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591More on nitrogen-fixing plants for temperate climates

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  • Robert Monie
    May 10, 2002
      Martin Crawford, a prolific author on agroforestry and
      director of the Agroforestry Research Trust (founded
      by James Lovelock, co-author of the "Gaia hypothesis)
      in England has written an 87-page booklet (ISBN
      1-874275-25-4) called "Nitrogen-Fixing Plants for
      Temperate Climates." The advertisment for the booklet
      notes that "most people only know of the legumes as
      nitrogen fixers; however, there are several other
      plant groups which do so, notably the so-called
      actinorhizal plants (including alders, Elaeagnus, sea
      buckthorn), which are mostly of temperate origin and
      better suited to cool temperate climates." Crawford's
      book on temperate climate nitrogen fixers is dated
      1995 and is advertised on the Agroforestry Research
      Trust website:

      Nitrogen-fixing can be a very recondite and forbidding
      subject when presented by the usual gatherings of soil
      specialists and microbiologists. I am not aware of
      many "chatty" and user-friendly presentations of this
      subject in print, so Crawford's could prove welcome.

      Here in New Orleans, the Louisiana Nursery and
      Landscape Association and the Louisiana Cooperative
      Extension Service have issued "Tree Ratings for the
      New Orleans Area." In this report, they relegate two
      popular nitrogen-fixing trees--the Mimosa (Albizzia
      julibrissin) and the Black Locust (Robinia
      pseudoacacia) to the very bottom of the list with a
      "Rating 4 (Poor)" category. In their experience,
      these two trees are problematic in New Orleans for one
      or more of the following 5 reasons: poor life
      expectancy, poor aesthetic qualities, susceptibility
      to insect and disease problems, lack of adaptability
      to climate and urban conditions, and amount of
      maintenance required. They are no more specific than
      this, but they
      dislike these two trees for our ecology and climate.

      I'm wondering if we would do better in Southern
      Louisiana with shrub-like nitrogen-fixing plants
      rather than nitrogen-fixing trees. The Amorpha
      fruitcosa or "false indigo" is a likely prospect.

      Any comments would be appreciated.

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