Changes Coming to Sherck Seeds

Rice Trials 2020

As I enter my 8th season of intensive crop trialing and seed increasing, I wanted to take the opportunity to share about some of the changes taking place for 2020/21. My initial intention for starting a “seed business” was to be able to offer seed for varieties of staple crops adapted to the Midwest. While this effort has continued, the overall scope of my seed trialing took on ever expanding reaches that went way beyond my original purpose. This was not a negative consequence but rather the positive outcome of having come into contact with so many excellent seed savers here in the US and abroad whom have shared tremendous amounts of precious seed with me. To this day I am still in awe of the enormity of rare and forgotten varieties of grains and legumes, let alone vegetables. When I grew my first seed plot in 2013 I had 3 beds of Duborskian Upland Rice, the only variety of upland rice that I had ever heard of. I really felt I had stumbled onto something unique for northern climates. Jump forward to 2020, to date I have successfully trialled and offered seed for 38 varieties, with 36 new varieties awaiting trialing this summer! And that is just a drop in the bucket for the total number of known and unknown upland rice varieties.

The problem with 7 seasons of continuous trials and seed increases is that is has kept me from pursuing a long list of projects. Some involve breeding, others related to growing methods. 7 seasons has given me knowledge of a good number of specific varieties that can now be plugged into experiments like same species “mixture plots”, multi-cropping and intercropping systems. I also have a desire to work more closely with my immediate regional community. In order to be able to pursue these ideas I need to reduce the amount of space and time I have devoted to maintaining the large selection of crops that have been available through my website. For the 2021 growing season and beyond, I will be offering the following for sale through this website.

Upland Rice The successes from the 2020 trials will be available for purchase for the 2021 growing season as well as a number of varieties that have done well in the past.

Wheat There will be a number of new winter wheat varieties available in September for fall planting. These will include a number of heritage wheats from the Republic of Georgia as well as a few other European selections, including free threshing emmer and Jacobi Borstvete. A number of the best of the previous winter wheats I have grown will likely be available in the future.

Jacobi Borstvete

All other varieties of crops will no longer be available for purchase through this website. The rarest of these varieties will still be grown on my farm in small maintenance plots. This will not provide enough seed for me to sell but in the future I hope to have seed for sharing with individuals for their trials and projects. I will also be working with some other growers like Kevin Payne in Taft California to help in maintaining these varieties. I am currently working to convert all of Sherck Seeds “seeds for sale” crop pages into an easily navigable series of posts for archival research.

I greatly appreciate all the support from customers and fellow growers I have received these last 8 seasons. I hope that Sherck Seeds (which will likely become Sherck Seeds Research) can still play a helpful role in the advancement of sustainable, diverse small scale agriculture.

John Sherck

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Upland Rice Planting Instructions

Rice seeds should be soaked in water 24 hours before planting. I start my plants indoors in April in plug flats, 50’s and transplant into beds after the last frost date. I recommend not leaving plants in flats for more than three weeks as the starts will yellow easily and weaken when root-bound. Here in Northern Indiana, I plant my rice plugs the last week of May. I plant into 4′ wide beds. This makes adding bird netting over the tops of the plants an easy chore using 5′ t-posts and twine. The plants are spaced 9″ apart in the beds. Upland rice requires about the same amount of water as corn, around 1″ per week during the growing season. The plants will begin to form seed heads in August. At maturity the rice husks will turn to a golden brown and the rice seed inside will be hard.  I harvest in late September, cutting the whole plant and bundling into groups of 4. These bundles are then hung in my drying shed for a few weeks until the plant is fully dry. At this point threshing is easy by hand (pulling the grains off) or using a threshing machine. I use a treadle (foot) powered thresher. Rice has an inedible husk that needs to be removed before eating.   The most primitive way to accomplish this is by pounding the grains with a stick or mallet on a wood surface (tree stump) in order to loosen the husks. There are small rice dehullers available but very difficult to locate. Brill Engineering offers online tutorials on how to build a small dehuller using easy to locate “off the shelf” parts.

  • Alternative planting method. In the spring of 2017 I experimented with direct seeding rice into beds in late May. I had success with early maturing varieties. I recently learned that rice can be direct seeded even earlier; possibly at the beginning of May or late April. I would suggest you conduct some small trials if you are interested in this method. Transplanting has proven to be very reliable for 5 years in a row. Direct seeding is a new concept for me and I can not guarantee the results for any given variety. I am growing in a zone 5b (moving towards a 6).
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Highlights of Fellow Seed Stewards

February is always a long winter month even though it is the shortest in days. With spring seemingly taking forever to arrive, there is always a lot of extra time for reflection about the previous season and previous years. It is also a great time for anticipation and planning for the coming season projects and hopes. As I prepare for steering Sherck Seeds in a new direction (I will have more about this in a future post this spring), I also want to take the opportunity to highlight the work of some of the fellow seed stewards I have met over these last 7 years. This will be the first of a number of planned posts where I introduce some of these folks and their work with seed saving, seed stewardship and procurement, as well as plant breeding, methodology of growing and networking.

I met Scott Malpass a number of years ago. Like many introductions I have had, our friendship started with a “seed trade”. I asked him to write up brief description of his work and future aspirations for Scottland Farm. I do know that his efforts involve not only himself but other interested parties including growers and artists, all pooling their efforts to facilitate useful and meaningful rare seed stewardship.

“Scottland Farm is managed by Scott Malpass, a plant explorer and tribal seed keeper in Harford County, Maryland. Scottland Farm is comprised of small connected gardens and gardeners throughout the Mid-Atlantic area. We do work with a lot of amazing people such as Cody Frayser, who helps maintain a small heirloom garden in Powhatan, Virginia. The main goal of Scottland Farm is to teach traditional farming practices and maintain heritage seeds. These heritage seeds and practices are important to cultivate for future generations. One of the more traditional farming practices at my farm is a three-sister garden method in which when squash, corn and beans grow, support and benefit each other. We have one of biggest squash and pumpkin collections known, encompassing over 200 varieties. Many of these varieties happen to be endangered or close to extinction. We have ambitious plans for next year such as formalizing the company.”

As I write this post, Scott is currently enrolled in college, taking classes that will aid in his future plans (I believe he is studying for finals as I write this post). As he moves forward, I wish him and his colleagues all the best. Keep an eye out for future developments from Scottland Farm. You can currently find information about Scott’s work on Facebook.

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Kura Oval Soybean

Kura Oval is one of the most unusual soybeans from my 2017 trials. The plants are very short, reaching only 2 foot in height and quite bushy. The stalk at the base of the plants was the largest I have ever seen in a soybean, measuring 1 inch in diameter. Also, the root system was equally the largest I have see. I had to use a garden fork to remove the plant from the soil. For sure, Kura Oval has no issues with lodging during periods of heavy rainfall and wind.

The pods had an unusual appearance and the bean seeds are somewhat flat. This is a late maturing variety (140 days from direct seeding). I have no historical data regarding this variety. My initial seed stock came from Joseph Simcox in 2016.

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Kylo Mame Soybean

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Tiger Eye Soybean

I have zero historical information about this very unusual soybean. I obtained my initial seed stock from Joseph Simcox in 2016. Based on the growth habit of this plant I can be fairly certain it is not any type of modern cultivar. The plants are very tall with branches that easily lodge and “droop” over. I would best describe the plants as “gangly” in appearance. This soybean is very late maturing at 130 – 140 days from planting.

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Ogemaw Soybean

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Verde Garbanzo Bean

Verde is a small garbanzo bean (chickpea) from India which has greenish seeds when fully mature. I received my initial seed stock for this variety from Max Nunziata, Italy.

The plants are not large, averaging about 2′ tall. They can be grown in a row with support or grown in close proximity to one another in a bed, where they will help to support each other, similar to field peas. They grow slowly and need to be kept weed free until established. I direct seeded on April 13th, and harvested the whole plants around the middle of July, once 3/4 of the pods were dry. I hung the plants for another 3 weeks until fully dry, before threshing. Germination is slow. *I will be adding this variety to my Garbanzo Composite Mix in future grow-outs.

I have a very limited amount of seed available for this season.

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Starry Night Tepary Bean

This northern adapted tepary bean was shared with me from the folks at Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island, BC. It is a selection from Mitla Black, originally from Oaxaca Mexico. The seed I planter were all Black and white speckled. What I harvested was 3 distinct types, black, black and white, and a reddish brown. Tepary beans are known for their drought tolerance, but I can state that this variety was also tolerant of a wet spring, humid summer and wet fall. The only issue is that the maturing beans can split their pods before fully drying down. This seemed to be more of an issue near the end of the harvest window, which started in early September and lasted until the first of October.

Starry Night begins maturing 100 days from planting. They will require a strong trellis, as they grow to about 7 foot tall.

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Black Flat Soybean

I believe I have narrowed down the identity of this unusual Japanese soybean to 2 possibilities, either Kura Hira Mame (black flat soybean) or Gangui Black Soybean, which loosely translates to “goose-bite black bean”. Both beans are very similar in appearance and it is difficult to make a determination. Both have somewhat similar uses, and both are traditional Japanese varieties. Here are the descriptions for both taken from a Japanese website. The “google” translation from Japanese to English is a bit awkward :

Kura Hira Mame-  “Black plain beans are a kind of black soybeans, but unlike general soybeans, they are round and flat, and are slightly larger and shiny than black beans. It is a traditional bean that has been made for a long time and is eaten locally as black beans for the New Year. It takes a lot of time and time to cultivate, and the yield and fruit size varies, so the number of farmers who are planted is decreasing. Ripe black peas are said to be sweet and have a good taste, but the edamame is also delicious and delicious.”

Gangui Black Soybean-  “Ginger bean is a kind of black bean that has long been rooted in the Tohoku region. Mature beans are rounded, but they are flat like bean beans. In addition, there is a cocoon in the middle, and it is called a gorgeous bean because it looks like a migrating bird wing. In Iwate, the main production area, cropping has flourished since the Taisho era, and it was said that it had a good reputation as being shipped to the Kanto region. It seems that it was also called “Daikoku Bean” because of the large income source from this bean, but it seems that it is not suitable for mass production because it takes time and labor for harvesting and sorting. In local Iwate, gluttonous beans are considered to be the food of the Hare Day, and are eaten during the New Year and celebrations. Recently, natto and tofu have also been made using gorgeous beans.”

This soybean grows to a height of 3 – 3 1/2 foot tall and matures 120 – 130 days from direct seeding in the spring. This is also a very productive bean with good yields.

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