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Old 02-23-2012, 11:40 PM   #91
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Is in worth it monetarily? Of course not. Is it worth it to have beer that is 100% homegrown? Hell yes! This is something I might do when I retire. I see the malting as the most challenging part personally...
Yeah if you take your time into account, it's def. not worth it to grow your own. Not worth it to homebrew, either! I bet if you already have equipment, you won't end up spending much.

Malting is not hard -- it requires 5 minutes of work in the morning and 5 at night. I've had ruined batches of malt when I didn't plan properly, and I was away from the house for 3-4 days. Soak your grains for 8 hours, let them breathe for 8, then soak another 8. Drain for 1-2 hours, spread out on a tarp, then turn and spritz with water (if your climate is dry) in the morning and evening. Once acrospires are as long as the grain kernel, spread out thinly and dry with a box fan.

The tricky part is that you need a gentle oven for kilning -- many electric ovens simply can't run cool enough. See if your oven can go to 200F or lower. If so, you're in business. After grains are dry, kiln at 200F for 5 hours for pilsner malt, a little higher (210 or so) for pale ale, and higher for toasted malts. Haven't tried crystal malts yet, but you can do the steeping step (at mash temps) in your mash tun with an electric blanket and your temperature controller.
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Old 02-23-2012, 11:43 PM   #92
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Also, what method are you going to use to harvest?
I don't know yet. A scythe would be awesome, but since my field is pretty small, I will probably just hack it with a big and old kitchen knife. I should have access to a thresher / winnower, but if I don't, I will pile up plants on a tarp and beat the hell out of them with a flail, then pass in front of a box fan to winnow.

You can get away with a lot of inefficiency when you're small!
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:15 AM   #93
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Viruses normally don't follow a straight line like I see in your pictures.
I sent some photos to my local malting barley expert at UC Davis, Lynn Gallagher. She also felt sure it wasn't Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus, for the same reason: a virus wouldn't infect in straight lines.

Ok, so let's rule out a virus. That leaves N deficiency or poor drainage. My field is divided into three units by the regular pattern of irrigation posts. I fertilized at three different rates, one per section. But check out the patchiness of the affected plants:



It's that straight-line border on the far side, but a big diagonal border on the near side. The diseased area is a triangle, and the nearest (healthy) barley and the affected patch were fertilized at the same rate!

I think that if nutrient deficiency were the problem, I would see a big square of affected plants, matching the pattern of fertilization. But instead I see a triangle. So I think that makes N deficiency less likely. Anybody else have an opinion on this?

So, what about drainage? The affected spot does indeed sit at a low point in the field. The slope is subtle, but I noticed it when I was planting, and there's no doubt that the healthy barley are in high spots.

What to do? I can adjust my irrigation heads to some extent, but that area is already getting the least amount of water in the entire field.

If the problem is that the nitrogen in the low spots is getting diluted by excess water, I can broadcast ammonium sulfate in the bad patches.

I don't want to reduce the overall irrigation, because the healthy barley is jointing now, growing at a very fast rate -- it has grown all the way up to my junk now.

Well, at least it's not a virus. I feel much better now.
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Old 02-24-2012, 04:40 AM   #94
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I'm not surprised you don't have a perfect square. The problem could be a combination of things. Maybe lack of N and too wet. Maybe soil variations. Maybe a herd of deer took a crap.

What is your irrigation rate. As long as your soil holds water (not sand) then you only really need about 4 good soaks all year. About 4" each time. As long and it isn't blazing hot, it is good to leave some time between watering so the roots grow deeper for water. Also deeper roots find more nutrients. Look into a Paul Brown probe to measure soil moisture. You can make one buy sharpening the end of a steel rod. Lb

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Old 02-24-2012, 04:54 AM   #95
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You could try AMS, but it takes time to be available to the plant. A liquid N would be better, but you can't spray much on the leaves or you can burn the plants. We do what is called streambarring. The N is put out in streams of liquid. This way only a little gets on the plants, most hits the ground. If that all sounds like a pain, AMS is better then nothing.

If you really want to know what nutrients are missing send in some tissue samples. http://www.agviselabs.com/index.php they are only about $35.

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Old 02-27-2012, 09:48 PM   #96
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I broadcast 20-20-20 over the affected area, bringing total N up to 80 lb/acre.

Our irrigation is 5 min/day from posts. Sounds like it's exactly the opposite of what you do to encourage deep root growth...

The upside of that irrigation schedule is that broadcast fertilizer gets completely incorporated into soil after a few days.

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Old 02-28-2012, 01:18 AM   #97
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Humm. 5 minutes. wonder what kind of root growth you have. You obviously have a much different climate and soil then we do. If I did lots of short watering the top 6in would be damp and it would be bone dry from there down. Barley roots will reach 4ft or more if water is present in the deep soil. If you are worried get the shovel out and dig a hole.

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Old 03-01-2012, 08:27 AM   #98
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I've been searching around for a Paul Brown probe -- I will probably resort to the shovel method.

Just to sum up, unresolved problems are:

  • Nutrient-deficient patch has not showed signs of improvement; broadcast fertilizer may take more time to have affect, or it may be too late in the season
  • Drainage may be insufficient, and waterings may be too frequent -- unknown soil moisture depth
  • Tons of aphids, as many as 10 per plant. May be too late in season to worry about this. Plants are too thick to walk through, which prevents applying pesticide by hand. At least there are no signs of viruses yet.
  • And of course the rows are too damn far apart.

With that out of the way, I realize that I am very lucky to present to you: awns!



Each awn is attached to one grain. These are the first signs of the grain head, and they are the whisker-like parts of the grain that will later on thresh away as part of the chaff. I couldn't be more psyched to see these, especially given the patchy-ass nature of the field in general.

You might imagine that the plants with awns are in the lushest, most well-fertilized part of the field. You'd be right. There are just a few plants with awns peaking out. However, most plants in the lush plot have at least a flag leaf:



The flag leaf is the terminal leaf of the shoot. That is, the plant's developmental program just stops with this leaf -- there will be no more leaves that emerge from the main shoot. The tillers (if they do not abort) will each produce their own flag leaf.

When the flag leaf is young, it looks like every other emerging leaf, but as it matures, you can notice that there is no plant tissue extending from the place where the leaf attaches to the stem. See in the photo above, the leaf's axil forms a flat platform with a small divot. Typically, another leaf would be extending from this spot. But instead, the grain head will eventually emerge from this spot on the flag leaf, beginning with the awns.

Additionally, Conlon seems to have a purple color surrounding the flag leaf axil. I didn't know to expect this.

So where does that put us? There have been 916.5 Growth Degree Days (GDD) since emergence. (see earlier posts for explanation of how this is calculated)

Most of the well-fed plants are at the flag leaf stage, where Merit was in Idaho at 965 GDD. My Conlon is still slightly ahead of Merit's schedule, just as it has been since the early weeks. Amazing how programmatic plant development can be.

A few plants, as noted, have emerging awns, which took Merit 1114.5 GDD to accomplish.

Curiously, the Scottish bere has fallen behind. Even though it kept pace with its neighbor Conlon during early development, it is now just beginning the jointing stage, putting it a few weeks behind.

The U Idaho blog warns against insufficient water during this stage of growth. Fortunately, I am growing during the winter, so I don't need to worry as much about water availability. For example, the high today was 57F, and the highest these plants have seen so far is about 67F. I would feel much safer with a soil moisture depth measurement though...
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Old 03-02-2012, 11:48 PM   #99
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Any risk of cross-pollination? This also has to be an all-organic operation, as per the request of my generous benefactor.[/QUOTE]

If memory serves me right barley is self pollinating.

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Old 03-03-2012, 12:03 AM   #100
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Yes, most barley strains self-pollinate. Whether they do or not depends on when the flowers mature. If they mature before emerging from the boot, then you only have self-pollination. Most rye strains have flowers that mature after emergence, which is why ergot is more prevalent in rye.

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