[permaculture] Lupines and their uses.

Dieter Brand diebrand at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 14 06:14:53 EST 2009


About N-fixing bacteria, I live in a very isolated place which is surrounded by forests and which had been abandoned for decades before we took over.  Still, I don’t need any inoculation for legumes that are traditionally grown in my area (favas; lupines; field-, green- and chick peas; bush-, pole- and dried beans, etc.) even though these haven’t been grown anywhere near my place for decades.  The bacteria stay dormant in the soil until required to multiply for colonizing the roots of the respective legume.  

I did try growing soya this year, which is not traditionally grown in this area.  The plants grew well, but the beans turned out only half the size of the ones I had sown.  I only became aware of the problem when it was too late to check for the root nodules, but I think this indicates that the plants didn’t fix enough N.  I will try again to coax the soya beans into growing a little bigger by “natural means”.  If it means that it won’t work without inoculation, I probably give up on the idea of growing soya.  Would be a petty though, since I spent much of my life in Japan and would very much like to make my own tofu.

I don’t know if soil can be damaged by chemical farming to the extent that one might not be able to grow legumes without inoculation, I somehow doubt it though.  Our hillside land has been badly abused by previous generations of farmers, who were encouraged under the previous regime, the Salazar dictatorship, to grow wheat everywhere, even on 40 degree slopes, so that this region, the Alentejo in the South of Portugal, may become the breadbasket of the country.  Most of the topsoil eroded within a few years of tilling the hills.  On the upside, this being one of the poorest regions in the whole of Europe, most of the small subsistence farmers were too poor to buy synthetic fertilizers or other agrochemicals; which means that my land probably never saw any chemicals and not even a tractor. The previous owner still plowed with a donkey and a wooden contraption with iron teeth as a plough.

Dieter Brand

PS: When I cut the grass and weeds at the start of the dry season, I use as much as I can for mulching the irrigated part of our land, the rest I use for making compost.  Mulch doesn’t decompose during the dry season and poses an unacceptable fire risk.  For example, when we get enough rain in April, a grassy mulch will decompose within less than a month.  During the dry season, the same mulch will not significantly decompose, even with some irrigation, for six or more months.


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