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.

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Inga thibaudiana seeds in a seed bed at San Jose. Small seeded Inga species need to be sown on sand and allowed to germinate before planting in bags. The larger seeded species such as Inga edulis can be sown directly in bags

Because  we are working with four communities with whom we have a broader collaboration through our partner NGO Herencia we were able to work with each community to find a suitable site and identify a manager for each nursery. Working with four communities also meant that we had to decide whether to establish a single centralised nursery or locate a nursery in each community. There are advantages and disadvantages of either strategy. But due to the large distances of the communities from each other, 50 to 200 km, and the high cost and difficulty of covering such distances on a dirt-track we opted for four local nurseries. Had we had access through good roads and low vehicle costs we may well have opted for a central nursery that we could manage more closely.

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Clearing a site for the seedling nursery at Pimpollo. The site is ideally located in the loop of a small river allowing easy irrigation nut also dissuading potential pests such as leaf-cutter ants

We started out by clearing an area of ca 50m2 of ground vegetation and leaf litter and being careful to leave any trees as a source of natural shade. Because the Inga species that we are using are relatively light-demanding species we aimed for light shade. This meant trimming some of the lower branches of the trees at our site.  Where there was not enough shade then we constructed a wooden frame from saplings that we cut down and placed a few palm fronds across these. Where livestock was able to get at the seedlings then we attached chicken-wire to the frame to keep them out.

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A raised seed bed at San Jose community filled with sandy soil from the banks of a nearby stream

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