In December, I cast a small handlful of sterile wheat seed on a dark damp forest floor in King County. As I did so, I thought to myself: “Would I remember this experiment, if nothing sprouted”?
Wheat is king for the eastern half of Washington State, the wide open Columbia Basin where a full sun, cultivated and irrigated agricultural environment allows wheat to thrive. It’s so fine to drive through the dryland wheat fields on Highway 2 near Waterville and see the growth of wheat, anytime of the year. Wheat is a grain and also a grass, and as a grass monocot has a vitality in germination and growth that is exceptional! With such potential, this grain has captured the attention of ecological restoration specialists who apply wheat often as a first step in restoration – see the Department of Agriculture US Forest Service projects in the Pacific Northwest. In sum, wheat can be used to outcompete various invasive seed banks while reducing soil surface erosion by how it binds soil in a tight root mat.
But what about the low light, deep conifer forests of Puget Sound, can wheat work there? Recently, I discovered my handful of wheat in a fully germinated state showing off their erect stems to their many neighbors: the 100′ tall cedars and firs in a forest with 70-80% green canopy cover. Proof in the pudding!
Nicoterra Trails will be using more of this sterile wheat seed product where it is specified in bid documents or requested in pilot project research.