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Jason Yoon

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since Jul 05, 2018
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Recent posts by Jason Yoon

Jay Angler wrote: The staff are reliable about keeping the discussions supportive and polite. When someone crosses the line, they're not just booted out, but are given the opportunity/option to edit their post in line with the supportive community rules we're teaching. It is possible to teach civility, but that's not a life skill that people are born with.

I absolutely agree.  I had a post recently that a staff member requested I adjust.  My instant reaction was ... but TRUTH!  TRUTH is the most important thing!  After a few seconds of thought though, I realized there are better ways to convey the truth than to try and bulldoze it through insensitively.  Harsh statements lead to bruised egos and raised tempers, which quickly lead to toxic environments such as you see ALL over the internet.  The supportive and helpful environment here is such a rarity, and it's important people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without fear of ridicule.  Kudos to the staff for their willingness to encourage friendliness without bludgeoning people with ban hammers.
Check in the "global resources" section of this forum, subsection "books."  Saw a thread with a 100 book review grid, and another on Rocket Mass Heaters.
1 year ago
Beautiful farm.  600 acres!  That's the dream.
1 year ago
Travis, I consider your big farm experience extremely relevant.  Home gardens and small food forests are relatively easy to make lush and fertile because the ratio of inputs and labor to land is so high.  But to make a big farm work is a whole new level of challenge, and I would love to hear more about your experiences of attempting to do permaculture friendly farming.

As far as the NFT (Nitrogen-Fixing Tree, getting tired of spelling it out everytime) on your property, 200 years is 3 lifetimes of waiting, and there's still no assurance it is fixing nitrogen.  My legume annuals are growing just fine despite the lack of nodulation.  I've been avoiding fertilizing them to encourage nodulation, but they are still growing.  I am sure they are not fixing nitrogen though as these species are well-known nodulating legumes.

Further complicating the issue, and this will be of interest to Dan, is that there exist non-nodulating NFTs.  I've gone way past the 1 hour google search by now, and started digging into excerpts of books and scientific papers on the topic.  Good news is some of those native NFTs and shrubs on Dan's property might be fixing nitrogen after all despite the lack of nodules. Bad news is it's pretty much impossible to tell without scientific equipment, making a fuzzy situation even fuzzier.

With scientific equipment, apparently they can determine whether the nitrogen in the foliage is coming from the atmosphere or the soil based on N15 levels.  There's also a different test they can do to try and see if nitrogenase (the enzyme that enables nitrogen-fixation) activity is present.

Ben Waimata spoke about a poor experience attempting to grow
frequently recommended permaculture NFTs like the South American Tipuana Tipu and Mimosa Scabrella in New Zealand soil.  The appropriate bacteria simply may not exist across continents.  I think that's a very important consideration when choosing which trees to plant, and a consideration that hasn't been emphasized in many of these permaculture plant lists circulating around.  Importing a scoop of soil may be illegal in some areas.

Finally, despite the existence of non-nodulating NFTs, it seems like  the heavy lifters, the NFTs that fix lots of nitrogen, are indeed nodulating.  If you are seeking to inject fertility or produce lots of biomass without a lot of inputs, I think it's very much worthwhile to seek out nodulating species and ensure they are properly inoculated.
1 year ago

Dan Boone wrote:Jason, as hard as it is to accurately tell what people are feeling from the "tone" of what they type, I feel as if you might be somewhat frustrated by the (lack of) good answers to the very specific question that prompted you to start this thread.  Instead you are getting a lot of the general philosophy that many of us here at Permies tend to apply when specific answers in the realm of ecological science are lacking ... which is the case, sadly, with respect to your question, at least as far as my own research has informed me.  (I am not a scientist, just a good reader and competent web researcher.)

You nailed it Dan.  I am keeping in mind that everyone is attempting to be helpful, but I am aiming for as much precision as practically possible.

Dan Boone wrote:

I left out your discussion of legumes, but I wonder whether your question does not have built into it the assumption, common among permies, that every leguminous tree is nodulating (if the right bacteria are present) and therefore nitrogen-fixing.  As near as I can tell, that assumption is false.  Many (perhaps a great many) leguminous trees -- including many that are commonly found on lists of nitrogen-fixers, because they were put there by somebody who assumed all legumes are nitrogen-fixers -- cannot be confirmed by science to be nitrogen-fixing.  By which I mean, not only is there no scientific paper in which somebody confirmed nitrogen-fixing ability with lab methods, but nobody out there has a YouTube video of roots they dug up with nodules visible.  Basically, the lists of nitrogen-fixing trees that circulate among permaculture "experts" and publications are like those fantasy lists of dynamic accumulators that list all the wonderful minerals various plants make available -- there isn't any confirming science in most cases, but the lists circulate with apparent authority anyway.  

Yes, exactly.  It's not even that I truly distrust what I am being told about the value of nitrogen-fixing trees.   I just question which trees will do some work for me here in my location.  There isn't much documentation on how much nitrogen is actually being fixed by many of these leguminous trees.  And you are also correct that not all legumes fix nitrogen.  Off the top of my head it was roughly 1 in 7 that do not fix nitrogen.  There's a subfamily or class where almost none fix nitrogen.  I loved the idea of the STUN or shotgun method when I heard about it, but it isn't appropriate for everybody or everyplace.  It's certainly not appropriate for a home with room for maybe 30 small trees maximum.  I also don't like the prospects of attempting a larger scale restoration agriculture project while counting on nitrogen-fixing support trees that are simply not pulling their weight.  

Dan Boone wrote:
Is it frustrating?  Oh, my, yes!  My land is covered with native species of leguminous trees and shrubs and so far, when I've looked them up online, I have yet to find a single damned one of them that is a confirmed nodulating nitrogen fixer.  Nor, in the digging that I've done, have I seen any nodules.   Many questions. No good answers.  Somewhat at odds with the standard orthodoxies of retail-level permaculture, the kind that you see in all the popular books and articles.  And yet, there it is.  The world does not always give us the easy-button that we seek.

Yes, it's exactly that situation of non-nodulating trees I am attempting to avoid.  Thank you for sharing that!  Not everyone would be so open.  It's not a question of whether a tree has any value.  Sure, I absolutely agree that almost any living root in the ground is preferable to bare ground.  But why that tree in particular?  Why not a different one?  Or maybe that one, but how do we help it achieve its true potential?  Perhaps not with blind faith in Mother Nature, or the patience of a rock, but with some hard questions, and some hard thinking and searching for answers.  I thank you for your post ... you seem to understand exactly why I started this thread, as well as how frustrating it is finding exact answers to these questions with just google searches.  
1 year ago

s. ayalp wrote: I don't see where you are from Jason Yoon, OP, or which nitrogen fixing plant of yours lacking bacteria, what holds you asking for some nodules and soil from another permie and us from sending to you? Shipment is pretty fast in the US as I remember.

I live in Southern California, near Long Beach.  I'd rather not trouble anybody the time and hassle, and besides, there are no guarantees the appropriate bacteria would survive the trip unless it were packaged well.  I've been planning to start attending some permaculture type events soon.  Nearly decided to go to the John D. Liu event in Santa Barbara recently, but an out of town friend showed up so I didn't make it.  If/when I make some permie contacts, I may request a scoop of soil and some cuttings.  Until then, I'll happily use my purchased inoculants on my annual legumes.
1 year ago
I am here seeking information and knowledge.  So far, I've heard a lot of suggestions that nature will take care of it.  I am not so sure that this is the case, at least in a time frame that is meaningful to me.  Also, I've seen quite some suspicion of commercial products.  I personally don't have a problem paying for a good service or product.  For example, I have bought worm castings.  Twice now.  Great stuff.  I have also bought red wrigglers and started my own worm farm.  I now have two separate worm farms running, one a fancy one I bought from a company, and another I made myself out of some totes.  

I have never seen a single red wriggler on my land before I purchased them.  I had seen the occasional earthworm, but no compost worms.  Since I spread some of those red wrigglers around various spots in my yard, they are everywhere now.  Everytime I look under some mulch, there they are!  Should I have simply waited for nature to provide me with red composting worms that could magically cross highways and asphalt streets?  I say no!

I don't think there is anything fundamentally wrong with attempting to do things better and in less time.  I don't actually need the nitrogen that legumes would produce on my small piece of land.  I suspect my urine and food scraps alone would be excess fertility for every single plant and tree on my property.  However, I was very much inspired by stories of land restoration, and have dreams of doing my part one day on a much larger property.  

One day I will be ready to sell this house and go all-in on some real acreage.  Until that day, I am practicing all I can, and trying to get as many rookie mistakes out of the way as I can.  I mean, it took me a year to figure out I was severely underwatering my plants, giving them just enough water to stay alive and grow oh so slowly.  I have a fancy degree from a top university, but I had seen so many warnings against overwatering from gardening sites that I completely messed up the other way.  Later, when I saw a Bonsai show and an expert said it takes three years to learn how to properly water your plants, I was like yes!  I can relate to that!

I think inoculating is a valuable tool, no different than using a compost tea to jumpstart the biology in the soil.  The better we understand the process, the better chance we will have of making effective use of nitrogen-fixing trees.  Nothing wrong with giving nature a nudge in the right direction.
1 year ago

L. Tims wrote:Well I doubt that any tree-specific inoculants are available since that's more of a permie thing than a commercial thing. Likewise, I doubt that much research has been put into the bacteria themselves. So that's probably a dead end.

You might take a page from the anti-inoculant people's book, not by ignoring the problem but by using manure as an inoculant. If you can get some fresh organic cow manure I'd give that a shot on your trees. The stuff is loaded with beneficial microorganisms. Be sure to cover it with leaves so the sun doesn't sterilize it.

Based on the complete lack of answers, I think you're right about the lack of tree specific inoculants.  I recently watched Geoff Lawton's greening the desert part 2 (the new site)and noticed a wide variety of nitrogen fixers they are using on that site.  I wonder if they inoculated those trees, or if they just left it up to nature.
1 year ago

Gail Gardner wrote:I don't know about usage specifically for trees, but in the FAQs for MycorrPlus it says: "Nitrogen applications: MycorrPlus contains nitrogen fixing bacteria , but it takes 4 to 5 months for them to really start working. If you normally apply nitrogen, some N may be needed until the nitrogen fixing bacteria have a chance to really kick in."

That is from

MycorrPlus has nothing to do with nodulating legume bacteria.  It looks similar to a compost tea with mycorrhizal fungi added, although it's difficult to say because they are quite vague with their ingredients.  There are free living nitrogen-fixing bacteria in all healthy soils, and those are the kind MycorrPlus is refering to, but I have come to find there are not always the kind that nodulate and supercharge legumes.
1 year ago

L. Tims wrote:I think they are all Rhyzobia though, and that the inoculants you can buy are a blend so that they can sell them for different things. Could be wrong.

Edit- they definitely sell inoculants that are supposed to be good for multiple plants. Whether that's just sales hype or if they do put all the right ones in, idk.

Yes, they sell a blend.  I just ordered a bean (not soy) and pea combo.  I had to order a separate inoculant for my clover and alfalfa.  My point is ... there's no reference anywhere that I can find that suggests these easily purchased inoculants are compatible with nitrogen fixing trees.  I did see something that suggested pigeon pea is compatible with one of these inoculants, but that's a shrub, not a tree.  Also, there's a whole different class of bacteria called Frankia (as opposed to Rhyzobium) that inoculate other nitrogen fixers such as Eleangus aka Russian Olive and Autumn Olive.

Are the exact species that inoculate the nitrogen fixing trees not known at all, or is it simply not well known?  It sure isn't easy to find.
1 year ago