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Old 17-12-2004, 12:28 PM
Strange Creature
 
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Default Indigestible Grass Seed - Amaranth


Conrad Hodson wrote:
Richard VanHouten wrote:



Well, amaranth is, indeed, not a grass, and like maize, was raised

in
Mexico for its edible seed. I'm not sure how important it was
pre-Conquest, and since then has (entirely or nearly) gone out of
cultivation. I'm also not sure how similar the weeds I encountered

were
to the variety that was cultivated.


The weeds you pulled were probably the wild stock the Amerindian

plant breeders
upgraded. Even they have quite a good seed yield. Amaranth is

unusual among
crop plants in being equally useful as grain and cooking greens.


I have heard that when sometimes there is a
problem with growing seasons and availability
that some farmers will grow a crop of maize, and
harvest it while it is still green for animal
fodder, and then put in another crop.

Where can amaranth be grown? What type of yeilds
does amaranth have in relation to corn, wheat, rye or
oats, rice, or root crops? How rapidly does it grow
before harvest? Is it slower than most maize or is
it faster than maize and slower than wheat?

It's still in
cultivation quite widely around the world, especially in the tropics

and
subtropics. I've grown it myself, on a garden scale, and you can buy

the seed in
any decent health food store.


It is relatively bad for the world when you consider
that a great amount of the world's grain harvest ends
up being used for animal fodder. This is a very evil
by product of excessive meat consumption beyond the
long term health effects. Meat is a more concentrated
source of protien than most plant derived food is,
but there is a certain level of protien consumption
beyond which that protein is used up for energy
rather than as essential components to build up
body tissues, not to mention the effects of
excessive fat consumption.

Still, it would seem to me that there would be
some incentive to grow it on a wide scale if it
produced a greater yield per acre than wheat or
maize corn, for use as either animal fodder or
as food additives.

The typical grain amaranth has white seeds--this is a recessive gene,

and
apparently was used as a marker by early plant breeders to guarantee

that wild
pollen hadn't contaminated their breeding stock. By culling any dark

seed into
the "food" basket you know you'll have a crop next year that has the

benefits of
all the breeding work. And that work has been going on for a long

time--one
sourcebook I have says that white-seeded amaranth has been found in

Mexican
archaelogical sites that are 7000 year old. If true, this puts

amaranth among
the earliest domestic plants in the New World.


How is amaranth generally planted, cultivated, and
harvested with farm machinery? Does the grain
generally come off with a wheat combine? How about
planting or threshing? Do the lower stalks generally
come off like wheat straw on a combine or is other
equipment needed? Are there any problems with
mechanised planting, cultivating, or harvesting
that are the basic problems with amaranth production?

How about markets? Where could a farmer sell
amaranth if he decided to produce it? Do food
additive or animal feed companies generally not
deal with amaranth? Are there amaranth futures
on any stock exchanges?

Or are there some basic factors like crop yields
or specific requirements for types of soils,
weather conditions, or growing seasons that are
a great down side to trying to grow and use
amaranth en masse?

For a real treat, pop the seeds dry (no oil) in a big wok or deep

kettle (they
jump around a lot, and you must keep them moving with a brush so they

don't
burn.) Blend with two parts peanut butter to one part honey, adding

popped
amaranth until the mix is only slightly moist. Then mold the mix

into balls or
rolls, and roll them in grated coconut.

Conrad Hodson


Crossposted for further data collection.


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Old 17-12-2004, 03:34 PM
donald j haarmann
 
Posts: n/a
Default

I cannot find the start of this thread. However, I will not in passing:-

John N Cole
Armaranth from past for the future.
Rodale Press 1979


--
donald j haarmann - colophon


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Old 18-12-2004, 06:28 PM
Christopher Green
 
Posts: n/a
Default


Strange Creature wrote:
[snip]
Still, it would seem to me that there would be
some incentive to grow it on a wide scale if it
produced a greater yield per acre than wheat or
maize corn, for use as either animal fodder or
as food additives.

[snip]
How is amaranth generally planted, cultivated, and
harvested with farm machinery? Does the grain
generally come off with a wheat combine? How about
planting or threshing? Do the lower stalks generally
come off like wheat straw on a combine or is other
equipment needed? Are there any problems with
mechanised planting, cultivating, or harvesting
that are the basic problems with amaranth production?

How about markets? Where could a farmer sell
amaranth if he decided to produce it? Do food
additive or animal feed companies generally not
deal with amaranth? Are there amaranth futures
on any stock exchanges?

Or are there some basic factors like crop yields
or specific requirements for types of soils,
weather conditions, or growing seasons that are
a great down side to trying to grow and use
amaranth en masse?


Amaranth is grown commercially in the US; it is a high-value crop, and
there is an established market for it. It will grow just about anywhere
sorghum will, and its culture is rather similar. A little extra work is
required to handle it with farm equipment designed for cereal grains.
There are good summaries at:

http://www.jeffersoninstitute.org/pubs/amaranth.shtml

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distrib...ms/DC3458.html

http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/p...90/v1-127.html

The Rodale Research Center and the Amaranth Institute are the main
sources of information on commercial amaranth production; agricultural
extensions in Midwest and Plains states will have information tailored
to local conditions as well.

--
Chris Green

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Old 19-12-2004, 11:47 AM
Conrad Hodson
 
Posts: n/a
Default



Strange Creature wrote:

How is amaranth generally planted, cultivated, and
harvested with farm machinery? Does the grain
generally come off with a wheat combine? How about
planting or threshing? Do the lower stalks generally
come off like wheat straw on a combine or is other
equipment needed? Are there any problems with
mechanised planting, cultivating, or harvesting
that are the basic problems with amaranth production?


AFAIK it's mostly grown here and there, mostly by nonmechanized means by
subsistence farmers. A wheat combine would need major mods--the seeds are
tiny, between poppy seeds and sesame seeds in size. You'd probably want
something with a sort of threshing drum, a fine screen to let the seed
fall away from the trash, and a fairly gentle cyclone separator to sort
seed from fine chaff by relative density.

A combine-type harvester may not be the way to go. The seed ripens
unevenly, so many people find they can close to double the yield by
threshing twice, a couple weeks apart. So cutting, threshing, letting the
plants fall and then windrowing them like hay, perhaps? With a harvester
that can either cut standing plants or pick up a windrow from the ground?
Lower tech, cut them early and shock them, then haul the shocks to a barn
with a tight floor and thresh twice.

With two threshings, several people report yields of up to four tons per
acre, though many of these were small enough test plots that edge effects
might affect the yield.

It's essentially a tropical plant that will put up with the temperate zone
if the frost-free season is long enough--like maize. It doesn't like
drought, and will need irrigation if the warm season is also a dry season,
as it is where I live. Very roughly, it likes the same sorts of
conditions maize does.

Amaranth's advantages are nutritional and versatility. It has slightly
more protein than good whole wheat flour, and almost twice as much as
cornmeal. As for versatility, it is one of the very few plants that's
equally useful as a grain crop and a potherb. In many tropical countries,
it's primarily cultivated as a green leafy veg. It thrives in this role
all the way to the Equator--places like New Guinea, Indonesia and India,
where many northern greens won't grow. "Yield" of course means totally
different standards for grain and potherbs, but it does give the farmer
two marketing options per crop, with only one sort of seed to save or buy.

It's also worth noting that several species of amaranth are cultivated,
and the figures I've been giving are for A. hypochondriacus. A. cruentus,
A. caudatus, and A. edulis are all basically grain types, or mixed-use.
A. tricolor and A. gangeticus are generally just grown for greens. A.
retroflexus is the well-known wild weed. How valid all these "species"
are I'm not sure; they may just be the results of human specialized
breeding, like poodles and Great Danes, or cabbage and broccoli. AFAIK
all will crossbreed with A. retroflexus.




How about markets? Where could a farmer sell
amaranth if he decided to produce it? Do food
additive or animal feed companies generally not
deal with amaranth? Are there amaranth futures
on any stock exchanges?


AFAIK most of the markets are health food specialty niches. Prices are
quite high at retail, though of course how much of this gets to the farmer
is the question. In my experience, by the time any crop is listed on a
futures exchange, the farmers who grow it are working eighty hours a week
for the privilege of being deeply in debt, so it's probably best not to go
there.

The overwhelming majority of amaranth cultivation around the world never
sees any kind of market; it's grown by subsistence and cash-cropping small
farmers for family use. In this role it seems highly valued, but it's not
the sort of situation that gives you world-averaged price statistics like
wheat or soybeans.



Or are there some basic factors like crop yields
or specific requirements for types of soils,
weather conditions, or growing seasons that are
a great down side to trying to grow and use
amaranth en masse?


I wouldn't try to grow them on more than a garden-plot scale on the
American West Coast, unless you were set up to flood-irrigate very cheaply
and easily. Basically, they're tropical crops that do well in the
warm/wet summers of places where the summers are tropical, and they can
ride out the winters as seeds in a building somewhere. Think corn or
soybeans.

Using them as a grain on a very large scale would call for specialized
harvest machinery, or at least new plates, screens and settings on
existing ones. The uneven ripening would probably be an early target for
plant geneticists in this case, as it would cut the handling roughly in
half if the crop could be harvested in one pass.

Of course, any such expansion of production would need a concurrent
expansion of the demand. Otherwise you get your premium specialty grain
crop being sold off for chicken feed (probably literally!) and all you've
done is find a new way for farmers to go broke, which is hardly necessary.

Conrad Hodson

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Old 19-12-2004, 04:09 PM
Chuck
 
Posts: n/a
Default

I always thought Amaranth was a broadleaf.


"Conrad Hodson" wrote in message
...


Strange Creature wrote:

How is amaranth generally planted, cultivated, and
harvested with farm machinery? Does the grain
generally come off with a wheat combine? How about
planting or threshing? Do the lower stalks generally
come off like wheat straw on a combine or is other
equipment needed? Are there any problems with
mechanised planting, cultivating, or harvesting
that are the basic problems with amaranth production?


AFAIK it's mostly grown here and there, mostly by nonmechanized means by
subsistence farmers. A wheat combine would need major mods--the seeds are
tiny, between poppy seeds and sesame seeds in size. You'd probably want
something with a sort of threshing drum, a fine screen to let the seed
fall away from the trash, and a fairly gentle cyclone separator to sort
seed from fine chaff by relative density.

A combine-type harvester may not be the way to go. The seed ripens
unevenly, so many people find they can close to double the yield by
threshing twice, a couple weeks apart. So cutting, threshing, letting the
plants fall and then windrowing them like hay, perhaps? With a harvester
that can either cut standing plants or pick up a windrow from the ground?
Lower tech, cut them early and shock them, then haul the shocks to a barn
with a tight floor and thresh twice.

With two threshings, several people report yields of up to four tons per
acre, though many of these were small enough test plots that edge effects
might affect the yield.

It's essentially a tropical plant that will put up with the temperate zone
if the frost-free season is long enough--like maize. It doesn't like
drought, and will need irrigation if the warm season is also a dry season,
as it is where I live. Very roughly, it likes the same sorts of
conditions maize does.

Amaranth's advantages are nutritional and versatility. It has slightly
more protein than good whole wheat flour, and almost twice as much as
cornmeal. As for versatility, it is one of the very few plants that's
equally useful as a grain crop and a potherb. In many tropical countries,
it's primarily cultivated as a green leafy veg. It thrives in this role
all the way to the Equator--places like New Guinea, Indonesia and India,
where many northern greens won't grow. "Yield" of course means totally
different standards for grain and potherbs, but it does give the farmer
two marketing options per crop, with only one sort of seed to save or buy.

It's also worth noting that several species of amaranth are cultivated,
and the figures I've been giving are for A. hypochondriacus. A. cruentus,
A. caudatus, and A. edulis are all basically grain types, or mixed-use.
A. tricolor and A. gangeticus are generally just grown for greens. A.
retroflexus is the well-known wild weed. How valid all these "species"
are I'm not sure; they may just be the results of human specialized
breeding, like poodles and Great Danes, or cabbage and broccoli. AFAIK
all will crossbreed with A. retroflexus.




How about markets? Where could a farmer sell
amaranth if he decided to produce it? Do food
additive or animal feed companies generally not
deal with amaranth? Are there amaranth futures
on any stock exchanges?


AFAIK most of the markets are health food specialty niches. Prices are
quite high at retail, though of course how much of this gets to the farmer
is the question. In my experience, by the time any crop is listed on a
futures exchange, the farmers who grow it are working eighty hours a week
for the privilege of being deeply in debt, so it's probably best not to go
there.

The overwhelming majority of amaranth cultivation around the world never
sees any kind of market; it's grown by subsistence and cash-cropping small
farmers for family use. In this role it seems highly valued, but it's not
the sort of situation that gives you world-averaged price statistics like
wheat or soybeans.



Or are there some basic factors like crop yields
or specific requirements for types of soils,
weather conditions, or growing seasons that are
a great down side to trying to grow and use
amaranth en masse?


I wouldn't try to grow them on more than a garden-plot scale on the
American West Coast, unless you were set up to flood-irrigate very cheaply
and easily. Basically, they're tropical crops that do well in the
warm/wet summers of places where the summers are tropical, and they can
ride out the winters as seeds in a building somewhere. Think corn or
soybeans.

Using them as a grain on a very large scale would call for specialized
harvest machinery, or at least new plates, screens and settings on
existing ones. The uneven ripening would probably be an early target for
plant geneticists in this case, as it would cut the handling roughly in
half if the crop could be harvested in one pass.

Of course, any such expansion of production would need a concurrent
expansion of the demand. Otherwise you get your premium specialty grain
crop being sold off for chicken feed (probably literally!) and all you've
done is find a new way for farmers to go broke, which is hardly necessary.

Conrad Hodson





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Old 04-02-2005, 11:47 PM
Conrad Hodson
 
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Chuck wrote:

I always thought Amaranth was a broadleaf.


It is. It may be used as a grain, and the varieties grown specifically for
seed are called "grain amaranth" but the plant is not a grass or even a
monocot.

Conrad Hodson



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