Wednesday, August 31, 2011
i wandered out into the jungle a minutes ago...just to check on the apple trees, jerusalem artichokes, and sundry other plants...when i got to the northern tepehuan teosinte i noticed it had produced three new structures, lower down the main stalk form the flower...these will bear some observation...they may be secondary flowers since this particular plant is over eight feet tall and doesn't show much in the way of signs of slowing down...or ( and this is my hope ) they could be seed ears beginning to form and ripen...more on this one as it develops.
campus was eerily quiet at six twenty in the morning of the second day of fall semester classes...but i suppose not all of us are comfortable with getting out of bed at three and getting moving...i like to watch the sun come up...i use to do it after staying out all night...but that's a story ( or stories ) for a different venue...what i was doing there was maintenance and taking some more photos to compare some facets of zea family morphology...the top photo is of the northern tepehuan teosinte flower at about 6:30 this morning...if you have a look down at the bottom photo you'll see a maize flower on the 24th of this month, just before i took the plants out of the garden...not carbon copies of one another...but they still bear a strong resemblance in the individual petals...close enough to be relatives...the center three photos are of support roots...seond from the top is northern tepeuhan teosinte...the middle photo is zea diplopersnnis, ad the fourth photo is of maize roots out on my sidewalk...all theer plants sprouted support roots, the biggest difference being that both the teosinte strains have sprouted multiple tiers of support roots while the maize kept things to just one set...the zea diploperennis has multiple branches ( tillers) emanating from a central root...individually these branches are taller than the maize plants were but they lay over closer to the ground, due in part, i think, from the greater weight stemming form all those leaves...the support roots have sprouted where the stalks are touching the ground ( i lifted them up to photograph the roots) i don't see any sign of them actually extending into the ground the way the maize roots did so i am not sure if the supplement the main roots in feeding the plant...making them a sort of stolon...or if the structure is solely for support...the northern tepehuan teosinte has sprouted multiple tiers of support roots ( five actually ) but it is by far the taller of the zea family plants both on campus and in my back yard...there certainly is physical evidence for the relationship between these three plants...i'm currently reading some papaers by mary eubanks about where eastern gamagrasss fits into the maize family tree...as soon as i feel i understand her ( and that may be a while...not because her prose is impenetrable, but because i don't have her background in genetics and that may be where the relationship is more evident than in physical appearance ) i can begin to compare structures between maize and gamagrass...if there are any that are obvious to my brain.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
well...the narrative doesn't match the order of the photos...again...it must mbe my inability to figure out the way firefox does things...but anyway...an acre of corn transpires between three and four thousand gallons of water a day and you can tell that it really needs some rain or some irrigation when the leaves start to curl up...i haven't been to campus since friday...but it has not bee particularly hot either...sunny and breezy though...and that must have been enough to dry out the zea diploperennis because when i got there the leaves were screaming water me! (bottom photo) so i dumped six gallons of water on four plants and about an hour later ( top photo) hey presto the curling had disappeared...just another connection ( morphological or genetic or both?) between zea diploperennis and zea mays.
i cross pollinated the northern tepehuan teosinte plant on campus with the one in the back yard today as well...a month and a half or so until the first frost date..i am hopeful of some seed ears before then...if not, there is ample fresh seed for more plants next season...i will just plant more seeds than this year in an effort to get more than two mature plants.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
the perennial garden project marks its second birthday today...two years ago, after a summer's worth of emails about a lot of stuff including food and food production, kathy forgey and i began an exchange about the land institute and the efforts of wes jackson and company to breed grain plants that were perennial rather than annual...this led us to a discussion of the reasons behind the predominantly annual nature of staple food crops...she suggested a research garden on campus and set things in motion by acquiring the necessary permission...the actual groundbreaking wasn't until septemeber....but the germination of the idea and the beginning of the process started in august...since then we have grown six species of perennial food plants, jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, asparagus, and chinese yams...we also grew perennial species of spinach and tomatoes as die-back annuals because we are well north of the range of winter survivability for those plants...we also grew the prennial strain of teosinte, zea diploperennis, as a morphological comparison with maize and the perennial eastern gamagrass...also a maize ancestor...nine annual species were grown...seven for a comparison of productivity with perennials...winter wheat, spring wheat, arrugula, beets, turnips, rutabagas ( in progress)and maize...we grew the annual northern tepehuan teosinte as a morphological comparison with maize and cowpeas are in the garden as a "green manure" fixing nitrogen in the soil rather than being grown as a food crop even though they are edible...winter wheat will serve double duty as a productivity comparison and a winter cover crop to act as a binding agent for the soil to reduce winter erosion and to act as a reservior for the nitrogen the cowpeas are fixing that would be lost to leeching if we didn't save it....an innocent series of emails has led to two solid years of gardening and research and there is more to come...i have broached the subject of a second independent study paper with dr. stokely ( aka "coach" [she's my academic advisor in anthro...at least to the extent that i am advisable] and "captain" for her captaincy of the kiva lending team she established ) so there is at least another year of work to do...now if the usda would only do some work and approve my import permit for wild potato seeds from peru i could get down to some serious research and planning...papers don't write themselves...still a lot to do.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
the maize on campus has pretty much run its course...i harvested the ears a few weeks ago but was leaving them be to take a few more photos to use as a comparison with the teosinte...the time had come however, so i dug them up and brought them home to get a closer look at the root system...soaked them in a bucket like the wheat roots and laid them out on the sidewalk...the top photo is of two sets of roots...you can see how the support roots had actually extended below the surface and added to the plant's nourishment as well as buttressing the stalk...one of the stalks had a secondary ear complete with husk and tassels...the third photo is the plants on campus just before i dug them up and the last one is simply three root systems...nowhere near as deep as the wheat, coming in at a shade over seven inches deep ( about the same depth as jerusalem artichoke roots, although the sunchoke roots radiate out over a considerably larger area than the maize roots do...all those tubers have to go somewhere) and tightly packed, it took a while to soak the soil out of them...moe on root systems as the underground harvest ( sunchokes and chinese yams ) takes off later this autumn.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
" fruit trees...purchase dispersal with a pay-as-you-go system. for fruit trees it would be counterproductive to satiate their dispersal agents, so they tend to produce regular crops and they do not mast. instead they protect their seeds by making them toxic. apple seeds and peach seeds, for example, contain cyanide."
from "an orchard invisible: a natural history of seeds." jonathan silvertown
have to wonder how fruit eating animals/dispersal agents survive the treat...perhaps a low dosage? i don't eat apple seeds...i only try to grow them...of the sixteen i started with four are planted...three in my back yard ( top and bottom photos ) and one in my oldest daughter's...the ones out back are doing just fine and i am researching procedures to get them through their first winter...i see mulch and burlap in their future...there may be a few years before i eat some of my own apples...but only if i can succeed in preserving them until spring...more on the process as it develops.
the flowering teosinte has grown to over eight feet tall as it searches for fruition...i will be collecting pollen form the plant on campus and from this one and doing my best to get some ears of teosinte seeds...it would be gratifying to succeed this year...however i do have a supply of seeds and a bit of experience...a bigger plot and more plants ( i had a total of four...two flowered) should improve our chances next year if this doesn't work out.
Friday, August 19, 2011
if you have a look at the bottom photo you'll see that some critter has been in the teosinte bed in my back yard again and has busted one of my zea diploperennis plants..upsetting to a degree but also beside the point...what i noticed while i was assaying the damage was that, like the northern tepehuan teosinte and the zea mays, the zea diploperennis is sprouting tiers of support roots...even if it is a bit later in the season...they are more compact and lower to the ground and may not have felt the need for additional support until recently...i went out to ( second, third, and fourth photos )campus later this morning and the zea diploperennis there is developing them as well...so there is a morphological connection between the three plants and more evidence of their being reasonably closely related genetically...the zea mays/zea diploperennis realtionship is buttressed by more than just tghe remarkable similarity of the leaves and the leaf nodes )...the top photo is of a zea mays flower ( albeit about done in) and a northern tepehuan teosinte plant flowering just behind it...unlike the support roots, the blooms don't bear much resemblance to one another apart from being a typically subdued grass flower...genetic similarities and mutation are what make evolution plausible.
in a garden, but not zea, related story, i got my level 2 usda account verified this morning and applied for a permit to import seeds for wild potatoes from peru this afternoon...intermediate wheatgrass and wheat, teosinte and maize this season...Solanum acaule and Solanum tuberosum next and we can move the morphological comparisons into cultural anthropology ( i'll tell you how after i write the paper ) still geeked about this project, and moving it in different directions...sustainability first...then we'll work on permaculture...inexhaustible subject ( for me anyway )
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
the chinese yams have begun to produce aerial bulbs ( top photo) as their reproductive cycle booms along with alternating hot weather intermixed with cool, rainy spells...there is a significant difference in the way rootstock ( rhyzocarpous) and tuberous perennials reproduce and that has a lot to do with how much edible produce they generate in a season...most of plant energy is geared to reproduction ( dna is persistent stuff ) and if the reproductive mechanism is what we eat then we get relatively more produce form a plant than if it isn't what we eat...jerusalem artichokes are tuberous perennials...the parent plant sets tubers in the late summer or in autumn...the parent plant then dies back and the next seasons plants are produced from the tubers...jerusalem artichokes produce multitudes of tubers...the second photo is of eighty-eight tubers harvested form one plant ( when i grow potatoes, which are also tuberous perennials, i usually get only two or three tubers per plant as a comparison) last october with a weight of 2.38632 kg...the third photo is of chinese yamns growing at the bottom of the plant's root system...it's basically stored energy for th eplant's early spring growth ( i was careful to leave about eight inches of rhyzome at the bottom to make sure the plant had a good start this spring ) i have two chinese yam plants on campus and between them they produced just 814.2 grams of edible produce because most of the plant's energy went into growing vines ( bottom photo ) and producing aerial bulbs for another generation of plants ( last year i harvested nearly five hundred bulbs from the yards of vines the plants produced )...think about it ( if you haven't...doubtlessly old stuff to some of you )apples, tomatoes, potatoes, maizes, wheat, soy beams, pears, grapes, squash...plants that generate a lot of produce do so because we eat the reproductive systems...rootstock perennials ( like the chinese yams and asparagus in the garden) require a large population of plants to produce significant quantities of produce and are generally specialty foods grown more for taste or status than as staples...the bottom photo also caught the cowpeas which are filling the trellis and that dark green color tels me that their bacterial buddies are churning out the nitrogen in quantities greater than what the plants can use...i have a plan to capture that excess nitrogen and save it for next season...but that will have to wait for autumn to start...more on that as it develops.
Friday, August 12, 2011
the northern tepehuan teosinte in my back yard flowered during the past week and has grown in the process ...it's now standing 75 1/2 inches and i think it has more to go...this explains the multiplicity of tiers of support roots it has sprouted ( even though i had staked it up some time ago because it kept falling over)...one of the two survivors on campus if beginning to flower as well so there is the possibility of cross-pollinating the two in an attempt to insure seed production...if the season lasts long enough...i am told teosinte is slow to set seed and there may not be enough time
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
went out to campus to check up on it after work today and things are coming along...the yam vines in the top photo are nearing ten feet in length and are still developing auxiliary vines at the nodes spaced along them...no sign of flowers or aerial bulbs yet which is a puzzlement, but i've only been growing them for two years so till time to learn...the second photo is of the northern tepehuan teosinte on campus developing flowers...good news...now i can cross pollinate the one at home with the one on campus so hopefully there will be seeds...we'll see how long this takes to develop and if we can beat the end of the season...the bottom photo is of the cowpeas...they are vining furiously and filling in the trellis and climbing the posts soon to reach the yams...both are tenacious plants so i don't anticipate trouble...the cowpeas are the same deep green color they were last year as the sugar/bacteria/nitrogen symbiosis accelerates...i collected 454 grams of winter wheat seed form 383 individuals that grew in the plot on campus, so as the cowpeas' season ends i will be sowing the wheat to act as a reservoir for all that nitrogen...saving it for next season when i turn most of the wheat under prior to planting ( i will be leaving a few stands on campus and at home [i have cowpeas in all the raised beds that i have harvested here] to keep the program going)...a simple green manure/nitrogen retention scheme...farmers in northwest indiana used to do this in their fields every year when i was a child ( used to see it all the time on the way to my great aunt and uncle's house in fair oaks ) now chemical inputs have replaced the old system ( for now0- so i just borrowed the idea once i found a source of nitrogen ( any pulse will do just about...garden peas fix nitrogen too...illinois bundleflower will as well if you can stand the smell)...this year all the winter wheat i saw was left to mature as a crop because wheat prices are up... i'll give it back if they ask...but i want to see how it works first
Saturday, August 6, 2011
dna is relentless in its drive to replicate itself and the plants in the garden are chock full of it...the evidence is all over...photos one and five are what really have me geeked today...the northern tepehuan teosinte in my backyard has flowered...cool beans! now, is teosinte self-pollinating? i don't know just yet...if it is we may just have some seeds here...if not there's hope the largest one on campus could flower and they could pollinate one another...if that doesn't happen then at least i know it can have a long enough season here to flower and i may be able to produce seeds of my own next year ( i already have seeds from native seed search for next season)..a killing frost is still along way off...several months at least...hopefully enough time for seeds to form... whatever happens i know more than i did in march and that's why i'm here...the second photo is of three more gamagrass seed heads that the second clump has produced...all on the same stalk...the whole seed head in the fourth photo ( which was taken four days ago ) has shattered and those are the seeds i recovered from the ground in my hand in photo three...more viable seed to plant this autumn to make an attempt to establish gamagrass in my yard...all agriculture is the distortion of natural plant behaviors into an anthropogenic system that benefits humans...tinkering with dna...i've been growing "wild and weedy" ancestors of domesticates to get a better grasp of plant morphology and the traits early agriculturalists would have found desirable or useful...it would be nice to have the same success with teosinte we had with wheat and wheat grass.