Fight the Plants: “The Soko Lupine Gives Them the Knockout Blow”

Sciences fighting plants

“The Soko Lupine Gives Them the Knockout Blow”

PRODUCTION - 06/21/2022, Bavaria, Oberelsbach: Burkard Volk from Bad Neustadt/Saale in Franconia stands with a scythe in a mountain meadow in the lower Rhön mountain range to remove perennial lupins.  (to dpa PRODUCTION - 06/21/2022, Bavaria, Oberelsbach: Burkard Volk from Bad Neustadt/Saale in Franconia stands with a scythe in a mountain meadow in the lower Rhön mountain range to remove perennial lupins.  (to dpa

When the Grim Reaper Comes: Burkard Volk from Franconia in a mountain meadow on the Rhön

Source: dpa

The colorful lupins are unpopular, hated by some. Poisonous plants change entire landscapes. The Roll commandos fight him. But there are varieties of lupine that are useful and are grown on a large scale.

B.he is on his knees up to eight hours a day, always on his knees, attacked by ticks and horseflies, unprotected from the elements: Philipp Frickel, 29, and his father Gerd Frickel, 61, are exhausted after their day’s work in the colorful mountain meadows of Hochrhön. Since May, the two landscapers and their team of about ten people have been focusing on the introduced herbaceous lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) in the UNESCO biosphere reserve.

Conservationists have been fighting the plant spreading immensely for years. Lupine is not just lupine. Because while one species is annoying, the other is cultivated in the field, and is not only used as animal feed, but also as a base for vegan dishes or even coffee.

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With a sorrel weevil in the mountain meadow – pierce, lift, tilt, and ideally, the perennial lupine is out of the ground together with the taproot. “You have to work very precisely, very cleanly,” explains Philipp Frickel. Because if parts of the root remain, the work was in vain. “They just form new plants, and next year I’ll suddenly have two lupins here.” They want to unearth up to 50,000 plants by October.

Volunteers go out with their scythes and remove the lupins found among the arnica, harpagophytum and orchids, which contain toxic alkaloids and are therefore unsuitable as food for most animals and humans.

PRODUCTION - 06/21/2022, Bavaria, Oberelsbach: A mountain meadow covered with perennial lupins in the lower Rhön mountain range.  (to dpa

Lupins in the Rhön: fix nitrogen, change the landscape

Source: dpa

PRODUCTION - June 21, 2022, Bavaria, Oberelsbach: Landscape designer Gerd Frickel (l) and his son Philipp Frickel kneel in a mountain meadow in the lower Rhön mountain range and look at a perennial lupine.  (to dpa

Landscaper Gerd Frickel (left) and his son Philipp destroy lupins

Source: dpa

A snowplow converted into a giant lawn mower attacks the wetter grasslands, poor in nutrients but rich in species, where manual labor no longer serves any purpose. And the full-time diggers around the Frickels move in with the weeders when only a few specimens remain. “We call her “Soko Lupin”. They give the lupine the knockout blow, so to speak,” says Torsten Kirchner, a biologist and area manager for the highlands called Lange Rhön.

Up to 700 hectares of the approximately 3,000 hectares of the altiplano are threatened by the perennial lupine. As the plant can bind atmospheric nitrogen, mountain meadows are enriched with nutrients and are modified over many years, explains Kirchner. Nitrogen-loving plants such as nettle, stinging hollow tooth or bedding straw followed and displaced arnica, globe flower and Co. – the landscape changes. If perennial lupine gains the upper hand, breeding areas for rare bird species could be lost.

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But there are also coveted lupines. “In contrast to wild forms, sweet lupins are low in bitter substances, i.e. the alkaloid content in the grain is less than 0.05 percent,” writes the Bavarian State Institute for Agriculture (LfL). Until the 1990s, the cultivation of lupines was widespread in the fields of Germany, says Markus Heinz, head of the crop production and testing department at the agricultural faculties of the Middle Franconian district in Triesdorf. But then a fungal disease hit the plants and caused total losses for the farmers. Cultivation has almost come to a standstill.

In 2001, the experts from Triesdorf started to cultivate their own varieties of white lupine (Lupinus albus) that are not susceptible to plant diseases. Successfully, as Heinz points out: In 2019, two varieties were approved. “There is a lot of interest,” says the expert. “Many farmers are dealing with this intensively.”

FILE - 2 August 2019, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Mölschow: Lupins grow in a field.  The protein-rich plant could replace soy when fed to animals, but can also be used as a base for vegan foods (to dpa

Lupins grow in a field in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Source: dpa

FILE - 2 August 2019, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Mölschow: A woman holds lupine seeds in her hand in a lupine field.  The protein-rich plant could replace soy when fed to animals, but can also be used as a base for vegan foods (to dpa

Chocho seeds: the plant could replace soy

Source: dpa

Until now, lupine has been a niche product as a food. According to LfL information, lupins were grown on around 28,900 hectares in Germany. Corn grew on about 2.65 million hectares.

Domestic lupins are mainly used as high-protein animal feed and thus could become a substitute for soybean imports. The feeding tests with dairy cows went very well in Triesdorf, says expert Heinz. The use of lupines in fattening pigs and cattle is currently being tested.

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But lupine products are also suitable for human consumption: lupine ice cream as a vegan alternative to cream ice cream or lupine flour as an alternative to ground grain. Sabine Bittel from the Triesdorf School’s Department of Nutrition and Home Economics has other suggestions: You can marinate lupine seed and eat it as a salad. Lupine flour, soaked for ten minutes, is suitable as a supplement or substitute for minced meat.

Also, the people of Triesdorf have started roasting and grinding lupins and brewing them as coffee. “It works very well,” says Bittel. The fat content is similar to that of coffee beans, while roasting creates a nutty aroma.

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