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bottlebomber

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drummstikk said:
Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now. Where do you buy your ladybugs? Can you order them online?
I have a well stocked nursery that supplies ladybugs, praying mantis eggs etc. but I can't imagine in this day and age you couldn't order them. Another option I know of it there is a high velocity pulsing water system that kills aphids. But thinking about it from a logistical POV that amount of grass is definitely going to need some kind of drastic measure
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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The yellow barley could be anything but most likely lack of N or the virus. Hard to tell the difference. Viruses normally don't follow a straight line like I see in your pictures. You do need about 150lb of total N per acre, so your rates seem low unless there was a bunch of N in the soil.
Thanks, Fife. Nitrogen was my first suspect until I noticed all the bugs. Good to know that they can show similar symptoms.

Hmm..., can I top dress with Nitrogen this late?
 

bottlebomber

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drummstikk said:
Thanks, Fife. Nitrogen was my first suspect until I noticed all the bugs. Good to know that they can show similar symptoms.

Hmm..., can I top dress with Nitrogen this late?
You could apply it as a foliar spray of it is water soluble. Yellowing also could be from poor soil drainage and over watering
 

rexbanner

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Neat and timely post. I'm planting my first crop of barley in a few weeks--Merit, AB's cultivar. I think I'll also plant some Charles, a six row variety with good malting characteristics that has been grown successfully in Virginia. Any risk of cross-pollination? This also has to be an all-organic operation, as per the request of my generous benefactor.

Also, what method are you going to use to harvest? I am planning on buying a scythe from American scythe supply. It really doesn't seem so bad, the youtube videos I've seen show that a European scythe makes pretty short work of any grain. Looks kind of fun. The threshing does seem like it will suck, though.

As to whether it's worth it? We'll see. Just a 1000 sq ft crop should produce enough for five batches of beer. Not too bad.
 

rexbanner

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Oh yeah, and props to Ryan (Fifelee) for providing the seeds. Cheers!
 

bottlebomber

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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...
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Very true. Is the yellow in a low spot where water collects?
Hmm, the yellow spot is a bit lower, yes.

There is never water pooling on the surface after irrigation. If undrained water is the culprit, could it be building up below ground?
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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I think I'll also plant some Charles, a six row variety with good malting characteristics that has been grown successfully in Virginia.
Keep in mind, that because Charles is a winter barley, it will have a vernalization requirement. That is, it won't flower unless it gets cold enough. I don't know how cold it needs to be -- I remember looking for this info and not finding it.

Typically, you would plant Charles in the fall, let it overwinter, then it will start up growth again in the spring. I planted some Maris Otter, which is also a winter barley, last spring -- it grew, tillered, and got nice and thick, but never began jointing, and never headed.
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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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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drummstikk

drummstikk

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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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drummstikk

drummstikk

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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.
 

fifelee

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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
 

fifelee

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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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drummstikk

drummstikk

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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.
 

fifelee

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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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drummstikk

drummstikk

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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...
 

KemP130

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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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drummstikk

drummstikk

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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.
 

fifelee

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Looks great. This is a neat stage. The field goes from a uneven ragged looking crop to a nice full fields of barley heads.
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Thanks for the words, people.

Accumulated GDD since emergence of the first leaf = 1093.

Most of the field is at awn emergence, right were Merit was around the same GDD:



The most advanced part of the field seems to be in flowering, with most heads emerged or partially emerged, about a week ahead of Merit. This is the same trend that has existed going back to the first stages of leaf development.



Even the short, nutrient-deficient part of the field has emerging awns:



although, they are patchier there than in the healthy parts.

Anybody familiar enough with kernel development to know if this guy is past flowering and into the soft dough stage?



I guess the main conclusion I have so far is that fertilization and perhaps planting rate have a drastic impact on plant development. We'll see if that carries over into the yield I can get from different parts of the field.

Also worth pointing out -- the field is crawling with aphids:



They don't seem to have carried any viruses, but I would have liked to have sprayed with an insecticide early on. Still have the option, but navigating the field is so hard, that I imagine I would cause more damage to the plants than I would prevent. Any advice here?
 

fifelee

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Looks great. I believe you will see the flowers. Been awhile since we raised barley, but flowers are very evident in wheat. I bet you will see them soon.
 

KemP130

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In my opinion I think it is too late to spray. All that is left is grain fill and you won't lose much from the aphids.
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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In my opinion I think it is too late to spray. All that is left is grain fill and you won't lose much from the aphids.
Agreed.

Fife, are these flowers?



I also noticed a bunch of dust (pollen?) floating off of the heads when I shake them. I was under the impression that most barley lines are selfing, that they only mate with themselves because pollination occurs internally to each seed. There aren't any other barley crops near my field (the bere hasn't even headed yet), so I'm not worried about genetic contamination. But I'm just curious: is this a sign that Conlon barley is able to have sex?

In other news:



I have a crop circle! Actually, it's more of a blob. And even more actually, it's lodging. Lodging happens in varieties with plump grains when they get a little too much nutrition combined with some rain and wind. Last week we had half an inch of rain, which doesn't sound like too much, but apparently it was enough to do the trick.



The plants are bent over at their 1st node, and they have begun to straighten up at the 3rd node. The overall effect is an S-shape in the stalk. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much to be done once the crop is lodged. There will be some losses, but many of the plants will straighten out and produce grain:



You can see the flag leaves and awns of the lodged plants still pointing skyward, albeit at a lower elevation.

Now check this out: the lodged area is right next to and has received the same amount of fertilizer as the area that is stumpy and yellow. I indicated the lodged area on this old photo:



Lodging can be caused by several things, but it typically doesn't happen to undernourished crops. So what's going on?

I can't say I'm sure. It could be that nitrogen was distributed in a strange pattern in the soil from a previous crop. Or it could be that the stumpy crop and lodging both have something to do with water.

The lush crop that had a lodged section is located in an arc around an irrigation head. Maybe this head is usually providing plenty of water (too much last week), but the rest of plot 2 is underwatered. Now, I don't think the crop shows signs of water stress. I haven't seen any wilting. But as Fife suggested, it could be that the crop in this part of the field has short roots due to frequent but too light watering. Those short roots may have exhausted the nitrogen in the top layer of soil, and they may be unable to get to nitrogen in dry deeper layers.

It's just a guess -- I won't know the water depth for sure until I dig a hole. Any thoughts here are much appreciated, as always.

Well, though the patchy-ass nature of the field has thus become more patchy-ass, there is plenty of good news to be had in picture form:



These grain heads are on the shortest, most nitrogen-deficient-looking plants in the whole field! Whatever the issue is, I'm still going to get some grain from this part.



This shovel is about four feet tall, and awn tips in this part of the field are at nip height.



A few of the bere plants are beginning to show their six-row heads, though most are just beginning to show emerging awns.



Hmm, that looks like at least one 5-gallon keg full of beer. Must not get hopes up, must not get hopes up...
 

ASublimeDay

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A solution for the aphids would be to buy a big ass box of ladybugs and release them. 15 bucks for 1,500 bugs in my area. They'll take care of those aphids without damaging the plants.
 
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Nothing to do now but wait for grain heads to fill.

Well, nothing to do except grow some hops! Over the past few months, working on the barley has been so new and different, that it was almost easy to forgot that I've only been working on 50% of my quest to make a 100% homegrown beer. (Well, 25% if you count homegrown water and yeast, but those parts are always homegrown, right?)

On to hops: I have 2-year-old vines of Columbus, Chinook, Glacier, and Cluster in my backyard, but I'm moving to another apartment. That means I have to transplant my hops if I want to take advantage of the growth in the root structure from last year. Even then it's hard to get all the smaller roots when you dig them up, but worth it. One positive aspect of the transplant is that this will be a great opportunity to plant them correctly in a permanent location on the farm, where even if I someday leave the Bay Area, another brave soul can take over the mature plants.

I got permission to plant hops along a south-facing chain link fence with access to drip irrigation.



There are some oaks on the north side of the fence, but the southern view is all clear -- really, it doesn't get better than this unless you build your own hop trellis in the middle of an open field. You can see the black irrigation tubing snaking along in the foreground.

First step was to pick sites and dig holes, 1-2 cubic feet each, for four transplants and five rhizome cuttings from Freshops. I've heard they dig holes much deeper and bigger on a hop farm, like maybe 9 cubic feet, but I kept my holes on the smaller side because of the amount of work required to dig by hand. (Where has my work ethic gone since the days of digging furrows across the entire field? I don't even want to dig nine wimpy holes now!)



Then fill up with compost



The compost is so loose that it easily compresses into the bottom of the hole. When you fill in the original dirt, it just makes a small mound, which is what you want to prevent water from pooling near the crown.



This transplanted Columbus plant has seen happier times.

Check out some of these rhizomes/roots of the 2nd year plants:



You can see the original rhizome cutting in this Glacier plant's root structure.

And this cluster plant is an absolute beast:



Transplanting ripped most of the smaller roots off of each plant, so I imagine the plants will grow slowly at first, sort of like a repeat of the first year.
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Alright then, nothing to do for the hops but wait a while. I could add some fertilizer, but I think they're still recovering from the shock of transplantation. Plus, there's rain this week, so I'll wait.

Back to barley! I have been noticing some strange flag leaves among the bere plants -- the leaf is all rolled up like an onion plant:



In the affected plants, the heads have a hard time emerging from this funky rolled-up leaf:





I had no idea what to make of this, but today when I was doing some light reading on frost susceptability in barley, I ran across an image on page 11 of this document. The photo showing injury from phenoxy herbicides matches my rolled flag leaves and cramped head exactly. It turns out that phenoxy herbicides include 2,4-D, which I did apply to the bere back in December!

A little more reading revealed that injury from 2,4-D depends on the species of grain (and presumably even the variety), but commonly occurs in two time periods -- during the boot stage, which some of the bere are in now (I haven't applied any 2,4-D recently), and before tillering, a much earlier stage when side stems formed. I did apply 2,4-D right at the beginning of tillering!

I applied 2,4-D on 12/23/2011, at 190.5 GDD, when the bere plants looked about like this:



Those are Conlon plants pictured, but according to my notes, the bere were at the same developmental stage -- very early tillering. I bet there were some bere plants that had not tillered yet, or that bere is simply more sensitive to 2,4-D injury than Conlon.

There could be other explanations -- insects can cause a similar disease. Russian wheat aphids can cause the same rolled onion-leaf with a trapped grain head, but their infestation also causes laminar discolorations in the plant leaves. I have some discoloration due to aphids, but not in a striped pattern:



and not even every onion-leafed bere plant has that spotty discoloration.

I did find an insect larvae in two of the heads that were trapped in a flag leaf. I pulled out the heads by hand and discovered in each one an insect lodged inside:



I pulled out 2-3 more trapped heads, but I didn't find an insect in any of them.

So what's going on? I don't know, and I'm pretty curious what this could be. I think I can narrow it down to injury from the 2,4-D being applied a little too early, or a strange insect (non-aphid) disease. I'm leaning toward 2,4-D, but one thing I've learned so far about farming is that a newbie can look at a disease phenotype and come to a completely different conclusion than somebody with more experience. So, any ideas?
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Half an inch of rain, and



Lodged -- just like the last rainy week. But this patch is about 3-4 times bigger than the last one.



Grain heads are upright, which is better than the alternative.

So it's either nutrient starvation or lodging with Conlon, huh? Wishing Johnny's seeds had had a few more varieties right about now...
 
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drummstikk

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More rain, more lodging.



Both lodged patches expanded their area. But up close, you can tell that the grain heads and flag leaves are actually still off the ground:



Why is the lodging happening? Typically, lodging occurs if the plants get too much nitrogen, but that doesn't really seem to be the issue, since I likely underfertilized. Here's an idea: my plants get a brief watering every afternoon. This likely prevented their roots from growing very deep. Every time a serious rain shower comes along, the shallow roots can't hold on to the soggy soil, and they tip over. Sound reasonable?

I'm now at 1378 GDD since emergence. The developmental milestones from here on out have to do with kernel development, so I opened up a few kernels and peeked inside. I could see a big green ovary in there. Doesn't quite look like a grain yet, so I'm guessing my barley is "just starting to develop its kernels". That puts me still one week ahead of Merit.

* * *

Ok, I need to be out of this field by mid-May so corn for genetics research can come in. That's the whole point of this field after all. I've known I needed to be out by then for a long time, but now mid-May is around the corner. I'd like to get a better guess at whether I'll have enough time or not, so here goes:

I'll see how long it will take to accumulate the same Growth Degree Days that Merit had when it was at the first stage of ripening. It took 2730 GDD for Merit to get there. weather.com's GDD predictor says that we'll have that many GDD here on June 11!

June 11, not good. If that's true, the field will have to be plowed under while my under-ripe barley is on the stalk!

But, an Idaho summer is way hotter than one in northern California. And maybe after a certain temperature, extra heat doesn't really speed things up much. Maybe. If that's the case, then I should be looking at overall time it took Merit to ripen after it reached the stage my Conlon is at now.

It took five weeks for Merit to go from the stage my Conlon is at now until ripening. If it takes five more weeks for my crop to make the same progress, it will be done by the first week of May.

That wouldn't be bad at all, but we're still getting 37F nights here! My plants simply won't develop as fast as those plants did in Idaho when it's as cold as it is...

Oy, too much stress to think about -- on to hops.

Hop rhizomes are now mulched, and an automatic irrigation system is installed!



Once again, my field manager came through in a big way, and I was able to modify and plug into preexisting irrigation tubing. I installed one drip head per plant, and programmed 30 minutes of water per day in the afternoon -- frequent shallow watering for first year and transplanted hops. I can change it to less frequent but longer watering later in the summer when roots are more established.
 

bottlebomber

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I think the overwatering/shallow root theory sounds right. I've never grown barley but I've grown a lot of winter cover crops that need very little of any water. Buckwheat roots can go down 4 to 6 feet evidently. Buckwheat isn't actually a grain as it is in the rhubarb family but I'm sure there are similarities
 
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Fife and others,

At what stage do you typically stop watering your malting barley? My grains at the bottom and top of heads are at the watery ripe stage, and in the middle of heads they are in milk stage.

If I stop watering now, I may be able to speed grain development, right? But if I stop too soon, the grains won't develop at all. Any thoughts on it?
 

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It needs water all they way up until the heads start to ripen or the kernels will shrivel and/or the plant will abort the late kernels. You likely have enough ground water now, but don't think you can just stop watering and it will ripen quicker. I wouldn't let it run out of water until you see the stalks really starting to change color.

I have a chart like this taped in my office. It is for wheat, but barley would be similar. You can see the plant uses quite a bit of water right up until the end.
http://www.smallgrains.org/springwh/June03/water/water.htm
 

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bottlebomber said:
I think the overwatering/shallow root theory sounds right. I've never grown barley but I've grown a lot of winter cover crops that need very little of any water. Buckwheat roots can go down 4 to 6 feet evidently. Buckwheat isn't actually a grain as it is in the rhubarb family but I'm sure there are similarities
The shallow root theory is a very real possibility, when watered too frequently, roots do not penetrate as deep because the water is always at the surface two or so inches.
 
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drummstikk

drummstikk

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Ryan, thanks for the chart.

I purchased a Paul Brown soil moisture probe. It's not very complicated -- It's basically a steel rod with handles on the end. What you do is you shove it into the ground. When it hits dry soil, it gets really difficult / impossible to push. There is metal threading on the end to pull out a little bit of the soil at the bottom of the hole you made. If the soil looks dry, then you can be sure you're measuring the true moisture depth. If it looks wet, try again because you probably just hit a rock and couldn't push it any further.

It turns out I have 9-11" of moist soil in my field. This compares with something like a foot and a half in mulched areas near the field (I guess the transpiration through the plants, and total lack of mulch, reduces moisture in the field.)

Still trying to get an idea for how much water this actually is. For example -- if plants need .2 inches of water per day -- how many days will 9" in the soil last?

I imagine it depends on the type of soil. We've got a clay soil.
 
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