Llama Llama Ding-Dung

by Dennis Machicao

Now who would have thought that the humble llama was the savior of the Andean civilization? Well, it just might be true. It seems in studying the region around Machu Picchu in Peru, archaeologists have come to the conclusion that when the indigenous people of the area switched from being hunters and gatherers, to an agricultural society 2700 years ago, it was due to the efforts of the llama.

Maize was the principle crop that instigated the rise of the ancient Andean society. Maize  a nutritious crop that was made into cereal and also Chicha, a corn beer used in certain ceremonies and still imbibed today with its high alcohol content to give life to a party, organic fertilizers on a vast scale were needed in order to grow it in high altitudes.  The answer, llama droppings.

The trails that were used to transport goods from one point to another showed evidence of the droppings when they stopped to drink from the local streams. It seems at these “rest stops” is when the llamas took the opportunity to drop their dung en-mass, thus treating the soil for crop growth.

Llamas, a cousin to the camel, were and still are the preferred beast of burden. Their sure footedness in the mountainous Andean regions provides their adaptability to be a pack animal to carry goods, there wool is an excellent material to weave clothing that protects from the bitter cold of the highlands, they are a source of meat and their dung is used, in addition to being a fertilizer, as fuel for heating and cooking.

It seems that llama droppings, or llama beans as they are sometimes referred to, act more in treating the soil, a conditioner or enhancer, rather than as a fertilizer. Compared to other barnyard animals, llama manure is lower in organic matter but high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that makes it ideal for plant and crop growth.

So if you want a beautiful garden and nutritious organic crops, find yourself a llama or a llama farm where most likely they will give you the dung for free as long as you can pick it up.

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