r Growing Amaranth | Florida Organic Farming

Sunday, October 21, 2012

1 Growing Amaranth

What Is Amaranth
Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth
Amaranth grows rigorously, tolerates drought, high temperatures, insects, and also adjusts effortlessly to a high number of conditions. It was a chief grain of central and South American Indians.  Amaranth was at the time as extensively used as just about any other grain. Amaranth grains are just a little bigger than poppy seed with the plant heads of one crop having much more than a hundred thousand seeds. Colorings range between black to red to white. Many say that Amaranth seed reminds them of quinoa. As opposed to quinoa, though, the seed covering will never include saponins, that needs to be washed thoroughly to remove. It is nutritionally an especially beneficial food, higher in protein as compared to the top cereal crops (thirteen to eighteen % when compared with ten % in corn and wheat). High in lysine, an essential amino acid, generally lacking in plant protein. Amaranth also happens to be a beneficial source of B vitamins, zinc, iron, potassium, calcium, and B vitamins.
Growing Amaranth for Grain
Although it has a smaller seed than most grain, standard equipment used today for harvesting grain can be used. It is said to be able to grow in more marginal soils but of course will produce better in soil that drains well and is fertile. It takes no more work or effort to grow than does rye, which is to say not much. You may also plant amaranth after other grains, although the grain production is said to be much lower.
Varieties and Seed Selection
There are more than 60 species of amaranth, with 400 varieties known throughout the world. Many of which are native to the Americas. Some are more suited to be used for grain production, while others better for leaf eating. It is actually not a grain since it it’s a relative of grasses like other grains, but can be used in much the same way. Genetically they are all very similar and the process of growing them is much the same.
Planting From Seed
The seeds of Amaranth are small so there are some possible short falls when planting, but seeding just a half pound per quarter acre will produce a large crop with worry about the few that don’t germinate. Studies have shown that planting up to 8 times as many per acre, did not impact yield almost at all. Planting can be done in late winter till July, then again in late September for an early winter crop. Plant the seed about one half inch deep, with spacing of about 36 X 36 inches. Expect yields to drop as the spacing is reduced, as well as smaller heads on each plant.
Compared to corn, nitrogen needs are substantially lower. Although having nitrogen rich soil of adding fertilizer that is high in nitrogen will increase yields. You can use a cover crop like rye during the winter to replace some of the nitrogen used. There isn’t a huge need to be worried about PH levels, Amaranth does seem to be sensitive to PH levels. Farmers have grown it in soil levels as low as 5.3 PH.
Difficulties Planting Amaranth
There exists no herbicides containing Amaranth on the instructions, at least that I have found, consequently this will not be a possibility. The upside would be once you have sowed it, it grown really fast. Then it will mature to a point where it shades the soil, limiting weed growth, and also at that point having a couple of weeds under it will not harm it at all. To ensure that it stays under control until then, I may well just pluck out the most significant ones manually. After that use a hoe to get the remainder.

Quite a few bugs like gnawing on amaranth, although amaranth does bear quite a bit of  leaf eating without any yield decrease. You will find no chemically made insecticides specifically for amaranth. However many organic and natural insecticides work extremely well. I have been using Neem oil, which you can use for numerous purposes. It won’t damage the crops providing you administer late in the day or dawn. Fungal diseases can impact Amaranth seed, which is another reason to possibly skip the wet summer months when thinking about when to grow. Roots could also endure rot when they are too damp during grain generating months. There are not one known bacterial as well as virus-like diseases that affect Amaranth, at least that I have gone through.
Harvest and Storage
When to harvest tends to be a bit different than you may be used to. In the south, some amaranth growers wait to harvest till they get a hard frost, allowing the frost totally terminate the plant and make the crop drier for storing. In Florida, it will generally lose its leaves ahead of frost, commonly by early to mid-December. Amaranth, when grown in a small garden can simply be cut from the plant. Use traditional methods for removing grain from its stalk, similar to barley or wheat.


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