Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Peggy's Update on Cattails

Slowly, we can see methodology emerge in the development of the domesticated cattail business. Here we learn that it is not too difficult to make the growing process far less thirsty, and optimally quicker. The best ratios exist at the four month mark. This will work even in the north.

Peggy is growing on well drained land on long beds that are kept sufficiently wet. This clearly facilitates harvest.

That up to four crops of stalks can be taken is noteworthy. I think she is looking to lay down a layer of chopped stalks next year to help in water retention.

Raising cattails as a row crop may turn out very well and provide a good framework for efficient harvest.

It is also noted that thin slicing of the tubers permits proper drying and long term storage. This will also allow recovery of starch by grinding and winnowing out the fiber. It turns out to be much like taro root – no surprise there. Obviously this is important if large quantities are to someday be used.

I would still like to see tools prepared to support a paddy based growing culture. Hand work is way too difficult for cattail culture to date and various forms of lifting and cutting tools are already part of the farm machinery business.

The row system pioneered by Peggy takes advantage of present hardware suited for dry environments.

Increasing Green Growth: Human Ecology, an Interdisciplinary Journal:(2009):

Presently, most Typha harvesters reported cutting ramets above the water surface, rather than cutting below water as had been done previously to control Typha. Cutting above water was reported to promote regrowth, as opposed to underwater cutting (n = 9). Harvesters also observed that cutting above the water surface avoided the Typha ramet base, which was too thick to be useful for weaving (n = 4). Only the youngest Typha harvesters reported cutting below water; they harvested from large wetlands accessible to the public and reported that Typha was never lacking. No one reported problems related to the sustainability of Typha harvesting, and most respondents harvested the same Typha plants four times per year, although some apparently harvested less frequently due to time constraints (n = 5).

But Why? What we want at this point is rhizome development to convert the rich polysaccharides into alcohol. During our evaluation study this summer we have witnessed the BEST rhizome development in the emerging plant and the BEST ratio of rhizome to stalk at about 4 months in estimated growth analysis of wild stands of cattail. Next spring we will be experimenting with the absorbent natural nature of the mulched green biomass. The object is to plant the cattail in soil that rapidly allows the moisture to reach the rhizome and then to spread the water (or retain it) at this level (between eight and eighteen inches. Moisture that seeps lower will encourage a strong ‘tap’ root that makes harvesting difficult.

Because we are not in a ‘flood’ zone, that tap root is not necessary to anchor the plant. Retaining moisture at the level of lateral rhizome growth propels the rhizome to grow in a shallow level thus facilitating harvesting. Also, evaporation is an issue in our current location. Therefore, keeping a moisture laden layer of biomass beneath the ground surface assists water use reduction. At this point we have ample wastewater; however, we also have abundant land that can become fields of cattail that will only be limited by the amount of wastewater that is available. It is best to discover moisture retention at an early stage. At this time we are experimenting with a proprietary biomass, yet it seems reasonable that the cattail itself may provide that retentive biomass. Please experiment and get back with us.

You may reach Peggy here:

Water Assurance Technology Energy Resources

40 Sun Valley Dr., Spring Branch TX 78070
FAX (830) 885-4827; Cell: (512) 757-4499

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