Current as of 2020-06-28 17:43:18 +0000
The farm as it is doesn’t have a lot of fertility. We believe this is not because of lack of rainfall or some other environmental factor but because of bad agricultural practices that were used for many decades. We want to actively fix this and increase the production of biomass tenfold.
We consider everything to be some sort of crop. Some plants are enablers, can be forage or are forage directly.
Trees for shade and humus
We do want to have a lot of additional trees for different purposes while respecting and caring for the existing oak trees in our forest.
Our tree planting effort is primarily meant to:
- provide more shade
- provide more degradeable biomass for conversion into humus
As a consequence - not as an objective - we look forward to a harvest of:
- nuts and fruits
Because our primary objective is shade and biomass we are looking to plant something that grows very fast. Varieties of the species Paulownia elongata are amongst the fastest growing trees. The very big leafs help as well with our objective.
There is a number of companies providing hybrid species that are sterile and thus are interesting for our purposes because there is no risk of having an invasive species on the land.
We don’t want to use Paulownia exclusively. They are meant to be an enabler species so that other plants can grow better later on. We do want to plant fruit and nut trees in areas where that makes more sense. Eventually many of the Paulownias will be harvested for timber while other trees are supposed to be standing for a very long time.
The tree provider publishes this chart:
After one year we might have trees between 2 m and 4 m tall. That would allow us to keep the sheep below the trees and at some point the cows can also begin grazing below the trees. According to the tree provider we should give them two years before allowing cows into the area. Obviously the growth rate depends on many factors and we will have to watch it.
The Paulownia trees can later be harvested for timber or for biomass. In the case of timber we want to preserve the full useful length of the trunk while for biomass a log length of 2,50 m is desired.
We need to consider the timber harvest at the time of planting as felling huge trees can create a problem - we don’t want to destroy other trees or infrastructure.
Planting at B01
B01 has no trees standing. The cold season grass has been growing well with sufficient time to recover from grazing. Some Cynodon dactylon (warm season grass) has shown up but it’s a small spot here and a small spot there.
During summer the area only provides standing hay because it dries out as there is no shade nor warm season grass.
Because there are no other trees to consider we can plant Paulownia trees in a plantation-like pattern as shown:
The Paulownias will provide shade while they grow. We need to prune them once in a while and the leafs will be forage for the cows. In the shade the existing cold-season grass should be able to grow again after it has gone to seed.
We cannot start planting baby trees before we have installed a physical fence around the area to protect it from the sheep.
Until the trees have grown enough we can’t take cattle there. To be safe for cattle and horses we will need to wait about 2 years. Sheep are smaller and it may be safe after 1 year. So we will not be able to use the area for that time and can’t take advantage of the pasture.
We may use chickens in chicken tractors in between the rows and keep them contained with electric poultry netting.
Planting at A09
Currently (July 2020) we have 35 iberian pigs in this area. They are on their summer diet and will soon leave the area for A04.
A09 has an average number of oak trees but it’s still very open and there isn’t much shade. Before the pigs moved in the area had cold season grasses that grew well.
We plan to plant a larger number of Paulownias (green circles) and fruit and nut trees together with shrubs on the berm of the pond. The trees on the pond should provide shade for other plants below and stabilize the berm.
Not all Paulownias will be harvested in the future in order to have a more dense canopy and thus shade.
We had ordered seeds for Panicum maximum as a warm season grass. This grass has been planted in nearby Cadiz province. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 the seed got stuck in customs and we never received it.
Cold season grasses
During fall of 2020 we want to seed a mix of cold season grasses in order to mitigate the loss of seed due to a large ant populate we have on site. Seeding is planned to be done shortly before the cows enter an area so that they can trample the seed and bring it in good contact with the soil. During the resting period the seed can germinate and we will watch the new plants closely before we let the cows graze the area again.
Uncomplete seed list:
Warm season grasses
During spring 2021 we want to seed a mix of warm season grasses. The technique is the same as for the cold season grasses: seed is spread in front of the cows.
Uncomplete seed list:
- Panicum maximum
- Dactilo glomerata
- Eragrostis teff tiffany
- Esparceta comun
Crops in our case are primarily to let the pigs forage instead of purchasing commercial feed for them. However, we may harvest something for human consumption as well.
We did some experiment with corn (maize) Zea mays at A04 after the pigs had left the area. We used a small motor cultivator to loosen up the soil and then used a manual seeder to open up a channel, put in the seed and cover it with soil. That worked well but it was hard work due to the very hard soil and the small machine.
The variety used was Maiz Assist Ciclo 230
Ideally there shouldn’t be any need to till - in fact it would be better not to - but as we lack the amount of organic matter in the soil that would keep it loose, we have to do something in order to get started.
We want to employ the pigs for the initial tilling, move them away and then seed when the soil is still moist and loose.
Alternatively we can use a tractor and use the machine.
In the best case we would seed a mix of forage and vegetables for different users of the crop as outlined in this article. Typically that requires a seed drill but maybe we can seed in front of the cows and just see what will happen.
Another version is to let the pigs tear up the soil well but not destroy it completely. Then distribute the seed and let the cows in (strips with electric fence) to trample it in. The cows won’t find a lot of forage but can be moved to another paddock with richer forage after a short while.
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