  Combine 2 cool season grasses + 2 cool season legumes + 2 cool season broad leaf plants + 2 warm season grasses + 2 warm season legumes + 2 warm season broad leaf plants + 2 root crops (tillage radish, stock beets, or turnips) = 14 species cover crop mix.  Plant at least 20 pounds per acre.  If desired, more species can be added.  For best economy, select cheap seed to keep costs below $40 per acre.

Remember:  All living mulches compete with their companion crops for water, light and nutrients.  For example, Dutch White Clover grows only 6 inches high but this is enough to shade the lower stems of wheat.  Plant Dutch clover with tall wheat varieties and yields are normal.  Seed Dutch clover with semi-dwarf or dwarf wheat and yields may drop 30% to 50%.  Use common sense when pairing cash crops with clover, weeds, or any other living mulch.  Combine tall varieties with low-growing cover crops.  Water and fertilize for both cash crop AND cover crop.  If necessary, retard or kill companion crop by mowing, mulching or roller-crimping.

(15)  Grow Crops and Animals Together.  2,000 years ago the Romans discovered that manure is more profitable than meat.  It pays to keep animals just for their manure.  Pastures grow better when grazed.  Crops grow better when dunged.  There is a significant difference in growth between plants fed manure or artificial nutrients.  No one has yet figured out why.  Drive a herd of cattle into high weeds (or a mixed species cover crop).  Let the cows graze until they have eaten 1/2 of the forage and stomped the rest.  Move herd to fresh pasture then immediately sow small grains or other crops with no-till equipment.  No herbicides, cultivation or chemical fertilizers required.

The cheapest way to keep livestock is to graze them on fresh, green grass.  Move herds to new pasture at least once daily and do not re-graze paddocks until forage has recovered.  This is called rotational grazing and eliminates the costs of building barns, making hay, and spreading manure.  If you don’t have tidy pastures seed mixed-species cover crops or graze native weeds.  What the cows don’t eat the goats will, and what the goats don’t like the sheep will relish.   Range chickens 3 or 4 days behind cows and the birds eat the fly maggots.  Nothing goes to waste and meadows stay clean and sanitary.

Not all weeds are good to have around.  When weeds get out of control there are 2 easy ways to recover ecologic balance:  (1)  Grow cover crops in series, or  (2)  Graze with mixed livestock.  Cover crops overwhelm weeds by shade and competition.  Mixed livestock eats everything in sight.  Either way, problem weeds are eliminated and crop rotation can proceed normally.

(15)  Think Unconventionally.  If everyone around you grows corn, plant something else.  If everyone says you have to spray, don’t.  Conventional wisdom is often just plain wrong.  Do not be afraid to experiment.  Every year I reserve about 2% of my land for agricultural research.  I learned to farm by doing the opposite of what the “Experts” advised.  Along the way I have enjoyed amazing success and spectacular failure.  Both are equally instructive.  Monsanto says weeds are bad and should be eradicated.  I think differently.  For example, in my garden (a jungle of weeds), I thin Bull Thistles (Cirsium vulgare) until they stand about 1 foot apart, then I plant 1 pole bean seed per thistle plant.  The beans climb the thistles and I do not have to cut poles.  My spray-by-the-calendar neighbors told me to cut the weeds or mulch them into oblivion.  Instead, I conducted a paired comparison of 100 beans on thistles with 100 beans on poles.  Thistles beat poles by a slight margin, 3.55% over a 5-year trial.  This is only one of many examples of symbiosis between weeds and crops.  Widely spaced weeds often increase crop yields.  I don’t recommend planting beans and thistles on a commercial scale, but neither do I insist on weed-free fields.  Weeds spaced 3 feet apart (about 5,000 weeds per acre) no longer bother me.  The tomatoes don’t seem to mind and I don’t have to spray for hornworms.  Learn from nature or buy from Monsanto.

Related Publications:  The Twelve Apostles; Weed Seed Meal Fertilizer; Trash Farming; No-Till Hungarian Stock Squash; Planting Maize with Living Mulches; Living Mulches for Weed Control; Pelleted Seed Primer; Crops Among the Weeds; Forage Maize for Soil Improvement; and Rototiller Primer.

Would You Like To Know More?  Please visit:  http://www.worldagriculturesolutions.com  — or —  send your questions to:  Eric Koperek, World Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania, 15108 United States of America  — or —  send an e-mail to:  worldagriculturesolutions@gmail.com

About the Author:  Mr. Koperek is a plant breeder who farms in Pennsylvania during summer and Florida over winter.  (Growing 2 generations yearly speeds development of new crop varieties).

Advertisements

A Plethora of Pineapples

I recently received a gift of more than 100 fresh pineapples from an anonymous donor.  Every square foot of horizontal surface in my office is now covered with pineapples.  Truly, I have a most welcome surplus of fruit (which I really need as I am greatly over-weight).  So now begins my “pineapple diet”.  Can Eric eat 1 pineapple a day until his prodigious mass declines to reasonable proportions?  This should be an interesting experiment.

Seriously, one of the simple pleasures of farming is being able to share my knowledge and experience with other people.  That is why I maintain this website, to help other growers solve their problems (and to cut down on the dozens of e-mails that I receive daily.  Better that folks read a canned article than I explain the same thing over and over again).

I am well and truly humbled by the generosity and support of my esteemed clients.

God bless you all.

ERIC KOPEREK, editor.

 

 

INTENSIVE RICE CULTURE PRIMER

Synonyms:     Systeme de Riziculture Intensive (SRI) = System of Rice Intensification = la Sistema Intensivo de Cultivo Arrocero (SICA).

What Is It?     Intensive rice culture was invented by a French agronomist, Friar Henri de Laulanie de Saint Croix, Society of Jesuits, in 1983 while working on agricultural development projects in Madagascar.

The basic idea is to space individual plants widely so they grow as many tillers as possible.  More tillers = more grain per plant = up to 7 times average yields.

SRI is directly opposite California practice of crowding 1,000,000 plants per acre (23 plants per square foot).  Closely spaced plants have few tillers and produce less grain per plant, but yields are high because there are so many plants per acre.

Both methods work but SRI is better suited to developing countries where labor is cheap and farmers cannot afford expensive machinery and agricultural chemicals needed for conventional rice agronomy.

Traditional rice culture uses flooded paddies, 21 to 30 day old transplants, and close spacing with 3 or 4 plants per hill.  Transplants are shoved into the mud without regard to root orientation or planting depth.  Rice tolerates these practices but does not thrive.  Consequently, yields are greatly reduced.

Intensive rice culture avoids flooded fields.  Transplants are set at the 2-leaf stage when 8 to 12 days old.  Individual plants are widely spaced with crowns at ground level.  Roots are carefully oriented vertically or horizontally.  Transplanting is done quickly.  These practices greatly increase the number of productive tillers resulting in much higher yields.

Typical SRI plants have 50 to 100 tillers.  Most panicles bear 100 to 200 seeds.  Under ideal conditions yields can exceed 20 metric tons per hectare ~ 8.9 tons per acre.

SRI methods work with most types of upland or lowland rice, West African (Oryza glaberrima) or Asian species (Oryza sativa).  Best results are obtained from long season oriental varieties.

How To Do It:     Following are detailed agronomic practices for intensive rice cultivation.

>>>     Need 7 to 8 kilograms of seed rice per hectare ~ 6 to 7 pounds per acre ~ 100 grams per square meter ~ 3 scale ounces per square yard of nursery bed.

>>>     Prepare salt water solution of sufficient density to float a fresh chicken egg.  Mix seed rice with salt water.  Discard any rice that floats.  Save rice that sinks.  Drain salt water from seed rice.  Wash seed rice thoroughly 4 times to remove salt.  Soak seed rice in fresh water 24 hours to speed germination.  If desired, seed may be pre-germinated in a warm place:  Spread soaked seed on wet burlap bags then cover with more wet burlap.  Seed is ready for planting when the first root on any seed appears.

>>>     Prepare nursery bed of 100 to 150 square meters size per hectare of rice field ~ 50 to 75 square yards per acre.  Rule-of-Thumb:  Nursery area = 1% of field size.  Nursery beds should only be 1 meter ~ 1 yard wide so they can be tended by hand.  For best results locate nursery beds next to rice fields to reduce transplanting time.

>>>     Place plastic sheeting or banana leaves on soil surface to keep rice roots compact.  Fill nursery beds with compost 10 to 15 centimeters ~ 4 to 6 inches deep.  Spread seed sparsely = 2.5 centimeters = 1 inch apart on soil surface.  Cover seed thinly with 1 to 2 centimeters ~ 1/2 to 3/4 inch of compost then mulch lightly with straw or banana leaves.  Water 2 times daily to keep seeds moist.

>>>     If desired, seed can be planted into individual soil cubes, peat pots, or other biodegradable containers that will not restrict root growth.  Alternatively, rice may be direct seeded into prepared fields.  Plant not more than 2 seeds per hill.  Space each seed 5 centimeters ~ 2 inches apart.  Thin seedlings to 1 per hill immediately plants reach 2-leaf stage = 8 to 12 days after emergence.  Cut off excess plants at soil surface to prevent root damage to remaining seedlings.

>>>     Fertilize fields with composted manure or other organic fertilizers then plow.  Recommended rate = 5 to 10 metric tons per hectare = 1/2 to 1 kilogram per square meter ~ 2.25 to 4.5 tons per acre ~ 4,500 to 9,000 pounds per acre ~ 1 to 2 pounds per square yard.  Alternatively, grow a nitrogen-fixing legume like velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) then plow, roller-crimp, or mow when cover crop flowers.

>>>     Irrigate field with 1.25 to 2.5 centimeters ~ 1/2 to 1 inch of water to moisten soil.  Do not flood field more than 24 hours if practical.  Waterlogged soils reduce yields.

>>>     Mark moist soil with a grid pattern to ensure proper plant spacing.  In hot tropical climates near sea level space individual plants 30 centimeters ~ 12 inches apart.  At higher elevations (1,200 meters ~ 3,900 feet above sea level or 1,500 meters ~ 4,900 feet on the equator) space rice transplants closer together = 25 centimeters ~ 10 inches apart.  Wide plant spacing is essential for maximum tiller growth = higher yields.  Best yields are obtained on highly fertile, equatorial lowland soils when plants are spaced 50 x 50 centimeters ~ 20 inches apart.

>>>     Transplant seedlings in their 2-leaf stage = when plants are 8 to 12 days old.  Do not plant seedlings older than 15 days.  Young transplants grow many tillers which increase yields.  Old transplants grow few tillers.

>>>     Plant 1 seedling only at each grid intersection.  Multiple seedlings crowd each other and decrease yields.

>>>    Transplant seedlings quickly = not more than 15 minutes after lifting plants from nursery bed.  Fast planting reduces shock and increases yields.

>>>     Transplant seedlings carefully = 2 to 3 centimeters ~ 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches deep with roots oriented vertically or horizontally.  Do not turn roots up (like a hook) or yields will fall.  Do not plant deeply or yields will drop.

Rice plants are like strawberries.  Both are highly sensitive to planting depth.  Rice grows few tillers if seeded or transplanted too deeply.  Try to set plants at the same depth they grew in the nursery.  Rice crowns = growing points should be level with soil surface.

>>>     Irrigate fields with 1.25 to 2.25 centimeters ~ 1/2 to 1 inch of water every 7 to 10 days as needed.  Wait until soil cracks before applying more water.  Do not flood field for more than 24 hours if practical.  Standing water reduces yields.  More oxygen to roots increases yields.

>>>    Fertilize field with compost 30 days after transplanting seedlings, then again 60 days after transplanting.  Recommended rate = 5 to 10 metric tons per hectare = 1/2 to 1 kilogram per square meter ~ 2.25 to 4.5 tons per acre = 4,500 to 9,000 pounds per acre ~ 1 to 2 pounds per square yard.  High soil fertility is needed for maximum yields.

Adjust fertilizer rates as necessary.  Tall rice varieties lodge = fall over if plants absorb too much nitrogen.  Yields drop if plants do not have sufficient nutrients during critical phases of vegetative growth and reproduction. 

>>>     Weed field 7 to 10 days after transplanting seedlings.  Use a rotary weeder.  Weed field up to 4 times until rice canopy closes.  Each weeding increases yields by 1 to 2 metric tons per hectare = 890 to 1,780 pounds per acre.

>>>     Stop irrigation 15 days before harvest.  Dry soil is necessary to ripen grain and make harvesting easier.

>>>     Typical SRI yields = 1 kilogram of grain per square meter = 10 metric tons per hectare ~ 8,900 pounds = 4.45 tons per acre.  With good management yields can double.

>>>     SRI Record Yield (crop year 2015) = 22.4 metric tons per hectare = 9.9755 tons per acre = 19,951 pounds per acre = 443 bushels per acre (45 pounds per bushel) = 7.37 ounces per plant at 208 x 208 = 43,264 plants per acre (1 plant per square foot).

For best results follow SRI directions carefully.  Small changes in agronomic practices can have dramatic effects on tiller number, seeds per panicle, and seed weight.

Related Publications:     No-Till Subsistence Grain Farming; Pelleted Seed Primer; and Planting Maize with Living Mulches.

For More Information:     Contact the Author directly if you have any questions or need additional information about intensive grain culture systems.

Please visit:     http://www.worldagriculturesolutions.com  — or — mail your questions to:  World Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania 15108 United States of America  — or — send an e-mail to:                                          erickoperek@gmail.com

Cornell University hosts a comprehensive SRI website at:  SRI Rice Online:  http://sririce.org

E-mail Address:     sririce@cornell.edu

The original SRI papers by Friar Laulanie are available both online and in the scientific journal Tropicultura:

Technical Presentation of the System of Rice Intensification, Based on Katayama’s Tillering Model.  Henri de Laulanie.  1993 Tropicultura 13 : 1.

Intensive Rice Farming in Madagascar.  Henri de Laulanie.  2011 Tropicultura 29 : 3 (183 – 187).

About The Author:     Mr. Koperek is a plant breeder who farms in Pennsylvania during summer and Florida during winter.  Growing 2 generations yearly speeds development of new crop varieties.

 

Hot Versus Cold Composting

Every once in a while folks prod me into writing editorials = expressions of personal opinion (as opposed to scientific fact).  These missives are designed to provoke public discussion and research.   Thoughtful responses are welcome.

High temperature composting = thermal composting is an “alien” technology inconsistent with the biology of this planet.  Nature does not decompose organic matter at high temperatures.  Natural decomposition processes ALWAYS occur at low = ambient temperatures.  So why do Humans make great steaming compost heaps?  Are we smarter than Mother Nature?  I don’t think so.

Excepting the biology of volcanic springs, all natural chemistry on this planet takes place at low temperatures.  Thermal processes are artificial creations.  High temperature chemistry wastes vast amounts of energy.  Ambient temperature biochemistry is energy efficient.  Nature is a much better chemist than Man.

Is compost made at 165 degrees Fahrenheit “better” than the same materials decomposed at air temperature?  Should wastes be piled up or spread out?  Is there a difference in the biological or nutrient quality of the finished compost?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I have not been able to find any scientific papers on this topic.  Until definitive research is published, I intend to keep my pitchfork in the shed.  Mulching is easy.  Turning compost piles is too much work.

POSTSCRIPT:     Yes, I know about plant diseases, insect pests, parasites, and pathogenic bacteria, but Nature has a way of dealing with these problems.  High temperature composting is a low-technology way to pasteurize potting soils for greenhouses, nurseries, mushroom farms and other specialty horticultural operations.  Every year I use thousands of tons of thermal compost for reforestation projects, to fill raised beds for intensive vegetable production, and to inoculate mine sites and other barren lands without topsoil.  So please don’t beat on me for being “Anti-Organic”, even though I also use hundreds of tons of chemical fertilizers annually.  Compost or chemicals, I use what works best = “the right tool for every job”.

Is hot compost the right tool for every agricultural problem?  I have managed commercial vegetable farms with nothing other than mulch, irrigation, and donkey carts.  Crops were grown in raised beds.  Wastes were thrown into the aisles to rot.  Rough compost was forked up into the beds as needed.  No hauling, shredding, piling, or turning needed.  Try working a farm by hand and you might think differently about the necessity of large scale thermal composting.  Low temperature decomposition = sheet composting = cold composting = mulching saves costly labor.

Conventional practice requires manure be composted before use.  I have managed vegetable farms and tree nurseries where all plants were grown only in crumbled, dried cow manure — no composting necessary.  So much for mindless obedience to the experts.

The next time someone says you MUST plow, spray, compost, or perform some other agronomic ritual, have a good think first.  Do not be afraid to be contrarian.  The “received wisdom of the ages” is often wrong.   

Would You Like To Know More?     Please contact the Author directly if you have any questions or need additional information on composting or mulching.

Please visit:     http://www.worldagriculturesolutions.com  — or —  Send your questions to:     Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania, 15108 United States of America  — or —  send an e-mail to:     Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com

About The Author:     Mr. Koperek is a plant breeder who farms in Pennsylvania during the summer and Florida during the winter.  (Growing 2 generations yearly speeds development of new crop varieties).

 

WEED SEED MEAL FERTILIZER

WHAT IS IT?     Weed seeds = Elevator Screenings are what is left when grain is run through a seed cleaner.  Clean grain goes into a bin and residues = screenings are disposed.  Most grain elevators give weed seeds away free to any farmer willing to haul them.  Some elevators charge nominal sums for screenings because they can be fed to animals.  For example, 10% to 15% weed seeds can be mixed into chicken feed.

HOW TO MAKE WEED SEED MEAL:     Seeds of most plants make good fertilizer.  The trick is to mill = grind seeds into a coarse meal or flour so they do not sprout.  Most farmers use roller mills, hammer mills, or gristmills to grind weed seeds.  If milling equipment is not available weed seeds can be baked in shallow (2 inch ~ 5 centimeter deep) pans at 350 degrees Fahrenheit ~ 176 degrees Centigrade for 1 hour to kill seeds.  Baked weed seeds make very slow release organic fertilizer ideal for plants (like roses) sensitive to excess nitrogen.

If weed seeds are not available, substitute any type of waste or spoiled grain, for example, wet or dry brewer’s grains.  There is no standard analysis for weed seed meal; nutrient content varies depending on species and proportion which change by locality and season.  It is good practice to test weed seed samples yearly so fertilizer application rates can be adjusted as needed.

Below are some average nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) values for rough calculations.  Note:  lb = pound.  1 pound = 0.454 kilogram.  1 American ton = 2,000 pounds = 908 kilograms = 0.908 metric ton.  1 metric ton = 1 megagram = 1,000,000 grams = 1,000 kilograms = 2,200 pounds = 1.1 American tons.

WEED SEED MEAL & SIMILAR AGRICULTURAL WASTES.  FERTILIZER ANALYSIS IN PERCENT BY WEIGHT (Nitrogen : Phosphorous: Potassium):

BARLEY (spoiled, dry):  1.75% N : 0.75% P : 0.50% K = 35 lb N + 15 lb P + 10 lb K per ton (Manitoba 2011)

BEANS, SOUP (broken, dry):  4.0% N : 1.20% P : 1.30% K = 80 lb N + 24 lb P + 26 lb K per ton (New York 1988)

BREWER’S GRAINS (dry):  4.53% N : 0.47% P : 0.24% K = 90 lb N + 9 lb P + 4 lb K per ton (Pennsylvania 2012)

BREWER’S GRAINS (wet):  0.90% N : 0.50% P : 0.05% K = 18 lb N + 10 lb P + 1 lb K per ton (Pennsylvania 2012)

CANOLA SEED MEAL:  6% N : 2% P : 1% K = 120 lb N + 40 lb P + 20 lb K per ton (Saskatchewan 2014)

CASTOR BEANS (pressed):  5.5% N : 2.25 % P : 1.125% K = 110 lb N + 45 lb P + 22 lb K per ton (Egypt 2012)

COFFEE GROUNDS (dry):  2.0% N : 0.35% P : 0.52% K = 40 lb N + 7 lb P + 10 lb K per ton (Uganda 2015)

CORN, DENT (spoiled, dry):  1.65% N : 0.65% P : 0.40% K = 33 lb N + 13 lb P + 8 lb K per ton (Maryland 2014)

COTTON SEED (whole):  3.15% N : 1.25% P : 1.15% K = 63 lb N + 25 lb P + 23 lb K per ton (USDA 2015)

COTTON SEED (pressed):  4.51% N : 0.64% P : 1.25% K = 90 lb N + 12 lb P + 25 lb K per ton (USDA 2015)

COTTON SEED MEAL:  6.6% N: 1.67% P : 1.55% K = 132 lb N + 33 lb P + 31 lb K per ton (Egypt 2012)

COWPEAS (broken, dry):  3.10% N : 1.00% P : 1.20% K = 62 lb N + 20 lb P + 24 lb K per ton (California 2014)

FLAXSEED = LINSEED MEAL:  5.66% N : 0.87% P : 1.24% K = 113 lb N + 17 lb P + 24 lb K per ton (Manitoba 2008)

OATS (broken, dry):  2.00% N : 0.80% P : 0.60% K = 40 lb N + 16 lb P + 12 lb K per ton (New York 2010)

RICE BRAN:  4.00% N : 3.00% P : 1.00% K = 80 lb N + 60 lb P : 20 lb K per ton (India 2015)

RICE, BROWN (spoiled, dry):  1.0% N : 0.48% P : 0.32% K = 20 lb N + 9 lb P + 6 lb K per ton (California 2016)

RICE HULLS = HUSKS:  1.9% N : 0.48% P : 0.81% K = 38 lb N + 9 lb P + 16 lb K per ton (Philippines 2014)

RICE, WHITE (broken):  1% N : 0.21% P : 0.27% K = 20 lb N + 4 lb P + 5 lb K per ton (California 2016)

SOYBEAN MEAL:  7.0% N : 2.0% P : 0.0% K = 140 lb N + 40 lb P + 0 lb K per ton (Brazil 2011)

WEED SEED MEAL:  2.7% N : 0.90 % P : 0.90% K = 54 lb N + 18 lb P + 18 lb K per ton (Hungary 2013)

WEED SEED MEAL:  3.02% N : 0.56% P : 0.77% K = 60 lb N + 11 lb P + 15 lb K per ton (Saskatchewan 2015)

WHEAT, HARD RED WINTER (broken):  2.00% N : 0.85% P :0.50% K = 40 lb N + 17 lb P + 10 lb K per ton (Kansas 2011)

For comparison, fresh dairy cow manure (86% water) contains 0.60% Nitrogen : 0.15% Phosphorous : 0.45% Potassium = 12 lb N + 3 lb P + 9 lb K per ton.  Cow manure is the traditional standard against which all other organic fertilizers are measured.

For slow release fertilizer mill weed seeds into coarse flakes or meal.  Grind weed seeds into powder for fast acting fertilizer.

WEED SEED MEAL APPLICATION RATES:     Calculate application rates according to soil test recommendation for desired crop.  Minimum application rate is 1 ton = 2,000 pounds per acre ~ 5 pounds or 1 gallon per 100 square feet ~ 2 Tablespoons or 2/3 ounce per square foot.  Apply 1 pound of weed seed meal for every 25 feet of row or trench.  Mix 1/2 to 1 cup of weed seed meal in each bushel (8 gallons) of potting soil.

Average density of weed seed meal = 0.3125 to 0.40 ounce per Tablespoon ~ 5 to 6.5 ounces per cup ~ 20 to 25.6 ounces per quart ~ 80 to 102.4 ounces per gallon ~ 5 pounds to 6 pounds 6.4 ounces per gallon ~ 40 to 51 pounds per bushel (8 gallons).  1 ton = 2,000 pounds weed seed meal = 40 to 50 bushels.

For example:  200 bushel per acre corn crop requires 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre.  200 pounds N divided by 54 pounds of nitrogen per ton of weed seed meal = 3.70 ~ 4 tons of weed seed meal needed per acre of corn.  Weed seed meal can be tilled into the earth by conventional plowing, broadcast on soil surface, side banded down rows, or drilled into furrows or trenches.

For feeding earthworms broadcast weed seed meal (1 ton per acre or 2 Tablespoons per square foot) on soil surface.  Reapply throughout the growing season when meal is no longer visible.

AGRONOMY NOTES:

–>     Weed seed meal is a natural = biological = organic fertilizer that requires decomposition before nutrients are available to plants.  Bacteria, fungi and many other soil organisms eat weed seed meal then excrete nutrients in plant available forms.  As soil organisms live and die, nutrients are constantly recycled = most fertilizer is tied up in the bodies of soil “critters” and is only available to plant roots in small amounts over extended time periods.  Thus, weed seed meal is a slow release fertilizer that will not burn plant roots or leach from the soil.

–>     Cold, wet soils delay weed seed meal decomposition.  Warm, moist soils speed fertilizer availability.  Early season crops may show signs of nitrogen deficiency (light green leaves) if soils are especially cold or poorly aerated = oxygen deficient.  This is a temporary condition that will ordinarily correct itself in 2 or 3 weeks.  Every 5 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase doubles microbial activity.  As soils warm, nutrient cycling speeds up and more fertilizer is released for absorption by plant roots.

–>     If crops must be seeded in cold soils, apply weed seed meal 2 to 3 weeks before planting so soil organisms have more time to decompose fertilizer and make nutrients available to plants.

–>     Weed seed meal is an indirect fertilizer — it feeds soil organisms rather than plant roots.  Large amounts of weed seed meal can be applied without crop damage or nutrient loss because the fertilizer is held by soil biology rather than soil chemistry.  Thus, nutrients can be banked = stored for use by following crops.  Weed seed meal has a “half-life” of several years.  Nutrients are continually released in small amounts long after fertilizer is applied.

–>     Weed seed meal works best on soils managed biologically.  Chemically managed soils typically have smaller populations of soil organisms.  Fewer “critters” slows nutrient cycling and restricts fertilizer absorption by plant roots.

–>     To use LIVE weed seeds as fertilizer broadcast seeds into a standing cover crop like Red Clover (Trifolium pratense).   Earthworms, ants, beetles and other critters eat the weed seeds.  Clover kills any weeds that germinate.  Caution:  Do not try this unless you have a tall, aggressive cover crop that blankets the soil with dense shade.

RELATED PUBLICATIONS:     Managing Weeds as Cover Crops; Trash Farming; No-Till Hungarian Stock Squash; Planting Maize with Living Mulches; Living Mulches for Weed Control; Organic Herbicides; Pelleted Seed Primer; Crops Among the Weeds; Forage Maize for Soil Improvement; Forage Radish Primer; and Rototiller Primer.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?     Contact the Author directly if you have any questions or need additional information on fertilizing soils with weed seed meal.

Please visit:  http://www.worldagriculturesolutions.com  — or —  send your questions to:  Eric Koperek, Editor, World Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania, 15108 United States of America  — or — send an e-mail to:  Eric Koperek = worldagriculturesolutions@gmail.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:     Mr. Koperek is a plant breeder who farms in Pennsylvania during summer and Florida over winter.  (Growing 2 generations yearly speeds development of new crop varieties).

 

 

 

TRASH FARMING

“You got it plum backwards:  You’re supposed to KILL the weeds and GROW the crops”.  Contrarian that I am, I plant weeds and let the crops fend for themselves.

My neighbors call it weed farming or trash farming.  (Less charitable folks say I’m lazy or just plain mental).  I call what I do common sense agronomy.  Planting in weeds saves lots of money.  You should try it.

Most farmers think weeds are enemies that should be exterminated by any means possible.  I take a more balanced view:  Weeds are valuable agricultural resources if properly managed = you have to get off your tractor long enough to think of weeds as an ally.  My spray-by-the-calendar neighbors don’t agree with me but my weedy fields are highly profitable. Their farms are up for auction.

A weed is a plant growing where it is not wanted.  The key to intelligent agriculture is to grow weeds where they are needed.  Here are some ways that weeds can help fill your bank account:

–>     WEEDS ARE GOOD ORGANIC FERTILIZER.     I ran a lawnmower across a typical meadow (8 grasses + 23 broad leaf weeds = 31 species) and sent the clippings off for analysis:  1.00% Nitrogen : 0.27% Phosphorous : 1.10% Potassium by weight = 20 pounds Nitrogen + 5.4 pounds Phosphorous + 22 pounds Potassium per ton.

Compare this with cow manure from my neighbor’s dairy:  0.5% Nitrogen : 0.15% Phosphorous : 0.40% Potassium by weight = 10 pounds Nitrogen + 3 pounds Phosphorous + 8 pounds Potassium per ton.

Fresh green weeds contain approximately double the nutrients of dairy cow manure.  A dense field of weeds 3 feet high yields about 2.5 tons of green manure (stems and leaves) ~ 50 pounds Nitrogen + 13.5 pounds Phosphorous + 55 pounds Potassium per acre.  Green weeds rot fast so most of these nutrients are quickly available to crop plants.

How to Green Manure a Field:     First, cut weeds with a flail, rotary, or sickle bar mower, or use a forage chopper.  Next, use a rear-mounted rototiller, moldboard or disk plow to till the chopped foliage into the soil.  RULE:  Always mow before plowing!  Chopped plants rot faster so crop roots absorb nutrients sooner.  Last, seed or plant field immediately = the same day.  Never leave the soil bare, not even for a single day.  Naked soil is wasted dirt.  Keep the ground covered with growing plants at all times.

Chop-And-Drop:     How do you “green manure” a no-till field?  Answer:  Mow the cover crop as close to the soil surface as possible and leave the chopped vegetation where it falls.  Use a rotary mower, flail mower, forage chopper, or common lawnmower if you want the cover crop to decompose quickly (to feed a following crop or clear a field for planting).  Use a sickle bar mower or roller-crimper for Mulch-In-Place planting.  Timing is important:  To kill a cover crop mow when plants start flowering or begin setting seeds.  Late planted annual cover crops can be left standing until killed by frost; standing vegetation traps snow over winter.  Fall oats are a good crop for this purpose.  Winter killed oats protect soil but do not obstruct spring planting with conventional equipment.

To green manure a field without machinery, use animals to stomp the cover crop.  Erect temporary fencing and “Mob Graze” the field.  Animals should be “well crowded” together.  Ideal stocking density = 680 to 1,210 Animal Units per acre.  (1 Animal Unit = 1,000 pounds live weight).  For example:  680 beef cattle per acre = 1 cow for every 8 x 8 feet = 64 square feet per animal.  1,210 beef cattle per acre = 1 cow for every 6 x 6 feet = 36 square feet per animal.  Keep animals confined until they eat the top 1/3 of the foliage then move herd to fresh pasture.  Plant stomped cover crop the same day with no=till equipment.  Alternatively, broadcast grain into standing cover crop then immediately mob graze field.  This is an old Roman agronomic practice called stomp seeding.

–>     WEEDS ARE HIGH QUALITY MULCH.     Fight fire with fire.  Use weeds to smother weeds.  An 8-inch blanket of cut weed mulch provides 95% or better weed control for 6 to 8 weeks during the growing season.  That is all the time you need to get your crop up and growing.  Once your plants are well established any weeds that poke above the crop canopy won’t matter.  The crop itself suppresses most weeds.  Peek under the leaves and you will see little weeds lurking in the shade.  These tiny plants lost the competition for sunlight.  As long as your crop continues to grow, your fields will remain mostly weed free.

Mulch-In-Place:     Find the weediest field possible.  Dense, luxuriant, rank growth 6 feet high is best = about 4 tons of biomass (stems and leaves) per acre.  Cut weeds with a sickle bar mower or flatten with a roller-crimper.  Seed or transplant directly through the mulch with no-till equipment, or sow by hand.  If desired, you can immediately top seed field with a low growing nitrogen fixing legume like Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens), Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum), or Sub Clover (Trifolium subterraneum).  The tiny clover seeds fill any holes in the mulch and provide useful biodiversity.  (If you don’t have a weedy field, sow Winter Rye = Secale cereale at 3 bushels per acre then mow or roll when 6 feet high or when seeds reach the soft dough stage.  Cereal rye grows fast like a weed and yields 4 to 5 tons = 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of long straw mulch per acre.  Alternatively, seed a high biomass crop like Sudan Grass = Sorghum sudanense or Forage Maize = Zea mays).

Lawnmower Farming:     You can run a 25 acre ~ 10 hectare commercial vegetable farm with nothing other than a common lawnmower.  (For larger areas use a riding lawnmower = lawn tractor).  Find the weediest field possible.  Mow a strip where you want to plant your crop.  Roll irrigation tape down the row.  (The idea is to water the crop rather than the entire field).  Set your transplants then mulch heavily with cut weeds.  Apply a circle or collar of green mulch 1 foot = 12 inches thick around each plant.  This is a form of sheet composting = the weeds rot and release nutrients to feed your crop.  (It’s ok to use synthetic fertilizers but these are expensive.  A 40 pound bag of 10-10-10 = 10% Nitrogen + 10% Phosphorous + 10% Potassium costs $17.12 at my local farm store.  Why spend 43 cents per pound for chemical fertilizer when weeds cost nothing)?

Weed mulches protect and feed earthworms = Lumbricus terrestris.  Earthworm casts = manure fertilize the soil.  Weed fields fallowed = untilled for 7 years typically have 1 ton = 1 million earthworms per acre ~ 23 earthworms per cubic foot of topsoil.  1 million earthworms per acre produce 2,000 pounds = 1 ton of worm casts each DAY during the growing season.  That is an enormous amount of free organic fertilizer ~ 150 to 180 TONS per acre of worm manure in a typical 5 to 6 month growing season ~ 6 to 8 pounds of worm casts per square foot (distributed from the surface through the entire soil column about 6 feet deep).

Earthworms also biologically till the soil so air and water penetrate deep into the subsoil.  Plant roots follow worm borrows 5 to 6 feet underground where the soil stays moist = crops are nearly drought proof.  (My weed fields average 902 MILES of vertical earthworm burrows per acre).  A hundred-year rainstorm (2-inches per hour) falling on a fallow weed field has almost no runoff = zero soil erosion.  Rain sinks into the land like water through a colander.  Underground water keeps my crops growing while my neighbors’ fields wilt.

Earthworm populations are directly proportional to the amount of available food = organic matter.  Apply more mulch and more worms will come.  Space rows widely so you have sufficient weeds to cut for mulch.  (On very large farms use a forage chopper to deposit chopped weeds into convenient windrows.  Set transplants down the windrows).  RULE:  Cut weeds only to clear rows for planting or to harvest for mulch.  Leave remaining weeds standing to maintain wide environmental diversity.

If you don’t have any weedy fields, plant mixed species cover crops.  The goal is to imitate the broad ecological diversity of a naturally weedy field.  Include 50% legume seed in the mix because earthworms need protein in their diet.  Earthworm populations double on fields of clover versus fields of grass.  More legumes = more earthworms = more free fertilizer = more money in your bank account.

If you can’t afford cover crop seed go to the nearest grain elevator and ask for elevator screenings.  These are usually free or cheap and contain many weed seeds.  Haul as many tons as practical; you will need every pound of weed seed obtainable.  Sow weeds generously = with wild abandon.  Your neighbors will think you daft, but it really does pay to plant weeds (especially on poor, eroded, or barren fields).  Run the remaining elevator screenings through a roller mill to make weed seed meal.  Weed meal is high quality organic fertilizer; use it just like cottonseed meal or other expensive soil amendment.  Apply weed seed meal liberally because it won’t burn plant roots.

Once weed fields are planted they require little or no attention = the crops grow themselves.  Mulch protects young transplants for the first 3 to 6 weeks until they put down roots.  Once crops are well established they will outgrow or overwhelm most weeds.  This is especially true for vigorous plants like tomatoes, peppers, and vine crops:  Pumpkins, squash, gourds, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and melons.  Vine crops tolerate light shade and easily climb over weeds 5 to 6 feet tall.  I always get my best melons from the weediest fields.  On rare occasions weeds may grow too densely around a pepper or tomato plant.  Thin offending weeds with pruning shears.

Weed Seed Meal:     Seeds of most plants make good fertilizer.  The trick is to mill = grind seeds into a coarse meal or flour so they do not sprout.  If weed seeds are not available, substitute any type of waste or spoiled grain, for example, wet or dry brewer’s grains.  There is no standard analysis for weed seed meal; nutrient content varies depending on species and proportion which change by locality and season.  It is good practice to test weed seed samples yearly so fertilizer application rates can be adjusted as needed.  Below are some average nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) values for rough calculations.  Note:  lb = pound.  1 pound = 0.454 kilogram.  1 American ton = 2,000 pounds = 908 kilograms = 0.908 metric ton.  1 metric ton = 1 megagram = 1,000 kilograms = 1,000,000 grams = 2,200 pounds = 1.1 American tons.

Wheat, Broken (Kansas 2011):     2.00% N : 0.85% P : 0.50% K = 40 lb N + 17 lb P + 10 lb K per ton

Weed Seed Meal (Saskatchewan 2015):     3.02% N : 0.56% P : 0.77% K = 60 lb N + 11 lb P + 15 lb K per ton

Weed Seed Meal (Hungary 2013):  2.7% N : 0.90% P : 0.90% K = 54 lb N + 18 lb P + 18 lb K per ton

Rice, White Broken (California 2016):  1.00% N : 0.21% P : 0.27% K = 20 lb N + 4 lb P + 0 lb K per ton

Rice Hulls = Husks (Philippines 2014):  1.9% N : 0.48% P : 0.81% K = 38 lb N + 9 lb P + 18 lb K per ton

Rice, Brown (California 2016):  1% N : 0.48% P : 0.32% K = 20 lb N + 9 lb P + 6 lb K per ton

Rice Bran (India 2015):  4.00% N : 3.00% P : 1.00% K = 80 lb N + 60 lb P + 20 lb K per ton

Oats, Broken (New York 2010):  2.00% N : 0.80% P : 0.60% K = 40 lb N + 16 lb P + 12 lb K per ton

Flaxseed = Linseed Meal (Manitoba 2008):  5.66% N : 0.87% P : 1.24% K = 113 lb N + 17 lb P + 24 lb K per ton

Dent Corn, Spoiled (Maryland 2014):     1.65% N : 0.65% P : 0.40% K = 33 lb N + 13 lb P + 8 lb K per ton

Cowpeas, Broken (California 2014):  3.10% N : 1.00% P : 1.20% K = 62 lb N + 20 lb P + 24 lb K per ton

Cotton Seed, Whole (USDA 2015):  3.14% N : 1.25% P : 1.15% K = 63 lb N + 25 lb P + 23 lb K per ton

Cotton Seed, Pressed (USDA 2015):  4.51% N : 0.64% P : 1.25% K = 90 lb N + 12 lb P + 2b lb K per ton

Cotton Seed Meal (Egypt 2012):  6.6% N : 1.67% P : 1.55% K = 132 lb N + 33 lb P +31 lb K per ton

Castor Beans, Pressed (Egypt 2012):  5.5% N : 2.25% P : 1.125% K = 110 lb N + 45 lb P + 22 lb K per ton

Brewer’s Grain, Wet (Pennsylvania 2012):  0.90% N : 0.50% P : 0.05% K = 18 lb N + 10 lb P + 1 lb K per ton

Brewer’s Grain Dry (Pennsylvania 2012):  4.53% N : 0.47% P 0.24% K = 90 lb N + 9 lb P + 4 lb K per ton

Beans, Soup Broken (New York 1988):  4.0% N : 1.20% P : 1.30% K = 80 lb N + 24 lb P +26 lb K per ton

Barley, Spoiled (Manitoba 2011):  1.75% N : 0.75% P : 0.50% K = 35 lb N + 15 lb P + 10 lb K per ton

For slow release fertilizer mill weed seeds into coarse flakes or meal.  Grind weed seeds into powder for fast acting fertilizer.

Calculate application rates according to soil test recommendation for desired crop.  Minimum application rate is 1 ton = 2,000 pounds per acre ~ 5 pounds or 1 gallon per 100 square feet ~ 2 Tablespoons or 2/3 ounce per square foot.  Apply 1 pound of weed seed meal for every 25 feet of row or trench.  Mix 1/2 to 1 cup in each bushel (8 gallons) of potting soil.  To fertilize trees and bushes, apply 1 pound or 1 1/4 quarts of weed seed meal for every inch of trunk or stem diameter.  Spread meal from trunk or stem to drip line = farthest extent of branches.

Average density of weed seed meal = 0.3125 to 0.40 scale ounce per Tablespoon ~ 5 to 6.5 scale ounces per cup ~ 20 to 25.6 scale ounces per quart ~ 80 to 102.4 scale ounces per gallon ~ 5 pounds to 6 pounds 6.4 ounces per gallon ~ 40 to 51 pounds per bushel (8 gallons).  1 ton = 2,000 pounds weed seed meal = 40 to 50 bushels.

For example:  200 bushel per acre corn crop requires 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre.  200 pounds N divided by 54 pounds of nitrogen per ton of weed seed meal = 3.70 ~ 4 tons of weed seed meal needed per acre of corn.  Weed seed meal can be tilled into the earth by conventional plowing, broadcast on soil surface, side banded down rows, or drilled into furrows or trenches.

For feeding earthworms broadcast weed seed meal (1 ton per acre or 2 Tablespoons per square foot) on soil surface.  Reapply throughout the growing season when meal is no longer visible.

–>     WEEDS PROVIDE FREE BIOLOGICAL INSECT CONTROL.     I used to work for a cannery company.  I have dreadful memories of being bombed by crop dusters.  I would run for my truck, slam the door and stomp on the gas pedal.  The toxic mist really was that lethal.  Any human caught in the open would spend weeks in hospital and years twitching oddly.  Of course, the cabbage loopers took only 2 or 3 seasons to develop immunity to the toxin.  Then it was replaced with something even more poisonous.  Never again!  I refuse to become yet another ghastly statistic.  Just as stubbornly, I won’t buy something I don’t need.  Farming is all about cheap.  Margins are slim (especially for commodity crops) so a jug of synthetic chemical per acre can make all the difference between hanging-on-by-our-fingernails profit and loss of the family homestead.  Consequently, I cross all agricultural chemicals off my shopping list.  I’m not a “tree hugger” just ruthlessly frugal.  My family has farmed the same land for over 800 years.  I’m not going to be the one who fails.

Pests Be Gone!      Weeds are the poor man’s wildflowers.  Sow weeds just as you would wildflowers to provide food, shelter, and alternate hosts for beneficial predatory and parasitic insects.  For best results, reserve at least 5% of cropland for weeds.  Seed every 20th row with weeds.  Plant a strip of weeds around each field, vineyard, and orchard.  The trick to biological insect control is to grow weeds in close proximity to crops needing protection.  Serious insect problems usually mean a farm does not have enough wild plants.  Spatial orientation is important:  Weeds on one side of a farm will not protect tomatoes on the opposite side.  Plant tomatoes and weeds together = few hornworms.

Strip Cropping:     Plant crops in long narrow strips 4 to 16 rows wide (depending on the size of planting and harvesting equipment).  Long fields increase mechanical efficiency = fewer turns.  Try to keep strips as narrow as mechanically practical.  Narrow strips maximize biological edge effects and increase light penetration into crop canopy.  More edges = less pests.  More sunlight = more photosynthesis = higher yields.  Run strips across fields and farms following land contours.  Plant adjacent strips with unrelated crops to increase biological diversity = more food and shelter for beneficial insects.  If weed seed is unavailable or wildflowers too costly, plant mixed species cover crops to simulate weed populations.  Thomas Jefferson used buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), turnips (Brassica rapa subspecies rapa), and winter vetch (Vicia villosa) = small flowered plants ideal for predators and parasites with tiny mouth parts.  A diligent program of crop rotation, strip planting, and weed farming usually keeps pest populations from rising to harmful levels.

–>     WEEDS ARE POTENT INSECTICIDES.     Over millions of years weeds have evolved elaborate chemical defenses against bugs.  Most weeds have only 1 or 2 minor pests; many wild plants are immune to just about everything.  When bugs get out of hand most infestations can be controlled by spraying with weed tea = a simple infusion of fresh weeds in hot water.  Find any weeds not bothered by the pest needing control.  Collect a large quantity of plants equal to the volume of water needed for spraying.  Chop weeds with a shredder, hydro-mill, or household blender.  Alternatively, crush weeds in a roller mill or laundry wringer.  Soak milled weeds in boiling water until mixture cools to air temperature.  Strain before use then add a commercial surfactant so insecticide spreads over and sticks to crop leaves.

If necessary, dilute weed tea concentrate with clear water to make up spray tank volume.  One application is usually enough to control most pests.  If infestation continues spray again or increase insecticide concentration by brewing equal weights of weeds and water (1 pound of weeds for each pint of water).  The forests around me abound with wild plants, especially ferns.  Nothing eats a fern.  Fern tea will kill or deter any bug known to modern agriculture.  Many common farm and garden weeds are equally distasteful or toxic.

–>     WEEDS ARE GOOD NURSE CROPS.     Weeds moderate farm microclimates by reducing wind speed, increasing humidity, shading soil, drawing water from subsoil depths and sharing moisture with shallow-rooted plants.  In times of drought, crops grown in weeds often out yield plants in cultivated weed-free fields.  Even dead weeds are useful; they protect topsoil from wind and water erosion, and their decomposing tissues feed soil organisms.

Sow-And-Go:     Drill or broadcast small grains into standing vegetation.  For best results sow tall varieties as these compete better against weeds.  The best time to plant is in the dry or cold season when most weeds and grasses are dead, dormant, or growing slowly.  Pelleted seed greatly increases germination and seedling survival.  If desired, you can sow Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) along with the grain.  With plentiful water, expect yields 60% to 70% of conventionally planted cereals.  If rains are poor expect little or no harvest.

Sow-and-Go agronomy works best with winter cereals.  Here in Butler County, Pennsylvania (40.8606 degrees North Latitude, 79.8947 degrees West Longitude)  sow-and-go winter wheat yields 24 to 28 bushels = 1,440 to 1,680 pounds per acre.  (Conventionally planted wheat yields 40 bushels = 2,400 pounds per acre).  My fields look awful but they produce enough grain to feed my family and the entire parish.  More importantly, out-of-pocket costs are minimal so profits are high.  Sow-and-Go cereals reduce economic risk.  Consequently, growing grain in weeds usually makes more money than planting cereal crops in cultivated or herbicide-sprayed fields.

–>     WEEDS ARE GOOD BEE FORAGE.     A jar labeled “wildflower honey” means “made from weeds”.  Very few apiaries plant flowers for their bees.  Most commercial honey in the United States comes from hives that are trucked across the country to pollinate almonds, blueberries, and oranges.  These bees are fed sugar syrup to keep them alive so if you want “real” honey buy from small, local apiaries or keep your own bees.

Honeybees feed on small flowers because they have short tongues.  Most weeds are ideal bee forage because they produce many small flowers throughout the growing season.

For a hungry bee the average plow-and-spray farm is a “green desert”.  Vast monoculture fields of corn and wheat do not provide nectar = starving hives.  To maintain healthy bee colonies plant weeds and wildflowers throughout the farm or sow small-flowered crops like Anise (Pimpinella anisum), Caraway (Carum carvi), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), Dill (Anethum graveolens), and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).   Seed every available space as honey production is directly dependent on flower numbers.  More blossoms = more pollen and nectar = more bees = more honey.  Alternatively, plant mixed species cover crops to replace the bountiful blossoms of naturally weedy fields.  For example, seed orchards with buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), and turnips (Brassica rapa subspecies rapa) to feed bees and other beneficial insects.

Think before mowing!     Do not clip entire hay fields at once.  Leave 5% to 10% of each field un-harvested so bees have something to eat.  Whenever practical, divide fields into blocks or strips then harvest sequentially so beneficial insects can move to undisturbed areas.  Similarly, mow orchards only before harvest; let weeds, wildflowers, and cover crops grow without disturbance.  More flowers = fewer insect pests.

Plant thoughtfully.     Bees will fly 5 miles to gather nectar but long trips are inefficient = less honey.  Would you like to walk 5 miles to get your dinner?  Think like a bee and sow flowers as close to hives and crops as practical.  Integrate crops and weeds whenever possible.  For example, alternate strips of tomatoes and weeds.  Result:  Save $400 per acre for insecticides.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.     Biology can replace synthetic chemicals but there is an economic trade-off:  At least 5% of a farm must be covered in weeds.  This is the same as losing 5% of your corn crop and that costs money.  If this is not acceptable then plant wildflowers or any other small-flowered crop that you can harvest and sell the seed.  You can have bees and a profitable farm at the same time.

“Weed Farming” is an essential part of the New Green Revolution where biology replaces what is normally done by diesel tractors and synthetic chemicals.  This is leading edge agronomy = what our Great-Great-Grandfathers used to do.  Every farmer should reserve a few acres to experiment with this rediscovered technology.  Growing crops in weeds is profitable — provided farmers exercise careful stewardship.  For best results manage weeds just like a living mulch or mixed species cover crop.  Always remember that there are 2 crops growing on the same land at the same time — the weed crop and the cash crop.  Each requires equal care or both crops may fail.

RELATED PUBLICATIONS:     The Twelve Apostles; Managing Weeds as Cover Crops; Weed Seed Meal Fertilizer; No-Till Hungarian Stock Squash; Planting Maize with Living Mulches; Living Mulches for Weed Control; Organic Herbicides; Pelleted Seed Primer; Crops Among the Weeds; Forage Maize for Soil Improvement; Forage Radish Primer; and Rototiller Primer.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE?     Contact the Author directly if you have any questions or need additional information on growing crops and weeds together.

Please visit:  http://www.worldagriculturesolutions.com  — or —  send your questions to:  Eric Koperek, Editor, World Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania, 15108 United States of America  — or —  send an e-mail to:  Eric Koperek = worldagriculturesolutions@gmail.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:     Mr. Koperek is a plant breeder who farms in Pennsylvania during summer and Florida over winter.  (Growing 2 generations each year speeds development of new crop varieties).

WATER WARS

Feuds over water rights clog the courts.  Governments impose oppressive regulations on landowners.  What can you do when the water police pound on your door?  Here are some tips on winning a water war:

The King’s Rule:     Under English common law, all farmers along a stream must share water equally.  Under Spanish law, the first farmer to settle on a watershed owns all of the water.  Spanish custom is the basis for most water laws in the western U.S.A.  For example, a person with “senior water rights” is often the descendant of an original homesteader = the first person to stake claim to a watershed.

A Napoleonic general once quipped:        “Spain is a land where small armies are defeated and large armies starve”.  To understand Spanish water law, you have to visit Spain.  After Switzerland, Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe.  Half of the land is rocky, barren, and dry.  Irrigation is essential throughout much of the Iberian Peninsula.  No water = no food, which is why Spanish water law is so strictly possessive.

Twisted Legislation:     Over the centuries, Spanish customary law has been widely = wildly interpreted so that modern laws now bear little resemblance to colonial practice.  Such extreme interpretations are the basis for silly regulations where governments claim to own the rain that falls on a farmer’s fields or prohibit a man from collecting water from his own house roof.  Thus, “you must have license to build a pond because the water belongs to the State”.

Take Them to Court:     If you have a combative personality, retain an experienced trial attorney and fight for your water rights.  The most common argument is that “God owns the rain” or, more practically speaking, a farmer owns the rain that falls on his land, but the State may regulate water that flows through or beside his property.  Thus, a farmer can build a pond on his own land but may not dam a common stream.

Justice for Sale:     If you have money to invest, consider buying water rights or shares in a canal company.  Alternatively, drill a deep well.  Over the short term, this is often cheaper than battling in the courts.  If you own canal shares then water regulations are mostly irrelevant because water law is designed to protect the “haves” from the “have nots”.

Beat Them at Their Own Game:     Another strategy is to play the system.  For this you need to read the law and clearly understand the legal definitions of “ponds” and other water control technologies.  For example, many water regulations exempt artificial fish ponds provided they are not directly linked to public waterways.  Meaning:  You can convert an “irrigation reservoir” into a “farm fish pond” by stocking your lake with fingerlings purchased from the nearest State fish hatchery.  Keep receipts in case the local water police try to regulate your pond.  Carefully screen pond outflows so fish cannot escape into State controlled waters.  Most states have programs and publications to help land owners manage fish ponds.  Ask your local fisheries officer or agriculture extension agent for more information.

It’s not a Window, it’s a Door!     Historically, French houses were taxed according to the number of windows.  Crafty homeowners invented the French Door to outwit local tax collectors.  Similarly, you can often dodge water laws by using “creative labeling”.  It is not an “irrigation reservoir” but rather a “water distribution structure”, “swimming pool”, “stock watering tank”, “fire control pond” or “wastewater treatment lagoon”.  Again, make certain that whatever structure you want to build meets official legal definition.  Ask for help from relevant government agencies and meticulously record their involvement.  Thus, you can pit competing bureaucracies against each other.  For example, if the water police hail you into court, the fire control district becomes your ally.

Exceptions Define the Law:     Water laws are all about “loop holes”.  Search for exceptions that you can employ to your advantage.  For example, many regulations exempt dams not more than 6 feet high.  As long as your “water control structure” is under the mark, the water police are powerless to harass you.

Household Water Supplies:     Cisterns and “potable water systems” are often exempt from local water regulations.  Many water laws fail to define or limit the size or capacity of these systems.  For example, when does a pond become a lake?  How big is a kitchen garden?  How much water do you need to fight fires or water livestock?  Is a 2 year water supply too much or not enough?  Do not be afraid to play the numbers, especially in these times of irregular rainfall and extended drought.  Climate change affects everybody.  Translation:  A jury is most likely to find for a homeowner with an empty cistern.

Grandfather Clauses:     Many activities are permissible because they were started or completed before modern laws were enacted.  Thus, your lakes, dams and canals may be “grandfathered” because they predate current water regulations.  “This dam is 100 years old; we are just repairing the spillway”.  Note:  The structure may be a 400-year old archeological ruin, but as long as there is physical evidence of hydraulic engineering it can be grandfathered in most jurisdictions.  Mere traces of ancient canals are sufficient to legally establish prior irrigation works.

The Texas Two-Step:     Sometimes the best way to win a water war is to side-step the issue entirely.  Thus, it is not an “irrigation structure” but rather a “sediment control basin”.  This is more devious than mere creative labeling.  Most soil conservation technology exists to manage surface water.  Thus, what is legal under a soil conservation plan may not be popular with the local water police.  And while the big government bureaucracies are battling each other, you are free to do mostly as you please.  Ask your local soil conservation officer about government services, grants, and low-interest loans for landholders.

Vote with Your Feet:      Sometimes the least expensive way to win a water war is to change jurisdiction.  Move across the border to another province or onto an Indian reservation.  Every state has different laws and Indian lands are governed by Tribal Councils.  What is unlawful in one jurisdiction is legal in another.  Shop around for a location with the most favorable water regulations.  Big corporations do this routinely, and for good reason.  Choose the wrong state and your farm or business could lose vast sums.

Cute Furry Animals:     Supporting local wildlife is politically correct.  Nobody says no to Bambi, not even the water police.  Take all of your land that is not good for crops or grazing.  On many farms and ranches, problem lands take up half or more of total area.  Incorporate these “useless” acres as wildlife preserves.  (Nature reserves are tax exempt and eligible for government environmental subsidies, low-interest loans, and grants).  Now you can thumb your nose at the water police because they will not fight the State Fish & Game Commission.  Build as many ponds, dams, and weirs as you want — just make certain all “water control structures” are included in the watershed management plan for your deer park.  The water police will be powerless to stop you.

The key to success is your official = government approved watershed plan.  The goal is to trap every drop of rain that falls on your land = zero runoff.  Of course there are ulterior motives here.  You are not just signing away half of your farm for nothing.  Supporting wildlife is just an excuse to do what you want = provide water for agriculture and grazing.  This is accomplished by recharging the aquifer = raising water tables.  Use bad land like a giant sponge to soak up and store water.  Sink wells down slope to extract water for crops and animals.  (Drilling horizontal wells avoids pumping costs).  This game works because most states either do not regulate or weakly control ground water.  In most jurisdictions, farmers can draw unlimited amounts of underground water — even in states with highly restrictive surface water laws.

The Spirit vs. the Letter of the Law:     The Government forbids irrigation but you have 27 acres and need to feed your family.  What do you do?  Solution:  Redefine “irrigation”.  Install 27 wildlife drips, one for each acre.  At each water point plant a single fruit or nut tree, berry bush, grape vine, sweet potato, squash or melon.  Surround each plant with a blanket of mulch 8 inches thick to prevent weed growth and soil water evaporation.  Runoff from each drip waters adjacent crop plant.  Thus, you can obey the spirit of the law yet avoid the wrath of the water police.  Talk to your local conservation agency and they might even pay you to install watering points for wildlife.  Birds, toads, rabbits, snakes, mice, chipmunks, bees and other critters all need to drink — especially during a drought.  (You can play the same game with stock watering tanks.  Overflow from each tank waters an apple or almond tree).

Recycled Water:     Why fight for water when you have already won the war?  If you are lucky enough to own land near a wastewater treatment plant, you can get vast amounts of irrigation water super cheap or free-of-charge.  You may have to pay for piping and hook-up to the local municipal water system but this is far less costly than buying water rights or canal shares.  For less than it costs to drill a deep well you can own a water utility company with a single customer — you.  Negotiate a long-term contract to protect your water supply.  Ask to see a water analysis to prevent contaminating your land with unsafe amounts of heavy metals.  Sign a municipal agreement to recycle treated sewage effluent and the water police will leave you alone.  (Act now before some other clever farmer stakes claim to this water bonanza).

Beneath Government Radar:     The water Nazis will not let you build a pond.  Do not blow up and cuss them out.  Cursing the mindless robots is but a momentary pleasure.  Instead, smile sweetly then rent a trenching machine.  Cut narrow trenches 4 to 6 inches wide every 50 feet across your land.  Follow hillside contours or dig trenches perpendicular = at 90 degree angle to water flow across your fields.  Dig trenches as deep as machinery reaches, 4 to 8 feet depth is ideal.  Trenches intercept water and sediment before they run off your land.  Use a back hoe to dig 12 inch wide trenches across canyon floors every 50 feet down the watershed.

A similar technology uses rotary post-hole diggers to excavate a sponge-like matrix across each field.  Fill holes with compost or similar media then plant with deep rooted crops like squash or melons.  Trenches and holes trap vast amounts of water for subsoil storage.  6-inch rains disappear like water in a colander.  Aquifers rise and crops become nearly drought proof.  Subsoil moisture is more important than surface water.

Another related technique is subsoil ripping or keyline plowing.  For this you need 3/4 inch wide blades 12 to 16 inches long spaced 2 feet apart on a tractor tool bar.  Till fields and pastures yearly along contour lines to increase air and water penetration into the subsoil.  Digging trenches, drilling holes, or cutting slits across fields and pastures trap vastly more water than any farm pond.  So let the local water police have their petty victory.  You do not need a pond if your aquifer is bursting beneath your feet.  Sink a well and draw all the water you need.  No government regulation required.

On Again, Off Again:     Streams that are dry part of the year are called seasonal or intermittent waterways.  Seasonal creeks are often exempt from local water laws which concentrate primarily on “permanent” streams, rivers and lakes that are wet year-round.  In desert and semi-arid climates, most canyons = arroyos = wadis = coulees = gullies = washes are seasonal watercourses that run primarily during the winter or monsoon months.  In a good year, a gully might flood 4 to 6 times during the summer.  In a bad year, the same stream might flow only once or twice in a growing season.  Under most canyons are subsurface streams that can flow 5 years between rains.

The best way to manage seasonal creeks is to build small weirs = check dams every 50 to 100 yards down the entire length of the wadi system.  Dump baskets of rocks across stream beds until weirs are 3 feet high.  No mortar or concrete required.  (If stones are small use wire gabions to hold rocks so they do not wash away).  Weirs slow floods so water has more time to soak into ground.  Slow moving water drops sand, silt, and clay behind each weir.  Plant drought-resistant trees in sediments collected behind each check dam.  Every pocket of soft soil acts like a giant sponge holding water and nutrients for improved crop growth.

Canyon systems collect and concentrate runoff from vast areas, effectively multiplying rainfall 10 to 20 times average precipitation rates.  Thus, 1 inch of rain in the uplands = 10 to 20 inches of water in a coulee.  The trick is to get all of this water to soak into the ground as fast as possible.  Dry land agriculture is all about managing water tables.  The aquifers below each arroyo support trees and crops during summer months or extended droughts.

Working at Cross Purposes:     Many water districts have conflicting regulations that a clever attorney can argue in his client’s interest.  What do you do when local ordinances forbid digging ponds yet, at the same time, prohibit landholders from discharging runoff from their property?  Situations like this frequently involve several government departments (irrigation, sanitation, and conservation) each with their own often contradictory edicts.  The best solution is to seek regulatory protection with the strongest local agency then let the bureaucrats fight among themselves.  Divide and conquer.  Build an “erosion control basin” and watch the water police slink away.  Irrigation districts rarely cross swords with municipal water authorities or conservation agencies, and no judge will rule against a property owner who tries in good faith to comply with government regulations.

Go with the Flow:     Some water laws are so strict they ban anything that impounds = stops water flow.  Impound does not mean impede, restrict, or delay.  As long as water continues to flow (however slowly) the landholder is exempt from water regulations.  So if the water police forbid building a pond that does not prevent you from irrigating fruit trees with runoff from household downspouts.  Turn your garden into a giant sponge.  Dig out the topsoil and replace with 100% compost or peat moss.  Organic matter holds 10 times its weight in water.  Channel all runoff to your garden and your crops will be nearly drought proof.  There are many ways to “go with the flow”.  For example, you could build a series of “reflection pools” with 1/4 inch diameter drains.  As long as the water continues to flow 24 hours a day = without stopping your wonders of hydraulic engineering will remain on the right side of the law.

Gresham’s Law:     Whatever the King does not specifically forbid, a citizen may do.  Whatever the King does not specifically command, a citizen need not do.  The key word here is “specific”.  If the government does not explicitly define, require, or limit an action, a landholder is free to do whatever he wants.  Translation:  The Government cannot prosecute a person unless his action violates a previously published law that exactly defines the offense.  Always remember Gresham’s Law when reading or interpreting water laws.  Pay special attention to legal definitions as law is all about little details.  For example, a “swimming pool” is not an “irrigation pond” if it is used primarily for recreation (which does not prevent draining pool weekly to control algae and mosquitoes.  This is part of good pool maintenance practices which are not often regulated by local ordinance.  How drained water may be used is also not controlled in most jurisdictions.  Thus, you can irrigate your garden with drain water from a swimming pool unless this action is specifically prohibited by law, regulation, or ordinance.

Would You Like to Know More?     Please contact the author directly if you have any questions or need additional information about water rights and riparian law.

Please visit:  http://www.agriculturesolutions.wordpress.com  — or — http://www.worldagriculturesolutions.wordpress.com  — or —  send your questions to:  Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania 15108 United States of America  — or —  send an e-mail to:  Eric Koperek = worldagriculturesolutions@gmail.com

About the Author:     Mr. Koperek is an international consultant with many decades of experience developing agricultural water projects.  Between business trips, Mr. Koperek breeds open-pollinated Indian corn, winter squash, and melons.  Mr. Koperek farms in Pennsylvania during the summer and Florida during the winter.  (Growing 2 generations each year speeds development of new crop varieties).