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Guild: Wheat + Alder?

Milan Broz

Joined: Feb 24, 2011
Posts: 87
Location: Croatia
Reading a lot of fascinating stuff about Black Alder, Alnus Glutinosa. I was thinking, if I plant a small forrest of Alder trees, and use this land for cereal production, especially wheat, I might have solution for a lot of my problems, but do I get some new problem that I did not think about?

Wheat should make most of it's growth in the spring, when Alder is still without leaves. When Alder comes to leaves, I can harvest wheat, and what is the best, I work in the shadow that Alder brings. I leave straw mulch where it is to protect Alder from drying and from weeds, if it matters. In the autumn, Alder drops a tons of excellent manure. But meanwhile, bacteria in Alder roots is fixing nitrogen becouse Alder is nitrogen fixing plant. Before winter I sow new wheat, maybe only under the heavy mulch of straw and leaves.

Does this looks to you sustainable for a number of years? Am I missing something?

Permaculture in Croatia:
Guy De Pompignac

Joined: Nov 16, 2010
Posts: 192
Location: SW of France
It seems a good idea, take a look at agroforestery books,

A. glutinosa likes wet soils, maybe switching for A. cordata is a better idea depending on your weather conditions ?
Parker Maynard

Joined: Jan 08, 2012
Posts: 17
Location: Western Pennsylvania
I've been reading Edible Food Forests by Dave Jacke and Eric T...the book recommends alder as a quick growing nursery tree that will help provide protection to leeward trees/crops. I like your idea of working cereal grains in with this nitrogen fixing tree/ shrub.

First thought, maybe after harvesting grain and mowing/scything the grain stalks I would consider mulching heavily with leaves or planting clover or buckwheat (something that will germinate and fill in quickly). Then, before the cover crop flowers, fence in the area with electro net and pasture a group of tiller chickens in the area. They should prepare the area well for the fall sowing of wheat before the leaves fall.
Second thought, I've read that alder is a great wood to propagate mushrooms. I'd consider coppicing the tree into a shrub to keep it short as not to let it shade your grains and to provide you with lots of mushroom growing medium...thanks for putting your ideas out there.
Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 5504
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
For best ripening, the wheat should be in sun. An ideal position might have a swale to the north of the wheat where alder could thrive in the damp conditions. Done as a hedge, the alder would serve as a wind break. A low growing clover could live under the wheat.

Locust gives filtered light, comes into leaf later than alder, thrives in hotter and drier conditions than alder, produces more nitrogen and makes better building and firewood than alder. I would gladly trade all of my 5000 alder for locust. See if that is an option in your climate.

Dale's picks - These are some of my favorite threads. Greed - My garden - ethics - Good wood bad wood Alder - Bees - Pulling nails -
Parker Maynard

Joined: Jan 08, 2012
Posts: 17
Location: Western Pennsylvania
So what I'm picking up from Dale's post is that the cereals will ripen best in swaths where they can receive as much sun as possible, not in and amongst a grove of trees. This makes sense to me in terms of ease of harvest as well. As for the low growing clover, I've only grown alsike clover as a living mulch for annual veggies and I like it. cheaper than dutch white clover but grows a little taller I hear.
I like the idea of a swale to the north of the grains bordered by a planting of alders (7-10 ft intervals?). The alders would still serve to improve the soils by way of N fixing, leaves dropping,improving soil drainage, and windbreak but would not shade the grain crop.
2 things about black locust...I've seen huge stands that spread like crazy by way of underground runners AND really prolific seed. The upside is that the wood is great fence post material, very rot resistant. Also, black locust has nasty spines all over it, great for a security fence.

Lastly, how do they compare as food sources for native animals, as nectary plants, forage?
Denis Huel

Joined: Jul 04, 2013
Posts: 86
Not sure how wheat would yield in shade. My guess is not that great. Most of the carbohydrates the end up in the grain come from the flag leaf (last leaf on the stem). Early growth by the wheat prior to the alder leafing out may not result in grain yield. I don't have any experience with alder so I don't how dense the shade it creates is. Try it and if doesn't work plant something else under the alder the next year.
andrew curr

Joined: Dec 18, 2012
Posts: 288
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
anyone know where i can get alder in australia?

we have to forest our farms and farm our forests
Josh T-Hansen

Joined: Jul 14, 2010
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
I think the general rule of thumb for cereal is approximately 25% of the area with a canopy of N fix tree.

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The farming village was above all a society of philosophers without a need for philosophy - Fukuoka
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subject: Guild: Wheat + Alder?