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Growing amaranth– Lodging

As I’ve stated here and other forums before, I think amaranth is the best overall survival crop.  First of all, in some varieties, it is a naturally occurring weed.  Farmers fight this weed as it reproduces so quick & is exceptionally hardy.  In some areas, it is becoming resistant even to Roundup.  It needs little water, no fertilizer & comes back if you cut it down.  It is EXACTLY these traits that make it, and especially the commercial varieties, such a valuable survival crop.

I’m not going to go into great detail about amaranth, as I have discussed it in prior discussions. Just let it be known, the whole plant is edible.  Young leaves & stems make a great, nutritious salad.  Older leaves can be cooked like collard greens.  The seeds are likewise exceptionally nutritious and can be ground into flour.  What I do want to discuss is that the taller varieties seem to have a tendency toward lodging which is the displacement of stems or roots from their vertical and proper placement.  After strong, windy storms, which we have had several lately, most of my small test plot of Copperhead amaranth is now knocked over.  Just one plant is still standing.  For lots of grain type crops, such as corn, this lodging could cause you to lose your crop.  But amaranth, being the weed it is, just keeps on growing.  Even when the stalks are knocked flat to the ground, the plants reorient their growth, and keep on growing.  In the pics below, you can see they are just now beginning to set their lovely, nutritious seeds.

amaranth 1

amaranth 2

amaranth 3

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  • Comments (17)

    • 2

      Redneck, how long before you can harvest it? How many harvests in a year?

      • 3

        A lot depends on how you grow it.  Left alone, it will grow for about 2-3 months, set a big head of seeds and then die off.  However, especially when growing it for the leaves, you cut off the top third or half of the plant when it gets  between knee high & waist high.  You harvest those leaves and within a week or so, the plant will set out a whole lot of new growth along multiple stems.  Keep doing this thru the growing season to harvest more leaves.  I actually did this once with all these plants.  It is a way to force the plants to get bushier and set more stems & leaves.

        Since the plant produces so much seed & they are so small, it is common, during planting, to broadcast the seed…  like growing grass.  Amaranth tolerates crowding very well (like a weed).  Then, once the plants start growing, you thin them out by harvesting the whole plant.  That whole, young plant is 100% edible and super nutritious.  As they continue growing, you would select some of the plants for greens, and would pick them.  Other plants you would leave alone so that they will set their seeds. 

        It is a very versatile plant. 

      • 1

        Does it do well in shade?

      • 1

        My understanding is it needs at least 6 hours of sun per day.  Mine get full sun.

    • 1

      Do you know if Amaranth (or what variety of it) will grow in the southwest Sonoran desert? We are in zone 9b (Phoenix area).

      • 2

        Sure you can.  Amaranth likes it hot.  If you Google “amaranth grow in desert”, you will see several blog posts.

      • 1

        Thanks for this.  I like the description of ‘weed’ which fits my brownish thumb in the desert of SoCal.  And Amaranth is also gluten free.  

      • 1

        The fact that it is a weed is what makes it such a valuable crop for preppers.  It doesn’t need any care and takes abuse, such as getting knocked over.  It looks like a weed, so would be ignored by potential thieves.  But, it is a weed that’s leaves are as nutritious as spinach and whose seed is super nutritious too.

      • 1

        I have been reading about it at the Kansas State Research and Extension:

        “Palmer amaranth is actually native to the southwestern United States and was not a major pest in the Midwest until it invaded the southern plains in the late 1990’s. It is now found throughout the southeastern U.S. as well as the Corn Belt with some states (Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio) listing it as a noxious weed.

        …Researchers at Kansas State have been studying Palmer amaranth in Kansas since the mid 90’s. The 80 and 90 percent yield loss mentioned before was from Weed Science Journal articles published in 2001 (Massinga, Currie, Horak, and Boyer) and 2003 (Bensch, Horak, and Peterson). Massinga et. al. measured over 90 percent yield loss in corn in southwest Kansas while Bensch et. al. measured nearly 80 percent yield loss in soybeans in northeast Kansas. Both of these levels were at extremely heavy populations of the weed, but it does demonstrate why producers must be wary of the pest…

        Why is Palmer so competitive? There are a few reasons which include how fast it grows, which is must faster than waterhemp. In addition, it tends to thrive under high temperatures due to its native territory. This gives it a competitive advantage during our hot, dry summers which contributes to its yield effect.

                    It is also a prolific seed producer with a single plant under ideal conditions producing up to 500,000 seeds (with some sources saying even higher) under ideal conditions. However, under field conditions, seed production is much lower, though seed production is still a major concern.

                    In addition to its natural characteristics, Palmer has developed herbicide resistance in recent years which has made it tremendously difficult to control in some cases. In the U.S., populations of Palmer have developed resistance to group 2 (ALS), 3 (microtubule inhibitor), 4 (synthetic auxins), 5 (triazines), 9 (glyphosate), 14 (PPO), or 27 (HPPD) modes of action as well as populations resistant to multiple modes of action. Due to this, a robust integrated pest management system using a mixture of multiple effective modes of action is an absolute must in Palmer management.”

        Redneck, how to do you control it on your property?

      • 1

        Redneck, how to do you control it on your property?

        Palmer amaranth is a true weed variety of amaranth, as opposed to the varieties I grow in my garden.  My varieties have been selected for mild tasting leaves and/or production of large amounts of seed.  But those weed characteristics are what make all amaranth a preppers dream.  And yes, the wild amaranths also have nutritious leaves & seed too.  The leaves might not be all that great tasting but would be very beneficial in a soup or stew.   Weed characteristics are what you want if you have to produce food… or starve.  You don’t want your crop dying from drought or pests.  You don’t want to lose your crop due to a wind storm.  And you sure wouldn’t mind your food crop reseeding itself for next year.

        The wild amaranth is controlled like any other weed in my pastures.  In late spring, I spray with a broad leaf herbicide.  That is all I spray.  That controls weeds pretty good by itself, if you wait late enough for the weeds to start coming up.  Besides that, keeping the grass cut helps keep the weeds, and wild amaranth, in check by preventing them from getting to the seed stage.  Once they release their vast numbers of seed, you have a problem.  I don’t spray the grass in my 1 acre orchard.  The wild amaranth is controlled by cutting the grass between rows every 2 weeks or so.

        If I let the amaranth go to seed in my garden, as I will this year, many tens of thousands of baby amaranth will emerge in my aisles and where it grew.  When harvesting the seed, a certain percent escapes.  Frost will kill them before they get very big.  Some will emerge again next spring, but they will be controlled by a hoe.

      • 1

        Guys, which variety would you recommend me growing in Phoenix? The aforementioned Palmer or do you rec another variety?

      • 2

        I suggest using Goggle and searching and researching different varieties.  Often, they are classified as leaf varieties or seed varieties.  The leaf varieties have been selected for sweeter leaves while the seed varieties have been selected to produce a larger seed crop.  But all amaranth have edible nutritious leaves and edible nutritious seed.

        I have tried green callaloo & red stripe varieties for leaves & golden giant & copperhead for seeds.  I am a fan of green callaloo.

    • 1

      I strated growing this last summer and loved it. I was only able to get the leaves (grew it on a small balcony) but they were great and apparently high in nutrition. I think watercress is technically the most nutritious green, but finicky to grow.

      • 2

        I’m telling you, amaranth is a nutritional powerhouse.

        amaranth-leaves-vs-watercress-raw

        Also, since each amaranth plant can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds, folks that live in cold climates can still grow them as micro greens.  Since it is a “weed”, amaranth tolerates crowding exceptionally well.  And like in the picture below, every amaranth variety I’ve tried, starts out with red stems & leaves.  Rather pretty I think.

        Red Amaranth Microgreens

      • 1

        There you go. Thanks!

      • 2

        And in this article that John posted in the slack channel, the seeds are a complete protein: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/20/ancient-crops-climate-crisis-amaranth-fonio-cowpeas-taro-kernza

      • 2

        And unlike the grains, amaranth does not require the very hard step of dehulling.