I just read an article that sounds like it has great possibilities for permies in Africa.
It appears that there is a shrub native to africa, Guiera senegalensis. I gather it is a popular medicinal plant. The article claims that planting this plant with millet led to a 900% increase in food production. It appears that the guiera roots reach down 30 or 40 feet deep for water. At night, when the stomata close and photosynthesis stops, the roots near the surface release water into the upper soil, where the millet can reach it.
I claim no expertise or knowledge here, but read the article and make your own evaluation.
Fascinating. I would imagine that any plant that is reaching that deep down into the soil profile is also a dynamic accumulator of other nutrients as well. If it grows in dry, arid locations due to its deep root structure, it would be a great biomass accumulator for things like compost and mulch.
Where can I get a couple of plants? I've got a hot hillside that would be perfect for it.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
If we were looking for a comprehensive list of plants that do this to some extent, where would we look, or what name or group or characteristic would we be looking for?
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
Very interesting! I would love to have some of those. A very useful medicinal plant that irrigates your crops and provides organic matter to build soil.
Dr. redhawk, there are more plants like this one? I am all ear...
I specifically directed my comments to permies in Africa, in this case. As I looked over the description of the plant, it seemed to me that it may well have the capability of becoming an invasive species in desert places like the american southwest or the australian outback. It is seen is seen as an indicater of depleted soils, but does not tolerate shade. That would keep it out of wooded or even really brushy areas probably. Since it is seen as a sign of depleted soil, I wonder if it might be a unrecognized nitrogen fixer, since many other plants that are markers for depleted soil fix nitrogen. I don't know. It seems to me that as we learn, we find out how much more we don't know. (every question answered reveals 2 or 3 more questions). Not a reason to quit learning, just recognizing that the universe is SO big and we are SO small.
Looking back at the article, it seems the researchers were using chop and drop as opposed to the local practice of burning it off. They noted it improved the soil.
I have no idea what word would describe the ability to pull up deep water and redistribute it into the near surface soil. I'm hoping that Dr. Redhawk or someone else who knows more than me about this stuff will enlighten us.
Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit