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Legumes can help boost soil fertility

Low soil fertility can cause all kinds of trouble, not least of which is protein malnutrition, which can in turn, reduce crop yields. But researchers have now found that legumes can help boost soil fertility, especially for smaller farms.

Next month, a meeting hosted by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America will address this issue and present alternatives to improving legume farming from seed to soil to yield.

“Building strength in legume-based agricultural systems can help address both of these dire problems,” said Kerry Clark, a researcher at the University of Missouri.

Improving soil fertility will create a ripple effect, notes Clark, and small farms will have better access to “economic and nutritional alternatives” to the crops used now.

The key is educating farmers about legumes, working with the public to increase awareness about the issues with soil depletion and infertility, and providing hands-on training to legume breeders.

Clark will be one of the speakers at the symposium, presenting work done by the Soybean Innovation Lab, which is working to research breeding in tropical legumes among many other projects.

The meeting will also include speakers Mark Westgate from Iowa University, Sieglinde Snapp from Michigan State University, and Stephen Boahen from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Mozambique.

Westgate will discuss Iowa State’s Sustainable Rural Livelihoods Program in Uganda which works with students, grade school through college, to educate them on the value of tropical legumes.

Protein malnutrition is a serious concern, but raised awareness, education, and opportunities in legume farming can help improve soil fertility and crop yields in the parts of the world that need it most.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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