As I mentioned before, in June we planted some unique research strains of hairy vetch to try to get more seeds in order to use in later experiments. We actually got pretty good germination even though the seeds were old, and for most varieties they grew very well. However, they don’t seem to be setting much seed even though they are flowering prolifically. We planted them in 40 ft long strips at the end of fields scattered around the research farm to ensure they were not cross pollinated.
Full plot view
While each variety differed in how mature the plants and seeds were, there were clearly distinct stages for seed production.
Young, green seed pods
Filled, green seed pods
These brown, dried seed pods will large seeds inside are what we’re looking for. They’re surprisingly hard to actually see in the mess of vetch leaves, but if you shake the plants they make a distinctive rattling sound that’s much easier to follow.
On September 16th and 17th I planted this year’s experiment at the Musgrave Research Farm in Aurora, NY. The preparation took much longer than I planned, but I was glad to get all the seeds in in two days. Several days later we had a long soaking rain, giving the seeds a great start. The warm weather and sun the last few weeks have also been good for them, so I’m hopeful they will be well established before the winter. Here is a picture of the field preparations before planting. String was strung to create a grid, indicating the 8ft. by 8ft. square plots for each treatment.
The treatments are composed of 6 species of overwintering cover crop species (see right). Within those six species, there are multiple cultivars, or varieties. We have each cultivar growing alone, all cultivars of the same species growing alone, and then mixtures of the different species and cultivars.
In trying to increase our available seed for several unique breeding strains, I’ve been reading online about saving hairy vetch seed. This bulletin would have been even more helpful back in May, though it’s clearly been around long enough. Though some of the machinery references are outdated and a bit of a mystery to me, the vast majority of it is spot on, and more detailed than I’ve been able to find anywhere else. Perhaps most interesting is the picture and explanation of the spiral vetch separator (pg 21), which is still demonstrated to Cornell undergrads in the introductory field crops course.