Our first Inga agroforest plots six months on

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A member of the Motacusal community standing next to a row of Inga saplings that is well on the way to becoming a functional agroforest plot. Image by Rolman Velarde, Herencia.

We have established Inga agroforest plots on abandoned slash-and-burn sites, degraded pasture and land used for road grading where the topsoil is removed with a bulldozer. After six months seedlings have established on all of these sites but with slower growth and some mortality on the bull-dozed and pasture sites.  We planted out our plot at Motacusal, an abandoned slash-and-burn site at the end of February and since then the seedlings here have done very well, most over 1.5 m in height. At this site we have 1,200 plants growing and they may well ‘capture’ the site a year after planting in six months time. By capture we mean that they dominate the weeds and other competing vegetation and control the site.  Now that the dry season has ended and the seedlings have become saplings we are well on the way to delivering our first agroforest.

Unsurprisingly, our Inga plot established on a heavily compacted site is fairing less well, six out of 1,200 seedlings have died. Surprisingly for me, however is the fact that over 40 (5%) of the 800 seedlings planted in the cattle pasture have died. This surprises me because I would have expected cattle pasture to be easier for Inga seedlings to colonise than a bull-dozed site. The reasons for this mortality is unclear and needs some investigation. Growth rates on these more challenging sites have also been slower. Now that the dry season is ending we are expecting to see an acceleration in the growth rate of our surviving seedlings.

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A row of seedlings growing on a bull-dozed site at the San Jose community. Whilst much smaller than seedlings growing on abandoned slash-and-burn sites they are still alive and growing. Image by Rolman Velarde, Herencia.

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