Leucaena leucocephala collection of links

Back in the ’70s or so I saw an article. I’ve forgotten where and I’ve forgotten “about whom”. (Frankly, I don’t think I ever caught the name. It was an Indian (as in India) name, and they tend to ‘runtogetherforme’ into some long hypnotic rampathrathimatripiaticrythm kind of thing that just doesn’t “click”, nor “stick” for me.) I think the article might have been in Mother Earth News, or perhaps something more technical. Again, “Title” is not one of the things I used to notice.

The basic thrust of the article was about a place in India where there was a lot of “Desertification” happening. They had photographs of a Dr. Rmamumblemumblemumble who had ‘fixed it’. What “stuck in my brain” were the method, and a strong visual of the location. They had “before” and “after” pictures of the same location with The Good Doctor seated in the same place. Just “night and day”.

Every so often I try doing a bit of a search to see if I can find that original “connection”, but it doesn’t show up. Buried under too much recent stuff, I fear. But “someday” I’d like to give proper attribution to Dr. WhoDunIt for his work.

The System

The agronomy system is simple, and very strait forward. By present methods and understandings, nearly quaint. At the time it was more of a ‘big deal’.

The First Word Photo:

Seated in the foreground is The Doctor with nothing but nearly barren red dirt behind him shading into a rutted red dirt hillside as the backdrop. Perhaps 10 hectares (25 acres) of area? A few tufts of scrub, maybe the size of a gallon of milk, with yards ( meters ) between them. LOTS of bare red dirt. Dry. Uninviting. Somewhere in the back / side IIRC was a small child herding one scrawny goat.

The problem starkly visible. Nothing much for the goat to eat, so little for the child to get from the goat.

The Second Word Photo:

Taken about 15 years alter. The Doctor seated in what looks like a rain forest. Trees making a canopy overhead. Can’t hardly see the hill in the background, but bits of distant green are there, too. Lush, green, edible foliage.

It is the same spot, and the same camera perspective.

What changed? Simple, really.

Before, the goats ran free and ate and and all things that tried to grow. Nothing got very far. Women would spend hours / day walking the hills looking for wood to use in cooking. Children were poorly fed, and both women and children had a variety of eye and lung ailments from being inside poor huts while cooking over dung (there being not much wood…).

Several negative feedback loops were at work here. The System reversed them into positive feedback loops.

Burning dung means it is not available to fertilize the ground. Nitrogen compounds burned up, instead of turned to fertilizers. Smoky fires causing blindness and pneumonia (among other things). Goats mowing down any ambitious plant before it could grow to size, leaving the ground bare to overheat and dry out. No water from the ground to transpire into the air, so even less rain. All leading to less food, worse health, more intensive grazing of goats, and ever more desperation trying to find fuel wood.

The Doctor started with the goats. Pen the goats.

Now plants could grow without destruction. This can then shade the dirt so rains soak in rather than evaporate. The wet cycle starts toward the positive.

Goat Poo is collected and, instead of burning it, fermented in an anaerobic digester (made of local materials – bricks in a hole in the ground, IIRC) and the resultant methane gas piped to the huts to a “stove”. The stove was made of dried mud. Little more than shaped mud where the methane from fermentation, “Gobar Gas”, was mixed with air in a very low pressure ‘jet’ and burned under a pot, that sat in a hole in the dried mud. There was a “clay” (dried mud) chimney that took the exhaust gasses out of the hut. The stove was maybe the size of a can of stew and the chimney about the diameter of your wrist.

Now the “sludge” from the fermenter is GREAT fertilizer. It gets spread on a garden area. Any excess gets spread on the “field” (still a bit like a desert). From the garden, the family gets consistent food that can be dried and used in off seasons, or eaten fresh. Everyone is having much better health.

Now, in that open desert area, a special tree was planted. Leucaena leucocephala. A “bean tree” from Mexico. It is a Mimosoideae:

The same sub-family or tribe (depending on which classification system you use) has many similar members. Acacia, for one. Since “back then” several other members of this tribe have also been drafted for this duty…

This plant, Leucaena, is rather “special” in several ways. First off, it grows incredibly fast. Second, is a nitrogen fixer. Third, it’s from a warm place where it can grow in areas with a lot of water, or not all that much. Finally, the pods and leaves are (marginally) edible. There is a toxic amino acid in the seeds that can cause “issues” for some animals. In Mexico, very young pods and shoots are cooked (which breaks down some of the toxins) and eaten. More importantly, as long as you give them time to have their gut flora adapt (i.e. don’t just swap feed suddenly. That’s a “no-no” for many ruminants as their gut flora need time to adapt to changes of feed. This occasionally causes problems in rabbits, for example, which is why folks are advised not to rapidly change what they feed their bunny.) goats can eat the leaves.

Oh, and they “coppice” well. That means if you chop of the main trunk, it resprouts many more trunks from that stump. Nice “poles”.

Now we just “tie it together”. The children, instead of chasing goats, collect small twigs and leaves and take them to the goats in the pens. (Dad can cut larger limbs). The larger limbs provide fuel wood. Except… we are using Gobar gas, remember? Initially there may not be enough, so some wood may be used as the goat herd builds up; but eventually that wood becomes a salable product. It can also be used in ‘light manufactures’, so folks can start businesses making things of it.

As the tree fixes nitrogen, soil improves. More grasses can grow under the trees. As the “fermented poo” makes for a great garden, and the goats are getting ever more ‘bean tree leaves’ and grasses, the village develops a surplus of vegetables, meat, and milk. As the women are no longer hunting for fuel, they turn these materials into more salable products. Cheeses, soaps, and fresh produce. Even jerky and fresh meat. A cycle of prosperity where before had been only desperation.

But it’s not done yet…

The canopy of the ‘been tree’ shades the ground. Rains that fall do not evaporate. They act as a wind break. The soils do not blow away. The roots hold hillsides in place. Erosion is halted. Now the rains don’t run off, they soak in. Evapotranspiration from the trees leads to even more rains (water cycling). The “desert” turns first to “savanna” and eventually to “tropical forest” or “agroforest”.

At that point, the cycle is complete. A desert eroding to barren rocky dry wasteland reverts to lush forest and grasslands. Poverty becomes prosperity. It really can be that simple.

The Downsides

Everything has downsides. The “trick” is to choose the solutions where the downsides are not much bother. For Leucaena the major downside is just that it grows too well. It can become something of an ‘invasive weed’. (Hawaii has many such foreign invaders, but this is one of them…)

Frankly, when dealing with a choice of “invasive forest that builds the land” vs “eroding desert”, I’ll take “invasive plant” and work to stay ahead of it.

The plant IS marginally toxic to some kinds of animals. You can’t just feed this stuff to cows, sheep, and pigs.

It is a tropical plant, so fine even into ‘sub-tropical’ places like California (where it does grow at present), but not for places that are very cold.

Yet the same “system” can work with other plants.

That is why, in the years since the ’70s, many folks have worked out other Agronomy Systems with other “bean trees” and other ruminants. (And even some non-legume trees).

Now, some 40 years later, some folks “talk dirt” about Leucaena due to the ‘invasive weed’ aspect. Forgetting that it was and is a miracle tree given where we were 40 years ago. So in some parts of India, it is the cause for complaints as the skinny volunteers growing under larger established trees in parks ‘blow over’ in major storms. But think just a minute. They HAVE parks that HAVE large trees now…

Yet, too, “times change”. We now have a much larger catalog of trees and agronomy systems to choose from. In many places, some other combination will be much better and “miracle tree” isn’t an accurate description there, now, for this tree. In my opinion, that is a statement of success, not “problem”.

So, with all that in mind, I’m going to accumulate some “links” here to various Leucaena pages that I’ve run into.

Perhaps some day I’ll even find a copy of those two photos and find the name of Dr. Who-Ha to give proper homage.

But, for now, the links. In no particular order and no particular structure.


Purdue overview page (that says it makes excellent cattle fodder


Leadtree is valued as an excellent protein source for cattle fodder, consumed browsed or harvested, mature or immature, green or dry. The nutritive value is equal to or superior to alfalfa. Leadtree has gained a favorable reputation in land reclamation, erosion control, water conservation, reforestation and soil improvement programs, and is a good cover and green manure crop. The leaves, used as a mulch around other crops, are said to significantly increase their yields. It is said to possess the power of extracting selenium from the soil and concentrating selenium in the seed. This could be used to ameliorate seleniferous soils if the feed were discarded or used for some purpose other than feed. Seeds yield about 25 percent gum worthy of commercial investigation. Seeds after softening are strung as beans into various items of jewelry for tourists in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In the Philippine Islands, young pods are cooked as a vegetable and seeds are used as a substitute for coffee. Ripe seeds are sometimes eaten parched like popcorn. Wood is hard and heavy (sp. gr. 0.7), the sapwood light yellow, the heartwood yellow-brown to dark brown, used for fuel or charcoal. Plants are used in some countries for shade for black pepper, coffee, cocoa, quinine, and vanilla and for hedges. In many places, however, renegade seedlings have created a noxious weed situation. The dipilatory chemical mimosine has been used, experimentally at least, to shear sheep.

The seeds can get a high level of “mimosine” when mature. It causes some animals, like sheep, but not goats, to have their hair fall out… No idea if it works on people. It is broken down in cooking, so cook those young pods, don’t eat the old dry seeds…


An interesting site, dedicated to “Tropical Forages”. Has an insight into how far spread this plant is these days:

Common names

guage (Mexico); wild tamarind (Corozal, Belize); lead tree (Florida); lamtoro (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea); ipil ipil (Philippines); jumby bean (Bahamas); false koa, koa haole (Hawaii); tangantangan, tangan tangan, talantayan (Guam, Marshall Islands); talntangan, ganitnityuwan tangantan (Yap); tuhngantuhngan, rohbohtin (Kosrae); telentund (Palau); lopa samoa (American Samoa); fua pepe (American Samoa and Samoa); lusina (Samoa); pepe (Niue and Samoa); nito (Cook Islands); siale mohemohe (Tonga); subabul (India); vaivai (Fiji); cassis (Vanuatu); te kaitetua (Kiribati); kay keo dâu (Vietnam).
Morphological description

Shrub or tree up to 18 m tall, forked when shrubby and branching strongly after coppicing, with greyish bark and prominent lenticels.

Yes, 18 meters tall. Over 50 feet. It grows big if you don’t coppice it.


A tree with it’s own network. Who knew?

Leucaena is a high quality, long-lived leguminous forage tree. First introduced by CSIRO in the 1950s for extensive grazed systems for tropical Australia . Today it is also being used by livestock producers in cooler climates.

It produces very palatable, nutritious, high protein leaf for cattle giving liveweight gains of 250-300 kg/HD/yr, or 125 – 150kg per hectare at a stocking rate of 1hd:2ha. This is twice that of grass only pastures


Not the same plant, but a similar idea. Very touching story of folks being hungry and goats “having issues” during 2 months of the year when forage was scarce. A “weed” that was often being rogued out had the answer. Pick and store the pods, feed them during those two months. Cycle of virtue begins…

Researchers from the BAIF Foundation working with goat herders in the villages of Bhilwara began to look for ways to keep the animals healthy through the dry months of April, May and June. The poor herders could not afford to buy feed, so the researchers and villagers together settled on a new use for an alien tree introduced here by a British colonial forester in 1876.

The villagers of Rajasthan knew the tree, Prosopis juliflora – known locally as `English tree’ – as a pernicious thorny weed that they ripped up when it invaded their fields. But dangling from the tree’s branches are giant pods 15-25 centimetres long, that are packed with protein and sugar. In its native Central America, these pods are widely used for animal fodder. So the researchers suggested that the villagers pick the pods in the spring and store them for feeding to hungry kidless female goats in May and June, in the hope that they would become pregnant.

The villagers tested the idea during 1998 and 1999, in a project led by the NRI’s Czech Conroy. The result was fatter, healthier female goats that produced almost 30% more kids. A typical goat keeper with 10 breeding females got three extra kids, worth 900 rupees at market in October. That meant more cash from sales of the young kids. “I had eight kids from my goats this year,” said a delighted Dapu.


Yes, there’s a wiki. But it’s not very good.


As they “play games” with what you can see, I’m quoting the entire “tease” just in case it isn’t there next time

Someone has found some anti-cancer properties in some of the extracts:

Antiproliferative and cancer-chemopreventive properties of sulfated glycosylated extract derived from Leucaena leucocephala.(Research Paper)(Report)
Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences

November 1, 2007 | Gamal-Eldeen, Amira; Amer, H.; Helmy, W.; Ragab, H.; Talaat, Roba

Byline: Amira. Gamal-Eldeen, H. Amer, W. Helmy, H. Ragab, Roba. Talaat

This work aimed to prove that simple chemical modification could provide new cancer chemopreventive and/or anticancer properties to the inactive extracted polysaccharide derived from Leucaena leucocephala . Polysaccharides were extracted from Leucaena leucocephala seeds and its 2,4-pentanedione-treated derivative (glycosylated form) was prepared, which is further sulphated to give sulphated glycosylated form. Estimation of their anti-initiation activity, modulation of carcinogen metabolism, was indicated by the inhibition cytochrome P450 1A (CYP1A) and the induction of glutathione-S-transferases (GSTs). Anti-proliferation activity was investigated by MTT assay against human hepatocarcinoma (HepG2), breast carcinoma (MCF-7) and lymphoblastic leukemia (1301). Apoptosis/necrosis and cell cycle were analyzed by flow cytometry. The results revealed that glycosylated form inhibited both CYP1A and GSTs, while sulphated glycosylated form not only inhibited CYP1A, but also induced the GSTs. Unlike GE, sulphated glycosylated form possessed a significant anti-proliferative activity against different cell lines. Analysis of HepG2 cell cycle phases demonstrated that glycosylated form led to a delay of G2/M-phase, while sulphated glycosylated form led to a concomitant arrest in S- and G2/M-phases. Investigation of apoptosis/necrosis ratio demonstrated that both of glycosylated form and sulphated glycosylated form induced HepG2 cell death by necrosis, but not apoptosis. Unmodified crude extract was neither active as cancer chemopreventive nor as anti-proliferative. In conclusion, chemical modification of Leucaena gum induced its cancer chemopreventive and anti-proliferative activities.

Leucaena leucocephala is a tropical plant belongs to Leguminosae and provides a useful source for fuel, protein, oil and commercial gum[sup] [1],[2],[3] . They have a total carbohydrate content of approximately 35% to 45%, with reducing sugars constituting 5.2% and an average degree of polymerization of 150[sup] [4] . The highly viscous solutions of seed gum have the potential to be used as a laxative, in vegetable soups and in other food commercial products. L. leucocephala is reported to have few medicinal properties in contraception and abortion[sup] [2] .

Galactomannans constitute the second most abundant storage polysaccharide in Leucaena sp. They are mainly also found in the endosperm cell wall of seeds from the other Leguminosae family[sup] [5] . The structure of these neutral polymers is relatively simple, consisting of a linear (1→4)- [sz]- linked D -mannan backbone with single unit (1→6)-linked- a – D -galactopyranosyl side chains[sup] [6] . Galactomannans are relatively highly galactose substituted, where the mannose to galactose ratio [man/gal] between 1.1 and 3.5, which is varying with different species, crops, portions or fractions. Galactomannans properties depend on their chemical structure, such as chain length, availability of cis -OH groups, steric hindrance, substituents and degree of polymerization. In addition to these variations, hydrophilic properties, solubility; gelling and functional characteristics represent the basis of their different biological activities and numerous industrial applications such as pharmaceuticals, food processing and cosmetics[sup] [7],[8] . Galactomannans have multiple side-chain galactose units that should readily interact with galactose-specific receptors (such as galectins on the tumor cell surface), modulate the tumor surface physiology and potentially affect delivery of drugs and functional molecules to the tumor[sup] [9] . They have biological activities including cancer-chemopreventive, anticancer[sup] [10] , immunostimmulation[sup] [11] , antiviral[sup] [12] , anticoagulant and antithrombotic[sup] [13] activities. Sulphated polysaccharides were also reported to have in vitro antiviral and anticoagulant activity, which was attributed to the negatively charged sulphate groups[sup] [14] .


A short reference, but has some interesting numbers in it.

Leucaena leucocephala

”This is about ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala), for the ipil tree, see Intsia bijuga.

Leucaena , Lead tree , Jumbay , or White popinac ( Leucaena leucocephala or Leucaena glauca ) is a small Mimosoid tropical tree native to Mexico. It is used for a variety of purposes, such as firewood, fiber and livestock feed.

It has been considered for biomass production, as its reported yield of foliage corresponds to a dried mass of 2000-20000 kg/ha/year, and that of wood 30-40 m³/ha/year, with up to twice those amounts in favourable climates. It is also efficient in nitrogen fixation, at more than 500 kg/ha/year.

During the 1970s and 1980s it was promoted as a “miracle tree” for its multiple uses. It has also been described as a “conflict tree” in that it is both promoted for forage production and spreads like a weed in some places.

One of the drawbacks of this species is its susceptibility to insect infestations. In the 1980s, there was widespread loss in South East Asia due to pest attack by psyllids.

Invasive Properties
Leucaena leucocephala is highly invasive in arid parts of Taiwan, the Hawaiian islands and Fiji. It grows quickly, and forms dense thickets which crowd out any native vegetation.

Names in other languages

Hawaiian: haole koa or koa haole (after the similarity of its leaves to those of the endemic koa)
India: Subabul
Indonesian: petai cina
Javanese: lamtoro or lamotorogung
Myanmar: Bawzagaing
Thai: krathin (กระถิน);
Tagalog: ipil-ipil , santa-elena , santaelena

They say “spreads like a weed” like it was a bad thing… ;-)

I know, it can be a very bad thing. Yet one of my pet projects is to collect seeds for crops that can be “farmed like weeds”. Just left to do their own thing, and harvested. (And then every so often a flame thrower and armored vehicle run around the perimeter to fight any that try to escape. ;-)

And a whole lot more:


In Conclusion

In one of those odd twists of fate, I’m stuck in one of those highly urban, highly advanced, and highly well off places; California. When I’d really like to be stuck in some God Forsaken Poverty Stricken place helping the locals start a virtuous cycle of prosperity by small changes of their agronomy system and household cooking methods. Oh, for a grant and a hut somewhere…

Instead, I play with it in my backyard “toy farm” and watch the progress of the world from afar.

Maybe “someday” I’ll get an email asking me to hop a flight to Stinking Desert In The Making and bring some seeds with me.

Until then, take a visit to the local nursery and look at the “bean trees” with just those kinds of leaves. There are many. We had one, a silk tree, in my backyard when I was about 7. By the time I was 12 it was MUCH bigger. Leaves an impression. Sometimes, a life long impression.

There are whole tribes of ‘bean trees’. We have barely scratched the surface of what all can be done with them. They fix nitrogen. They grow fast and make dense strong wood. (No nitrogen limit ;-) Some are edible. Some make toxins (that might become medicines, cures, or let you ‘shear’ sheep with a light snack …) Some are giants, some are small and dainty. Some grow very very fast. Some make very attractive flowers. This has been but one of them.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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13 Responses to Leucaena leucocephala collection of links

  1. adrianvance says:

    The importance of nitrogen, or more accurately, nitrates, in these matters has mystified me since I was 15 years, 62 years ago. Organic material in soil puts CO2 into the moisture there and that is used by the plants to build 42% of their dry body mass. Nitrogen is only found in their DNA and the lignin, plant glue, holding the cells together and a very small portion of the plant mass. To read more of this see my “Turning Carbon to Gold” at http://CO2Au.blogspot.com

  2. E.M.Smith says:


    Don’t think “body mass” think “engine”. It’s the protein in the leaves.


    Woody species include examples of every degree of transition between the successive and the simultaneous patterns of leaf senescence. At a mechanistic level the regulation of senescence is thought to be coordinated by phytohormones, chiefly abscisic and jasmonic acids and ethylene but is often also initiated by external stress factors such as short day length or low temperatures. Ageing cells typically show disproportionality in protein metabolism in which the rate of protein breakdown outweighs its synthesis leading to an accumulation of soluble amino compounds, which can be diverted to other sinks in the plant. Up to 60% of the protein of the leaf can be withdrawn for re-use and valuable bio-elements like nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur are recovered. The stepwise breakdown of leaf proteins to the advantage of the remaining plant parts prior to the completion of the growth cycle is an important component of the material balance of the plant {Larcher, 1995 #2042}.

    Plants go to a lot of effort to recycle nitrogen. Remove that need, it’s easier to put out more solar engine panels to power the whole machine…

    So if you can rapidly add more ‘growth engine’ you an grow faster… and if you don’t need to go through the ‘age withdraw and recycle’ to make the new leaves, you can just do it ‘pedal to the metal’.;..

    In short, for nitrogen, it’s all about the leaves…

  3. tckev says:

    This may be your document –

    Click to access 9185IIED.pdf

    From the quick scan over it I done it seem to fit your description. Interesting though.

  4. Bloke down the pub says:

    On a related issue, Anthony had this over at wuwt which I expect most will have seen by now. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/03/08/a-bridge-in-the-climate-debate-how-to-green-the-worlds-deserts-and-reverse-climate-change/

  5. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: As always you have touched a very sensitive issue in the current official “paradigm”: Everyone wrongly supposes that the “dry body mass” of trees (some weighing hundred of tons) and vegetation in general, being Cellulose, a polymer of Glucose, made up from CO2 and Water, obtains Carbon from the EXTREMELY SCARCE (380 ppm) CO2 in the atmosphere: That it is obviously not true, that is why UREA (carbamide) is so extensively used, supposedly for its nitrogen content, but it really also provides the so needed CARBON, as CO, in an assimilable form for the build up of Cellulose. All farmers tend to think in providing N-P-K and do not consider the anathematized in excess by extremely ignorant people, CO2.
    For this purpose it is very advisable the use of organic matter, as Humic “acid”(really a potassium humate, extracted from Leonardite -a young carbon-)

  6. tckev says:

    Oh dear, many do not like Leucaena leucocephala spreading around. From Global Invasive Species Database

    Self-fertile (promoting seed production even on isolated individuals), some outcrossing, pollinated by a wide range of generalist insects including large and small bees. Resprouts after cutting.
    Flowering and seeding continually thoughout the year as long as moisture permits combined with self-fertility promotes abundant pod and seed set.
    Lifecycle stages
    Trees are generally short-lived (20-40 years). The hard seed coat means that germination occurs over a prolonged period after seed dispersal and that seed can remain viable for long periods (at least 20 years) in the soil.

    ****This species has been nominated as among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders****


  7. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: You have also found a general category: GOATS (LOL!) being extremely predatory to the environment, eating everything, including the roots; showing it is necessary to have them in convenient pens. Then, it is urgent being ingenuous for replacing its current form of utilization as “government officials” all over the world, in times where the “Romanesque” institutions, like the “Lex Romana” (Law) or those apparatuses for continuously producing “laws” which nobody read or know, called “congresses” (eventually involve sex activity too). Ya know buddy, the late C.G.Jung, said in one of his books, that in times of crisis, symbols “constellize”, i.e. a psychic sub conscious content becomes real, as the recent Pope resignation, showing the end of the Roman Empire (really its institutions, which survived through Anglia-England and its colonies-).

  8. E.M.Smith says:


    You might like the link from Adrian Vance. He, too, points out the use of “soil carbon” ( water solution carbon) in plant growth. It is an interesting posting / approach / method for several reasons.

    Like the imagery of “Congress as goats that need penning”…


    It looks interesting, but a search for “goat” didn’t find it… so I don’t think it is THE doc, but it is an interesting document. Thanks!

    Yes, there is a fundamental conflict between two goals. It can never be resolved.

    1) The plant most useful for recovering damaged soils is that plant which is most stubborn and self propagating / tending. You need a plant that is fairly “aggressive” to survive at all.

    2) Once soils have recovered and are doing well, or in nearby “good” soils, an “aggressive” plant can crowd out more meek species.

    There are some ‘edge cases’ where a species is useful for recovering ‘bad soil’ then gets displaced by other species as conditions change, but they are usually not as easy to find as flat out strong fast growing species. So, for example, some USA Western Buckwheats can be used for recovery of “mine tailing”. They basically grow on bare rock rubble. Not well, but enough to feed goats and sheep. Thus starting the cycle. Once enough soil exists, they will be shaded out by larger taller species.

    So the “search” is always to find plants that fit #1, sometimes not in #2, and if possible are in that “aggressive inside the bad soil box – otherwise displaced” magic zone.

    Oh, and there is an increasingly volatile and vocal set of Natural Plant Folks who want to eradicate anything that didn’t arrive in an area on its own prior to people… They have been murdering Eucalyptus trees all over California. ( I proposed to the spouse-to-be under a giant and beautiful such tree on Treasure Island with a view of San Francisco at night in the distance. A few years later it was a stump… It ought to have lived longer then I will… ) So be aware than many “GASP! Foreign and INVASIVE!!!” claims will be ‘colored’ by such folks biases. Most of our food crops are “alien and foreign” in most of the places they are grown, yet we don’t have a lot of folks decrying the alien and invasive mustards and radishes… Oh Well.

    So yes, in an ideal world one would have a plant that aggressively self propagated and rapidly grew on bare rocks, made a load of good soil, and then spontaneously died as soon as corn or soybeans showed up on the scene. In reality, you plant something that “works” and then have to work yourself to remove it when the job is done and plant something else. My particular interest is in just those species that will ‘naturalize in the garden’ so take nothing more than me putting some seeds in the dirt and standing back. I want the moral equivalent of “Garden Kudzu”. But I’m willing to take Nuclear Herbicides to the edges of the garden…. I want a Eucalyptus that grows to 100 foot tall in very few years, but I’m willing to turn it into firewood too…

    So there is a fundamental conflict between “grows VERY easily and fast with lots of yield and little weed competition” and “does NOT grow well on it’s own and takes tending so can’t become weed like outside the farm”. I tend to the side that wants “grows VERY easily” while “greens” tend to the side of “does NOT grow well on it’s own”. They want to freeze time in a bottle, I want a productive garden with no work and don’t mind change (since you can’t stop it anyway). Or, in short, I like roses. (“Even a rose, in a wheat field, is a weed.”)

    @Bloke Down The Pub:

    Yes, an interesting posting. I’m in the camp with the other folks who commented that Real Farmers ™ have been doing that kind of thing basically forever and that there are alternative ways to get similar results (i.e. on need not do his “ONLY ONE WAY!!!” approach).

    The video is all about ‘recreating nature’ with particular pasturing processes of large massed herds being moved as though herded by predators. In fact, as other posters stated, you can get the same effect with a small herd moved from fenced field to fenced field by a farmer (as my Amish ancestors did / do) or even with “mechanical herbivores” via harvesters / manure spreaders.

    But yes, putting the cows back on the range lands would be a very good thing and would help to return them to a lush condition. (Pen the goats, let the cows back on the land…)

  9. punmaster says:

    I like seeing the interesting ideas here on so many topics. This and the recent analysis of various grains for food makes it plain the world is not in nearly as bad a shape as we are told. If only it was not in the hands of idiots, both the elected and those who elected them. But I am sure it will all be fine. There are other important things going on. I hope Naomi Judd does well on Dancing with the Stars. ;)

  10. Macbeth says:

    Amazing, I know exactly what you are talking about.
    Glad to help you out with these links: http://e-terrapretarooftopexp.blogspot.co.nz/
    Probably not the original guy but he knows about the leucocephala.
    I was looking for over 5 years for this method because I first discovered it presented in “World’s Greatest Unsolved Mysteries” tones, with no technical details. So just this year I found information about “Terra Preta”, and those trees being used in India.

  11. E.M.Smith says:


    Glad you like it. Yeah, the world is doing pretty good. I do need to get the companion posting on beans done… Who is Naomi Judd?…


    Yeah, not the original guy, but related methods. Adds charcoal. After chasing a couple of other links, looks like they use a Mesquite relative to make the charcoal… As I’m going to be using more charcoal, I’ll have some “BBQ Tailing” to add to my garden…

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    A limiting factor of soil particles is the ability to take up and hold water and nutrients that can be released to plant root hairs. The micro pores of charcoal are ideal for this and unlike compost, charcoal is a nearly permanent addition. Compost is broken down by the micro biology in the soil so it evaporates and must be replace. Warm soils become red because the organics are used up and the metal in the clays oxidize. Metal oxides are very good for making clay pots and bricks, but very poor for growing plants.

    I am still debating myself over creating a wood to gas generator or a steam plant to power our farm as PG&E is raping us and may not be dependable in the future. A bio gas generator would also contribute charcoal to the farm soil, a plus. pg

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    Um, why not do both?

    Gasogen wood gas generators work best on charcoal (otherwise they tend to make tars that cause problems for the engine and need filtering). Making charcoal has waste heat… soo…

    Wrap your charcoal maker in a boiler and use that heat to drive a steam engine. Likely can capture the “waste heat” of the combustion engine consuming the wood gas as steam too…

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