Three months on: how our seedlings are developing

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Rolman Velarde at the Motacusal nursery with one the seedlings sown in October. Note the length of the roots!

It is now three months since we sowed our first seed and most of the seedlings are now 40  cm tall and ready for planting out. Together with Terry Pennington I am planning to travel to Bolivia in a couple of weeks where with Peruvian Jaime Leon  we will assist with establishing the first Inga agroforest plot in the Amazon. The only problem is that most of the community members are deep in the forest harvesting Brazil Nuts!

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Monitoring our progress

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Jazmín Daza is a vital part of our team and engages with the four communities in a participative manner, collecting baseline data and facilitating the decision-making within each community needed to make sure that our agroforest plots are serving their purpose

As highlighted in an earlier post the use of Agroforests have not been widely adopted in Latin America. Whilst we don’t know why this is we intend to maximise its chance of success in the Amazon by ensuring that the communities who adopt it are fully engaged and in control of how it is delivered. This we hope will make it more likely to keep it going once our intervention is complete. This approach involves participative monitoring of progress and consultation over where plots are located and what crops are grown as well as the provision of training that will see them masters of the technology and potential teachers to other communities in the region. Continue reading Monitoring our progress

Assessing the use of wild seedlings for agroforestry

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Seedlings of Inga edulis being transplanted. In order to evaluate the potential of the natural seedling bank in the forest for establishing agroforest we transplanted 345 seedlings into our seedling nurseries at the same time as we sowed the seeds

Inga seeds have no dormant stage and germinate directly . In addition the trees  fruit for a short period of time, maybe only a couple of weeks and the fruit are very popular with monkeys and parrots. This means that it is not always possible to find seed for sowing unless you are living close to appropriate seed trees and get to them before the monkeys or parrots. It is, however, often easy to find large numbers of young seedlings growing under the parent trees as parrots and monkeys have to shell the pods to extract the sweet covering on each seed and so tend not to stray too far. We therefore decided to evaluate the potential of these ‘wild’ seedlings for establishing agroforest. Continue reading Assessing the use of wild seedlings for agroforestry

The Inga species that we are trialing

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Three Inga species from the community of Palacios (from left to right): I. velutina, an undescribed species and I. nobilis. Pencil for scale!

Our strategy for choosing the Inga species that we are trialing is to focus on native species. This ensures that we maximize the biodiversity that will associate with the trees once established. It also avoids the risk of introducing an exotic species which then becomes an invasive weed. We are lucky in that there are over 300 species of Inga in Latin America and well over 20 within the Bolivian Amazon.  While we may look spoilt for choice we do, however, need to ensure that the species we select are fast-growing, have thick relatively large leaves and will grow to become medium-sized trees. Continue reading The Inga species that we are trialing

Maya Nut: not just an ordinary fruit (or nut)

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A ripe Maya Nut fruit, the sweet fleshy green outer layer of the fruit is consumed by bats, birds and monkeys leaving the intact seed to fall to the forest floor.

Our recent findings have lead us to develop a protocol which enables the storage of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) seed for several months. As part of this we asked Wolfgang Stuppy from the Millennium Seed Bank to have a look at the anatomy of the fruit and seed to see whether we could get any insights into why it behaves as it does. As part of this work he came across some very interesting facts about the fruit and seed. Continue reading Maya Nut: not just an ordinary fruit (or nut)

Maya Nut: developing a storage protocol for a Central American famine food

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Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) freshly harvested and roasted. Freshly harvested seeds as they are collected from the forest floor (pale brown, foreground) and after they have been roasted prior to being ground into a flour

Our recent findings have lead us to develop a protocol which enables the storage of Maya Nut (Brosimum alicastrum) seed for several months. Since September 2012 Anaité López (Instituto Nacional de Bosques, Guatemala), Tim Marks (Millennium Seed Bank) and Wolfgang Stuppy (The Millennium Seed Bank) have been working at the Millennium Seed Bank to develop a long-term storage protocol for the seed of the Maya Nut tree (Brosimum alicastrum). Maya Nut is a significant famine food for the rural poor in northern Central America but at the moment it is not possible to store the seed for more than a couple of weeks. Previous posts have highlighted the observation that this seed does not survive for long in the wild and this has been believed to be a consequence of the seed’s very thin papery coat which leaves it vulnerable to desiccation and fungal attack .  Continue reading Maya Nut: developing a storage protocol for a Central American famine food

Secondary forest on bauxite in Brazil

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Secondary forests can be recognized by the species and life-forms that they include and which are notably absent. Also by the uniform diameter of the canopy trees and it’s relatively low stature

Secondary forests are those that grow back in places that have been deforested. They are forests composed of species often known as ‘pioneer’ or ‘secondary’ that are adapted to colonizing disturbed sites and so very different from those that composed the original forest before they were cut down. I have been interested in secondary forests for many years, beginning with my PhD in forest fragments in the Amazon and later working in the secondary forests that dominate Belize and then again in the shade-coffee farms of El Salvador. I find these forests fascinating for several reasons: firstly they are growing rapidly in importance due to extensive deforestation and yet remain poorly studied, secondly they contain species that are often important sources of fuel and materials for local people, and thirdly they contain species that are often able to establish themselves on the incredibly poor soils found in much of the Tropics without recourse to the rich leaf-litter or root-mat layers that enable the original forest to survive, and so are very interesting in their own right. Continue reading Secondary forest on bauxite in Brazil

Two months on: how the seedlings are developing

It is over two months since we planted our first seeds and after a good start our seedlings are  thriving despite the unwanted attention of crickets. Some of the seedlings are now 35 cm tall and will be ready to plant out within a few weeks.

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The seedling nursery at Motacusal has done very well. The community have even prepared and planted some additional seed (Image: Rolman Velarde)

Continue reading Two months on: how the seedlings are developing

Inga seedling nursery: the main causes of mortality

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Crickets have turned out to be a major source of mortality for our seedlings. Note that although the cricket has decapitated this seedling a secondary shoot lies in reserve ready to replace it

As Inga has never before been trialed for agroforestry in the Amazon it is important that we record the scale and different causes of mortality to inform other attempts. This is done by Rolman Velarde our chief engineer on the ground in Bolivia together with each community. The main cause of mortality so far has been the failure of ca 8% of seedlings to germinate, probably because we are still learning how to  optimize the processing of seed. Surprisingly the consistent second cause of mortality is the very neat and precise decapitation of seedling by what our communities think are crickets. Continue reading Inga seedling nursery: the main causes of mortality

Building a seedling nursery in the Amazon

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Click to view sowing. A seedling nursery at Pimpollo with two beds in which are ca 3000 planted seedlings of Inga edulis. Notice the palm fronds providing light shade

Building a seedling nursery needs a few basic requirements: ready access to water, shade, flattish ground and protection from pigs, dogs, chickens and deer. Most importantly of all it needs one or more people who can take responsibility for the nursery, water it once a day and check for damage from insects. Continue reading Building a seedling nursery in the Amazon