Soya beans and several other beans and cereals have been used as substrates for tempe fermentation with the fungus Rhizopus oligosporus Saito. Except for the presence of alkaloids, the chemical composition of lupins (Lupinus mutabilis Sweet) is similar to that of soya beans. Therefore the potential of lupins for tempe production in regions with a long tradition of lupin consumption is promising. The preparation of the fermentation substrate when using bitter lupins (which contain significan quantities of alkaloids) as starting material includes a debittering stage to remove the alkaloids. However, we found that the debittering process yielded lupins that did not support the mycelial growth required in the tempe fermentation. We discovered that potassium is preferentially leached out during the debittering process. The effect of potassium on fungal biomass formation was monitored using a computerized system that determines biomass accretion by measurement of the electrical capacitance at radio frequencies. The importance of potassium for the growth of R. oligosporus was confirmed in liquid cultures. A linear relationship was found between biomass yield and K(+) concentration in the range of 1 to 10 mg/l. The present report represents one of the few demonstrations of a mineral deficiency during the growth of a fungus on a natural, solid substrate.