The Permaculture Academy is developing a crop trial investigating how a permaculture approach can be applied to staple crops such as wheat. I anticipate it is going to be a very interesting journey.
It is an interesting challenge as wheat is generally grown in large scale in a single variety – a monoculture no less, the very opposite from everything permaculture is teaching us about resilience.
So how do you get around that, well a large part of the answer is explained by Professor Martin Wolfe below. By mixing populations of wheat together and letting them open pollinate you are allowing natural selection to work, whilst creating new variations in response to environmental conditions. Pretty smart huh?
The farm in the second video was home to Professor Wolfe for many years in Wakelyns, and it is the Wakelyns seed population they are looking at in a field in Shropshire in the first video. Switch to earth view on the Google map and you will see the forestry strips on the farm. Contrast that to the bare earth/ single crop growing strategy which surrounds it.
Crops like wheat are already struggling at 1 degree warming from climate change. Here in Wales borders we are on the outer edge of wheat country anyway, but with our friends in North Shropshire as potential partners to work with I see this as potentially very worthwhile. Can we devise a more resilient approach and can, when integrated into a much more diverse environment, small batches of wheat grown for a very localised market be profitable.
Great explainer below to better understand plant populations.