Sunday, 7 February 2010

Oca-centric aims for 2010

Deepest Winter - last year's successes are sauteed, or set aside for seed, the failures composted. It's time to look forward and decide on some plans for the coming season.

Last year answered some questions, at least partially, but it also raised a few.
  • There is the question of allelopathy. Oca probably exhibits an allelopathic effect on subsequent crops. If so, which crops are most affected, and how significant is the effect?  I need to grow a range of vegetable crops on last year's Oca bed, with a control to give comparison. Any understanding of allelopathy that can be gained is going to be useful in relation to bi-cropping and crop-rotation. For this trial go here.
  • The second question is how to increase the average size (as opposed to total weight) of tubers produced by Oca plants (improving my so-called Oca Productivity Index). Tuber thinning does not seem practical (or at least it is too fiddly and too much work).  The remaining possibility is to somehow prevent (or reduce the number of) stem tubers forming. I have a few ideas on how to do this that need to be tried out.
  • My third area of experimentation is going to look at whether Oca can be grown so that it looks after itself as part of a perennial plant guild - a kind of "wild and free, sink-or-swim" planting scheme. Productivity per-square-metre will be lower than more conventional cultural methods, but productivity per unit of inputs (work/other resources) is what matters here. For this trial go here.

I'd like to have another go at determining optimum harvest date, what with the first attempt being messed up by the unusually cold weather (see 2009 harvest results). But I don't have enough space to do that as well as the other trials above, so I will leave it for another year. If anyone else would like to repeat the experiment, I'd love to hear about it.

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