Tagasaste inoculant (NZ and Australia)

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Mike_E_from_NZ, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    The Permaculture Design Manual makes the point the when planting legumes we should be careful to inoculate the seeds with the plant specific rhizobium bacteria. When I first started looking for this stuff for tagasaste trees, I found that no one cultured it. Generally I got the following responses:

    1: It is not necessary
    2: It is already in the soil
    3: Any legume inoculant will work

    None of those cut it for me so I continued to look.

    The good news (for Australians, that is) is that BeckerUnderwood (https://www.beckerunderwood.com/australia/index.asp) made some up after my request and it is now available. Due to lack of demand this hasn't been made for quite some time. If it doesn't sell then I guess it'll be a long time before they do it again.

    BUT..

    When they tried to get it into NZ for me (and others) it was stopped by the biosecurity people. They believe that
    1: It is different enough from every other rhizobium to be a threat (go figure)
    2: It is not already in NZ.

    I find each of these hard to believe.

    So, we (meaning the BeckerUnderwood rep and me) need to show the biosecurity people that it is already here. These trees have been grown here for quite some time and I find it hard to believe that no one has done this before.

    My question is thus:
    Can anyone supply me the contact details of anyone who has been growing tagasaste on a largish scale for a good length of time in New Zealand. You may send me a message rather than put contact details on the forum.

    Thanks
    Mike
     
  2. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    What department was it Mike?

    Are you sure that the Australian bacteria is the same as the one in NZ? How do you know?

    I mean MAF or whoever must know that tagasaste grows here, so presumably it's not tagasaste bacteria that are the problem but ones that are more specific to each country?

    Have you tried getting someone in NZ to culture the bacteria from NZ sources?
     
  3. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    It was the biosecurity people at MAF in Auckland.

    This is the rhizobium bacteria story as I understand it:

    Apparently bacteria are specific to particular legumes. There are, so I believe some strains that will service more than one legume, and probably even multiple strains that will service a single legume. (You are correct when you say that a strain may be location specific. For example, I have found references that indicate that the strain of bacteria that associates with cowpea in America also associates with tagasaste there. Apparently this is not the case in Australia.).

    The problem arises when the associated bacteria of an introduced legume species is not introduced with the legume. You will recall the massive amount of work done when white clover was introduced into New Zealand. Most clover seed is inoculated prior to sale now (Superstrike I believe contains an appropriate inoculant). In most places when alfalfa is planted, the same thing. You can try to ask for an inoculant for lupins. The shop will look at you sideways and give you some story as to why you don't need it. They are wrong, and that strain can be imported into NZ. (Just press the point).

    Once a field has been planted with an inoculated legume the bacteria will survive for some time in the ground and the legume may not require inoculating before planting. This is particularly the case with alfalfa in the South Island.

    However, in some cases, even if the same legume is planted year after year, the bacteria will slowly become less effective over time. Requiring an inoculant for an effective nitrogen fixing when you replant. Obviously this does not occur for perennials.

    So, what does this mean for New Zealand and tagasaste? Unless those people who have tagasaste planted on their property in New Zealand have specifically inoculated the seed prior to germination it is quite unlikely that there is an effective strain of rhizobium bacteria working amongst the roots of the mature trees.

    I am hoping someone went through this exercise 30 years ago when importing novel life forms was a little easier.

    This is what I have found by talking to microbiologists who specialise in this field, as well as Internet research.

    There is a student doing a PhD thesis related to this topic. I have not found any information that relates to tagasaste in their work so far. I don't want to wait 3 years anyway.

    Mike
     
  4. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
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    Thanks Mike, that is very interesting.

    Are you saying that without the bacteria the trees will grow but the nitrogen won't fix or won't fix as well as it would with the bacteria?


    So how does that work in nature, where even perennials have seed carried away from where the tree with bacteria is growing? Or do the places where the tree/legume is native simply have enough of the bacteria in the soil?

    I'm also curious - is the innoculant to imitate nature, or it is to give farmers etc better productivity than nature would provide?


    Anyways, I'll keep an ear out locally in case I come across someone who knows about tagasaste history in NZ.

    cheers,
    pebble.
     
  5. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    I think these are good questions.

    This is what I understand. I suppose this may even produce a difference in tree growth. What happens if no rhizobium bacteria at all are present? Is this possible? Sterile soil? I'll see if I can find out. One of my projects (if I get the bacteria) was to set up a trial to answer this very question as it relates to tagasaste in NZ.

    What is the evolutionary reason for the association? Is it for the benefit of the plant? I understand that annual legumes use the nitrogen up when maturing and setting seed. (Which is why you dig immature legumes into the soil). I can't understand how evolution would select an association based on its philanthropic benefit. Of course it is easy to see how nitrogen using plants would evolve to use the excess nitrogen from legumes. What does a native landscape look like if no nitrogen fixing plants are present?

    I understand that the bacteria will only release nitrogen into the surround soil when it dies. And that is when the plant root dies. I could never understand how perennials did the excess nitrogen thing. I found out that hair roots grow extremely fast when water is available - and die almost as fast when things change. Logical I suppose - you wouldn't want all that biomass to support if you don't have to. When they die, bingo, nitrogen for the other local organisms.

    Beautiful.

    This is what I am picking. If we talk many thousands of years, and large stands of native trees, and hair roots that extend large distances, maybe the seed falls to the ground and grows within the area that the bacteria lives. A bit of soil, a bird. Who knows? I was at a lecture a few months ago about micorizzal fungi. The speaker stated, obviously, that one fungi would dominate on a particular tree. Once established there was no chance even a better one would grow. The fastest growing would have an advantage. I suppose the same thing would happen with a rhizobium bacteria. Seed gets taken off a tree and deposited miles away. A less effective bacteria might associate, or none might.



    Can I pick (c), all of the above. Geoff Lawton says that man can do better than nature with a good permaculture design. Can man find a better inoculant than the one that is native? Compare the American bacteria with the Australian bacteria. One of them has to give more (even by a tiny amount) than the other. I presume that the scientists scoured the world for bacteria to pick the most effective white clover bacteria for NZ farms.

    Thanks for keeping an eye out.

    Mike
     
  6. kittykate

    kittykate Junior Member

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    tagasaste seedlings

    Hello all, i am going to look like a complete ninny - i have forayed into permaculture only in recent weeks.
    I have germinated 7 tagasaste seeds, and have 2 inch high seedlings - even geminating them was its own special voyage. . . but now i read that these plants need an inocculant.
    Please excuse my grasshopper status, but what purpose do inocculants serve? Do all plants need these? What do i need to do when i eventually put my tagsaste in the ground? Should I put them in pots first? Do they need the inocculant in the pots? Is it a companion plant?
    I do not really understand what has been written above, except to guess that there is nothing in Oz that serves the job for tagasaste?
    I want a long term, viable, happy soil garden. . . i will do whatever it takes while i get my little eco systems going.
    any advice or links are appreciated
    thanks kindly
    kate
     
  7. Soleil.Lunar

    Soleil.Lunar Junior Member

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    KK,

    Rhizobium don't do well in acidic soils, they prefer alkaline conditions. The main reasons for acidic soils are the parent material (rock) the soil comes from and over use of artificial nitrogen.

    When soils are acidic an inoculent of rhizobium may be required to boost levels in the soil.

    If you are in Southern Australia/Victoria, your Tagasaste trees should be fine, as in these states they are listed as weeds.
     
  8. Soleil.Lunar

    Soleil.Lunar Junior Member

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  9. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    Soleil.Lunar:

    NZ biosecurity won't let this particular strain in unless I can show it is already here (see the first post above)


    kittykate:

    In Permaculture legumes are said to fix excess nitrogen (over their requirements) from thin air. So, instead of using synthetic nitrogen you can use the output from the legume as an input to the next plant. (The rye/clover combination in pasture is a good example of this in action). However, it is the combination of the legume and the rhizobium bacteria that provide this excess. The rest of the story is contained in the first couple of posts.

    Inoculants are cheap compared to the benefits they provide. Give Becker Underwood a call.


    Mike
     
  10. Dr. Weir

    Dr. Weir New Member

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    Rhizobial strains

    Hi Everyone,

    The problem you are having is not a new one, nor specific to rhizobia, many people have had problems importing all sorts of new organisms. This is due to our probably over-strict biosecurity laws.

    There are really two options, prove that we already have the organism here, and allow the import to go ahead, or develop our own with what already exists here.

    At Landcare Research, we have an extensive collection of bacterial strains, in fact it is the national collection, and included the old NZP collection with all its rhizobial strains. I have checked the ICMP database and found four strains from Chamaecytisus palmensis (tagasaste), but these have not been fully characterised for their taxonomy, and especially not for nitrogen-fixing ability. If you think we are missing strains for your favourite legume, then get in contact with me, and you can send me some to be included.

    I haven’t had the chance yet to look at the literature about rhizobial inoculants and this plant yet, if indeed there is any, so I’m not sure which strains will be effective. That will really need to be tested. Without knowing the type of rhizobia required, the only real target to look for effective strains is in the soil under established tagasate plants; even then, they might not be effective.

    The situation is actually much more complicated than having a particular strain, as the bacterial genes that allow nodulation are transmissible, and can be lost.

    I am very keen on the sustainable possibilities of microorganisms to reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, and I will see if there is any funding available to speed this along.

    Cheers,

    Bevan


    --
    Dr. Bevan Weir
    https://www.rhizobia.co.nz
     
  11. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    If you can find someone who has been growing Tagaste for a while, can you dig up some soil + roots and share any and all of the bacteria present, by shoving it in a hole near your new tagaste?

    It cannot hurt, and you can check whether you have been sucessful by checking for nodules on the roots down the track.
     
  12. Bennz

    Bennz Junior Member

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    Hey Mike,


    Are you the other guy wanting tagasaste and wattlegrow inoculant from Bruce? He's told me that Beckerunderwood has supplied details of the FRI tag. inoculant importation a few years ago, so it must be coming sometime soon.

    This has been a major hassle for me too, if you think its hard to get tag. inoculant, you should try asking for inoculant for Mimosa scabrella and Tipuana tipu! I wish I'd known this a few years ago when I imported inoculant before the law change. I brought in type J (lablab purpureus) and type M (Neonotonia wightii), but would have got more if I had known about the tightening of import regulations. Both of these are Bradyrhizobia strains, but I have no idea which species. Bevan might know?? I have noticed that type M creates pink/red nodules on Dipogon lignosus, which does not form effectives with my local rhizobia populations. This is of course of marginal value as that particular plant is on the NPPA depite its obvious permaculture attributes.

    I have grown several thousand tag. trees over the years, and I have certainly found that they do nodulate and form the desired red/pink interiors. I am looking for the selected strain to be sure of best possible N-fixation, not because there is none at all, or worse, not even nodulation in the case of M. scabrella.


    Bevan, is it possible to get a list of all the available rhizobia populations that are known to be effective so that those of us interested in sustainable agriculture can share them around? There should be no legal problems as it is not importation...?


    Cheers,



    Ben
     
  13. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    Ben
    Yes, that's me. And no, I don't think it'll be here any time soon. Bruce has said that they are in discussion with MAF (or whomever) and they will probably be involved in making some new rules. But in the meantime they will continue to be strict.

    Bevan
    I'll have a look at your website and maybe get hold of you to discuss.

    Mike
     
  14. SueinWA

    SueinWA Junior Member

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    Here is some info that I have collected, just bits and pieces from several sources. I don't know if any of it will be helpful, but... (since there's quite a bit of info, please be aware that all highlighting is my own, where a some info seems most useful.) Sorry about the lack of links from where the info came, I just didn't have the time. I did the 'important' parts.


    It is difficult to introduce a new legume species into a pasture that has had a native, naturalized, or different legume species growing on it for several years. The rhizobia strain infecting the previously grown legume species will have built up a large soil population over the years. Simply because of greater numbers, the resident rhizobia strain may occupy most of the infection sites on the new seeded legume and prevent infection by the introduced rhizobia strain.

    If given a choice, a legume plant will remove nitrogen from the soil before obtaining nitrogen from the air through N2-fixation. A legume growing on a sandy soil very low in nitrogen will get most of its nitrogen from the air while a legume growing on a fertile riverbottom soil will get most of its nitrogen from the soil.

    The complete absence of nodules indicates that the plant derives all of its nitrogen from the soil. Evidence of nodules is a sign that the plant benefited from nitrogen fixed.

    There are numerous strains of native Rhizobium bacteria that occur naturally in different soils. Some of these rhizobia strains are capable of infecting a given legume species but will vary in their efficiency to fix nitrogen. Ineffective strains will form many small nodules on the legume root but fix little or no nitrogen. A deeper, darker green in inoculated legumes is a sure sign of nitrogen fixation by the bacteria.

    In fields previously cropped to the same legume, nodules found on the lateral roots are assumed to be formed by the native bacteria. Nodules clustered all around the taproot are formed by the bacteria from the added culture. If the inside of a nodule is pink or red, this indicates high nitrogen-fixing activity. If white, green, or brown, little or no
    nitrogen is being fixed.

    In the early stages the nodules may contain 5 to 8 percent of nitrogen, but at seed maturity they are no richer in nitrogen than the rest of the root. The nodules disintegrate rapidly at the time of seed formation.

    ["I understand that the bacteria will only release nitrogen into the surround soil when it dies. And that is when the plant root dies."]

    From Sue: Actually, bits of the roots of a plant and growing and dying all through the life of the plant. This is where the nitrogen fixation of the nodules of perennial plants comes in. If you were growing in soil, and one of your toes died and fell off, it would become nitrogen in the soil. So it goes with the root nodules.

    Onward from the Web:
    As the nodules slough off the legume plant roots and decompose, many of the bacteria return to the soil. If the chemical reaction of the soil is favorable, if sufficient moisture and plant food are available, and if temperatures are not too high, then bacteria establish themselves in the soil. Continued growing of the same legume in a soil tends to build up the native population of the legume bacteria. However, their persistence in the soil may be lowered by unfavorable soil conditions, such as acidity, low fertility, and the presence of antibiotic substances. Maintaining pH at the right level, between 5.5 and 7, and inoculating each year will go a long way toward keeping nitrogen supplies adequate.

    Any plant within such a group can be inoculated with a culture of the right kind of bacteria. This is usually prepared, from several strains known to inoculate effectively all the legumes in that particular group.

    ["However, in some cases, even if the same legume is planted year after year, the bacteria will slowly become less effective over time."]

    From Sue: Phosphorus and magnesium are both important in nitrogen fixation of bacteria. Making sure your soil has enough available nutrients will help.

    “Chamaecytisus palmensis ... Very few germplasm have been evaluated at regional level and with the exception of New Zealand, no centre has a representative germplasm collection.”

    "My question is thus: Can anyone supply me the contact details of anyone who has been growing tagasaste on a largish scale for a good length of time in New Zealand."

    There is a book (January 1996), titled "TAGASASTE - a productive browse shrub for sustainable agriculture" (ISBN: 0 646 25403 0). The author is Australian agricultural scientist, Dr Laurie Snook, the world's foremost researcher on tagasaste. Before he retired in the 1970's, Dr Snook was an animal nutritionist with the Western Australian Department of Agriculture, and a consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. The first edition of the book was published in 1986. The 1996 edition includes information gleaned from a further 10 years of research, his travels in Australia, New Zealand and the Canary islands and the lessons learnt by successful growers of tagasaste.

    This info is from 1997: The book: "TAGASASTE" by Dr. Laurie Snook comprises 132 pages with 72 full-colour and black and white photos. It is available by mail order only, for A$19.95 post paid for Australian and New Zealand addresses, or for US$25 (surface mail basis) for all other addresses. Airmail surcharge outside Australia is US$5 a book.

    Make cheque payable to AGROVISION, and send to PO Box 2223 Mansfield, Queensland 4122, Australia.
    Street address is
    359 Broadwater Road, Mansfield, Queensland 4122, Australia.
    Phone 07 3349 1422;
    Mobile: 019 622 779;
    Fax: 07 3343 8287 (International callers +61 7 3349 1422).

    People who might know of people growing tagasaste in NZ:
    Here is a case study of a couple who direct-seeded tagasaste on a farm in Lancelin: https://209.85.173.104/search?q=cache:Dn ... cd=3&gl=us

    Evergreen Farming apparently has done some work with it as a forage crop: https://www.evergreen.asn.au/index.htm

    The current taxonomy of rhizobia [Updated 18th August 2007]
    https://www.rhizobia.co.nz/taxonomy/rhizobia.html

    Sue
     
  15. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    Wow Sue.

    Thanks.

    Mike
     
  16. davenz

    davenz Junior Member

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    Hi Mike,

    Going back to your original question:

    I'm thinking my only recourse at this stage is to find local tagasaste (growing with pink nodules to indicate nitrogen fixing), use the soil for a planting, check again and propagate from the new soil, and basically spread the soil/bacteria that way. It would be helpful for permaculturists in NZ to have a database/list of some kind where we can source such confirmed inoculated soil for lack of a readily available commercial inoculant at this time.

    As such I'm planning to talk to my local permaculture group next Monday to find a source as well as join the local branch of the NZ Tree Crops Association which I gather from their website contains quite a few members, including tagasaste growers. Anyway my post is to suggest contacting/joining the NZTCA ($40/yr, https://www.treecrops.org.nz) to get some contacts as you mention.

    Dave
     
  17. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    Hi Dave

    I am already a member of the NZTCA but had not thought to contact them. Will do so.

    In the mean time, I have discovered one grower who used a strain cultured for subterranean clover and got red nodules. That is the way I am going for now.

    How often does your permaculture group meet?

    Thanks.

    Mike
     
  18. davenz

    davenz Junior Member

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    Hi Mike,

    I'm meeting monthly with the Hamilton Organic Gardeners group, which has a few from the Permaculture Trust turn up.

    What was the strain/product cultured for subterranean clover? Is it commercial? I'm sowing again soon so might give that a go.

    Cheers

    Dave
     
  19. Mike_E_from_NZ

    Mike_E_from_NZ Junior Member

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    Ben (above) just referred to it as "Type C". Have a look at https://www.beckerunderwood.com and go to the Australian site. There choose the Nodulaid Group Chart. I have just ordered it from Wrightson's Seeds. They will get it from Becker Underwood.

    I will be in Hamilton for a few weeks. I would love to attend a meeting if that would be okay.

    Mike
     
  20. davenz

    davenz Junior Member

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    Thanks. I'll email you details on the next meeting Mike.
     

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