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Heritage Wheat Fail

Something I've been wanting to grow is heritage wheat. We've been growing our own wheat for several years now, but it's commercial seed purchased in a 50-pound bag from the feed store. By growing our own we avoid herbicide and pesticide contamination. Also, the glyphosate (round-up) that is used by commercial farmers to kill and dry the crop evenly for processing. Plus we can improve the nutrient content. But it's still modern wheat, which has been so "improved" over the past couple of decades that it's causing a lot of health problems for people. As with all things industrialized, these "improvements" designed to make the crop more profit-friendly not human-friendly. All excellent reasons to switch to a heritage type of wheat.

Several years ago I bought a packet of Egyptian wheat seed.

Egyptian wheat that I grew the summer of 2015. 

It grew well but I didn't realize it is actually a large-seeded sudan grass rather than a true cereal wheat. There's certainly a place for that as critter feed, but I was disappointed because I wanted a true wheat for making bread.

This year I decided to try again. The problem was that I was unable to find bulk seed. I could find small quantities of an ounce or 500 seeds or so, but not enough to plant a quarter-acre like we usually do. Even those small amounts are pricy. The Heritage Grain Conservancy website offers an excellent variety of heritage wheats, but they want $25 for an ounce of seed! That is counter-logical to me. If one wants to conserve something, doesn't it make sense to get it growing by as many people as possible?

Fortunately, Baker Creek Heritage Seeds had several old wheat varieties on offer, so I decided to try Red Fife, a landrace wheat.

Landrace types are old heritage types with a diverse genetic base. That means that they are adaptable to a number of conditions. I figured I'd have the best chance with that.

Red Fife can be planted in spring for a spring wheat crop, or in autumn for winter wheat. Winter wheat has always worked well for us because of our mild winters. It was only sold in ounce packets, so I figured I'd grow one bed as a seed crop. No special soil preparation is necessary, but I added a little compost to the soil because I chose to plant it where I had grown our summer's corn.

I mixed it with ladino clover seed for added nitrogen and planted in mid-September. Three months later the bed looks like this -

Bed in which I planted wheat and clover.

Doesn't exactly look like wheat is growing there, does it? That's because it isn't!


If you look closely you can see some of my clover growing. But except for a blade or two of grass which may or may not be wheat, I'm chalking this experiment up as a fail. I'm going to give the bed a deep blanket of mulch and try heritage wheat in another spot next year.

Thankfully our commercial wheat patches are growing well.

Winter wheat mixed with clover. It looks like lawn at the moment.

We plant about a quarter acre, from which we harvest enough wheat berries to last until the next year's harvest. Hopefully, as we improve our soil we'll improve our yield. My goal is to harvest enough for our year's supply plus enough to save seed for the next crop.

 Heritage Wheat Fail © December 2018