Get Nitrogen Fertilizer From Nature, For Free!

Egyptians love to start their day with delicious, energy-packed fools and ta’meya. Both are made from fava beans. Fava beans and many of the legumes that we enjoy eating are rich in protein.

Legumes are easy to recognize as their seeds split in two. Some trees and plants like Lucerne are also legumes and are known for their high protein content for animal feed. 

Legumes are truly amazing plants. They are healthy for humans and animals, while building soil fertility. Their magic happens where you least expect it – in their roots. Legumes are unique because they partner with nitrogen-fixing soil-living bacteria that allow them to grow such high levels of protein. 

When legume seeds germinate, Rhizobium bacteria are activated in the soil. These move towards the sprouting roots and penetrate them. As a result, the legume roots form pale pink nodules in which these bacteria live. The bacteria benefit from this by getting carbon and other nutrients from the plant, and in return provide nitrogen from the air, building soil fertility and the plant protein content.

Because you can not be sure if this bacteria lives in your soil, it is best to inoculate your legume seeds. You can buy inoculants with Rhizobium bacteria at your local agro shop. Each legume has a specific inoculate.

Coat your seeds on the day of sowing. You need a sticky liquid, such as molasses, or a syrup of sugar with water. Don’t use tap water as the chlorine in it can kill the bacteria.

About 4 to 8 weeks later, when your legume plants are flowering, the nodules start to be visible. Having nodules is not a guarantee that the bacteria is fixing nitrogen. You must check the color inside the nodules.

Uproot some plants, and gently wash the soil from the roots and break the nodules to check if they are pink or red inside. This is a good sign that you are getting free nitrogen thanks to the active bacteria.

Good nodulation has long lasting results. Legumes release nitrogen slowly in the soil through their roots and through crop residues left in the field. 

The bacteria can survive in the soil for 3 to 5 years, enhancing your future harvest. This is why farmers include legumes in their crop rotations, as they reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.

Growing legumes benefits your soil and your next crop while giving you a nutritious meal full of you nutritious meal full of protien.

Next time you enjoy your foul and ta’meya, know that this delicious meal is thanks to a symbiosis between soil dwelling bacteria and a legume plant.