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Monday, July 11, 2016

Salt tolerant legume crops

Cowpea (left) and Lima bean (right) purchased in Ubud. Most likely imported product but well worth a trial. The Lima beans are probably the dwarf bush type 

Growing in sodic and saline soils is difficult but not impossible. 

It's always been an interest of mine to try and develop agroecologies best suited to the prevailing conditions, that provide sufficient nutrition for people, and then to see what kind of cuisine comes from this mix.
This is a different approach to the usual attempt to modify or shelter the foods we are accustomed to eating from the conditions of the site. 
Of course I still do modify the site with inputs and soil conditioning and water harvesting, however it should be the path of least resistance leading to greatest yield and choice. 
Life wasn't actually meant to be that difficult.

To that end I'm seeking beans and pulses that can grow in this hot semi arid alkaline, sodic and saline environment.
These preconditions exclude Peas, chickpeas and common beans, they just don't cope with heat and salt. 

So far the review of published literature has led to the following candidates. The list is not exhaustive and it is in fact highly selective. If I already know I don't like the taste then it's out

Cowpea and Long bean (Vigna unguiculata and Vigna unguiculata sesquipedalis) 

Moderately salt tolerant 

These are the same species and exist in various intergrades. The long bean is usually a vining plant with soft green pods up to 0.5 m long eaten as a vegetable. The cowpea is usually a bush with fast maturing shorter pods that produce a dry bean.
However we have seed types that are inbetween, vining plants producing a dry bean
Both foods are delicious. Refried "black eyed peas" are delicious 
The leaves are eaten as a traditional vegetable in Africa and are nutritious 


Kacang Bogor / Bambara groundnut / Mugo bean ( Voandezzia subterranea) 

Lima or Butter bean (Phasoleus lunatus) 

Moderately salt tolerant 


Pigeon Pea / Kacang Undis / Kacang Lebui ( Cajanus Cajanus) 

Turi / Kentujur ( Sesbania grandiflora) 

Sesbania sesban 

Crotalaria juncea 


Mung bean 

Winged bean ( Psophocarphus tetragonolobus) 

Functions of legumes in this Agroecology 

Pulses, beans and legumes are a good source of dietary protein and for much of the worlds population they are an essential dietary component. Cereal + bean/pulse is the basic dietary formula. 
However we are not those people. The setting here is adjacent to the coast which is rich in protein sources, and on land we can maintain herds of beasts and poultry for our protein needs.
There is instead a shortage of dietary fibre and carbohydrate, and of fruits and vegetables, in this and similar Island habitats 
So the purpose of legumes in our design is different and focused on the additional benefits of legumes.

A) Taste! 
We only select the plants we like to eat, or those with potential to be processed into something we enjoy. I love Felafel and because neither chickpea or fava bean suit this climate or soil, then we will adapt using the tolerant Lima bean 

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B) Dietary fibre 
The fibre content of beans and pulses is important for gut health. It's long been known that the physical bulk is important for movement through the digestive tract, and more recently it's known that fibres of these foods are especially effective at enabling excretion of excess cholesterol from the body. What's most recently under consideration is the reassessment of fibre not just as bulk, but also as a substrate for the growth of our gut micro flora which has direct impacts on brain health and all other aspects of our wellbeing. 

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C) Soil carbon and fertility 
For each 1 Kilogram of Nitrogen fixed from the atmosphere by the symbiotic bacteria living in association with the roots of these plants, a further 10 Kilograms of Atmospheric carbon can be captured and stored as biomass. 
The main limitation for our soils is water and nitrogen. Water is provided by increasing the water holding  capacity of the soil through elevating soil organic matter. This acts as a sponge, and also to reduce the bulk density of the sodic topsoil. The increased porosity assists rainwater infiltration into the subsoils.
More fertility and effective rainfall = more shade, fruit and comfort 

D) forage and mulch 
I'd rather an egg, cheese or meat over beans anyday. 
And despite much internet propaganda promoting animal products as unhealthy and unsustainable, the truth regarding forage and pasture fed animals is just the opposite.
Sheep, geese, chickens, quail, fish and maybe a cow, we do intend to raise multiple types ofvanimalschere and so we need ample forage resources. 
We also need bedding to soak up manures and ensure keeping animals remains a synergistic process that builds soils and gardens

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