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.Fortunately for us and the seedlings Inga edulis produces two or three shoots from each seed. The central shoot is dominant and as long as it is developing well the remaining shoots lie dormant. Should the central shoot be damaged, however, then one of the dormant shoots replaces it. You can see this in the picture above.

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Surprisingly caterpillars are a relatively minor pest of Inga edulis and do limited damage

We have also had some smaller crickets eat the leaves during the day, in increasing numbers and had to resort to fumigation to control them. Other causes of mortality include the Jacu bird (Penelope sp. also known as a Guam) which, more out of curiosity than malice, picks out the freshly planted seeds before they have germinated and places them on the ground. This is easily prevented by using a chicken-wire enclosure.

We had anticipated that leaf-cutter ants would be a problem but to date we have not suffered any damage form them. Also caterpillars would seem a likely pest but whilst we have had some damage none has been serious enough to cause extensive damage to the seedlings.

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