Nitrogen Fixation

I had planted a Gliricedia (or Giripushpa as it’s locally known) a year and half back at the extreme edge of my garden. It has grown tall and  should be around 12 ft.  I have snipped all its leaves, which are rich in nitrogen and spread them close to my fruit trees. Now the tree, spread like a fan resembles a skeleton. New leaves will take some more time to come.

I remember telling Mangal to make cuttings of the plants and plant them during the rains. Though he said he did it. In fact, he didn’t. Few Sundays I chopped some branches and put them in plastic bags, in an effort to grow them.  I was foolish to think that one Gliricedia would be enough for my 100plus number fruit trees!

So that my plants do not miss their nitrogen fix I have now planted chana. Though I know it’s late. Still I’m trying.

You may ask why I’ve suddenly become ‘nitrogen conscious’. Being an organic farmer I’ve realized that I need to aid Nature to play its complimentary role and not interfere by using chemicals to feed my plants’ mineral requirements.

My farming friends tell me that Nitrogen is one of the most important chemical elements for plants. “If there is not enough nitrogen available in the soil plants look pale and their growth is stunted,” they say.

How does one usher Nitrogen?

Two ways: either introduce chemicals or grow Nitrogen fixing plants, called legumes. Legumes – and all peas and beans are legumes – are plants that work together with nitrogen fixing bacteria called Rhizobia, to “fix” nitrogen. The Rhizobia chemically convert the nitrogen from the air to make it available for the plant.

Legume plants live in a symbiotic relationship with the nitrogen fixing bacteria – the Rhizobia live in nodules in the plant’s roots. This way the plant can look after its own nitrogen needs without the use of fertilizer. In addition, when the crop is harvested and the plant cut back to ground level, the root nodules release all the valuable fixed nitrogen for following crops.