Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Questing Beast

I am on a quest for perennial wheat. Looking through my old seed catalogs the other day, I found an offering in my 2005 Bountiful Gardens for perennial wheat seeds. Whoa! Totally cool. Wouldn't it be neat to have a "wheat patch."

Unfortunately, they no longer offer it. I contacted them, and the wonderful woman at Bountiful Gardens said that the seedsman they got their seed from had to go find a job in town (well, I'm paraphrasing...) and the perennial variety was lost. She felt bad about it. I contacted her seedsman (Peters Seed and Research), and he said that he hoped to have another strain available in a few years.

So now I am looking around for perennial wheat seeds. So far, all my leads have been dead ends. Terribly frustrating.
It turns out that Soviet Russia experimented with perennial wheat for years from the late 40s through to the early 60s, and University of California-Davis experimented with perennial wheat during roughly the same time frame.... but neither group could ever make perennial wheat yield as much as annual wheat.... So They Gave It Up! Aaaaaarrrghhghgh!!!!!!!!! I hate the Green Revolution. (I am told to expect roughly half the yield with perennial wheat, compared with annual wheat.)

Never so much as a thought, that perennial wheat might have its own niche to fill, as a productive soil perserver on hillsides... or as a useful small-scale diversified farm plant.... or that it would need fewer pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers....

So anyway.

Perennial wheat is in my head now, and it won't let me go. The Seed Savers Exchange has so far been unable to provide me with a solid lead, although they have pointed me to the University of Washington, which is the current large-scale researcher. I haven't contacted them yet... that's my next step.

Darn questing beast. It exists, I know it. Somewhere out there, there are seeds available. I haven't found them yet. But I AM going to have that wheat patch. I think it would be wonderful to have a standing patch of wheat to supply my wheat grinder.


wendy said...

Wow...I love that idea too!

kevin roberts said...

Hey Wendy--

Shawna is always looking for permaculture. And if you have some space in order to work with reduced yields, it makes good sense.

John Jeavons bio-intensive style is really good as well, but is better suited for Japanese-style crowds than other things.

I've just finished planting trees in a bed made from two year-old outhouse compost. I've planted about 150 blue damson plums, 150 free-stone peaches, and about 700 mixed tulip poplars and sugar maples.

Then I planted about 300 more of each of these along fence rows and edge grounds by just broadcasting seeds.

A one-percent success rate will provide us with all we need.

Tim Peters said...

Hi Shawna,'s me, Tim Peters... I was trying to hunt down perennial grain materials I had lost... that is how I came across your entry. ...Anyhow, if you or another is serious about getting material, contact me.