Why lupins are not wanted everywhere – Home

– Some uproot them because they destroy what was there. Others take care of them with devotion to create something new: the lupine is hated or loved according to its species.

Up to eight hours a day, repeatedly on their knees, attacked by ticks and horseflies, exposed to the elements without protection: Philipp Frickel (29) and his father Gerd Frickel (61) are exhausted after their day’s work on the colorful mountain. meadows of the Hochrhön.

Since May, the two landscape conservationists and their team of about ten people have focused on the introduced herbaceous lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) in the UNESCO biosphere reserve.

In the Rhön, a low-lying mountain range between Bavaria, Hesse and Thuringia, conservationists have been fighting the vastly spreading plant for years. Lupine is not just lupine. Because while one species is annoying, the other is cultivated in the field, and not only serves as animal feed, but also as a base for vegan dishes or even coffee. It is worth looking at a genus of plants that, depending on the species, inspire anger and enthusiasm.

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 suddenly have two lupins here.” They want to unearth up to 50,000 plants by October.

Lupins may contain toxic alkaloids

The volunteers are outside the house with their scythes and remove the lupines that are alone among arnica, devil’s claw and orchids.

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 them ‘Soko Lupin’. They give the lupine the knockout blow, so to speak,” says Torsten Kirchner, a biologist and area manager for the highlands named 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.

Cultivation of sweet lupins

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, lupine cultivation was widespread in the fields of Germany, says Markus Heinz, head of the crop production and testing department at the Middle Franconia district agricultural colleges 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.”

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.

Not only suitable as animal feed.

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.

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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