Monday, August 13, 2007

Manure that’s not yucky – you can actually eat them

Most of us especially non-farmers would react violently to the word “manure”. But we’re not talking about dung, muck, crap and most of all we’re not talking shit. We’re talking about green manure. Green manures are plants grown to temporarily cover the soil and then later incorporated in the soil to improve soil fertility and structure (Ooops! Too much soil there). Legumes are the favorite plants to use as green manure because of their nitrogen fixing capabilities. These plants fix nitrogen from the air, water and soil and deposit them in their roots for future use. Usually, these plants are helped by nitrogen fixing bacteria called rhizobia (it almost sound like my surname). The fixed nitrogen is visible in their roots and can be seen by the naked eye as pinkish nodules. Too bad for these plants because they don’t get the chance to produce flowers and fruits. They are incorporated into the soil before they start to flower. That's why they are usually called sacrificial crops. It is before their flowering stage that their stored nitrogen is at its maximum. After most of the plants are decomposed, we then plant the crops we intend to grow. The next set of plants will be the ones using the stored nitrogen. Poor green manure.

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