The big assumption of our Inga-based agroforest system is that we will improve soil fertility, specifically by increasing soil organic matter, nitrates and in the case of cattle pasture countering compaction. These are all assumptions based on previous work, sometimes with different agroforest tree species. If our work is to have real impact with policy makers and local government in the Pando then it is also important not only that it serves the needs of rural communities but also that we can demonstrate this impact in a verifiable way. Hence the need to take some basic baseline observations.
In order to demonstrate these impacts we plan to measure soil pH, organic matter, fertility (available nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) and compaction. If we wanted to know a little more about these impacts then we could also look at soil microbial and invertebrate diversity as in assoication with roots these are important actors in the soil ecosystem. Initially though we need to establish a baseline for soil impact and so I arrived in Cobija with a soil-pH meter and auger kindly provided by the Aladdin’s-cave that is Kew Fieldstores. We have also managed to identify a competent soils laboratory in the Bolivian City of Santa Cruz in the south of Bolivia as it is very difficult and time-consuming to transport soils out of the country.