Tagasaste, Chamaecytisus palmensis

The Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association and ECHO are distributing seeds of a highland nitrogen-fixing counterpart to Leucaena. Tagasaste, Chamaecytisus palmensis, is a small shrubby tree indigenous to the dry volcanic slopes of the Canary Islands. It holds promise for production of fodder and firewood in tropical highlands and Mediterranean climates.

Canary Island farmers have traditionally depended on Tagasaste for fodder during the long dry seasons. The leaves contain 20 to 40% protein with no reported toxicity. Presently, Australian and New Zealand farmers are using the tree in cut and carry systems, since grazing animals, pigs and poultry readily consume its leaves. Sheep will eat the bark and kill the tree if it is not protected. Research results from Western Australia and New Zealand suggest edible dry matter yields of 11 tons/ha/yr are obtainable in good growing conditions.

Tagasaste seeds (about 45,000/kg) should be scarified in hot water prior to planting. Fields can be direct seeded or planted from nursery transplants of cuttings. Tagasaste can be planted as a hedge and also has potential for alley cropping systems. The tree readily coppices and, during the 2- to 3-year establishment period, can be pruned back to the ground to encourage multiple stems and to protect from grazing animals. Tagasaste prefers well-drained sandy soils, but thrives on gravels, loams, limestones and laterites. Slag heaps and mining dumps can also reportedly be planted with the tree. It thrives with annual rainfall of 350 to 1600mm and soil pH of 5.0 to 7.0, and survives winters of -9 degrees C.

An early bloomer, it works well in bee-keeping systems and exhibits few insect pest problems. It uses the same rhyzobium inoculant as cowpeas.

For more information or seeds contact:

NFTA, P.O. Box 680
Waimanalo HI 96795 U.S.A.
Phone: (808) 259-8555