Integrating forest and small-scale farm systems in Middle America

  • Wilken G
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Abstract

Initial clearing and continued suppression of wild vegetation seem proof that farming and forest are incompatible. Yet many crop plants, like their wild relatives, fare better in species diverse, structurally complex communities. Some small-scale or traditional farmers in Middle America partially recreate forest conditions in their fields to improve edaphic and microclimate conditions. Farmers may either physically transfer forest products or simulate forest structures and nutrient cycles in cultivated fields. The particular strategies adopted depend upon local climatic conditions and crop requirements. Generally, crops requiring high levels of sunlight must be grown in the open, in field rather than forest microclimates. In such cases nearby forests may supply soil conditioning materials such as leaf litter to improve soil structure and nutrient levels. Alternatively, long term forest-farm rotations allow regeneration of forest soils. Where slight reductions of solar radiation are permissible scattered leguminous trees may be tolerated in cultivated fields. If greater protection is desirable at early or all stages of crop plant growth, aspects of forest structure and microclimates may be emulated either individually (e.g., forest litter, undergrowth) or collectively in multi-storied commercial farms or dooryard gardens. ?? 1976.

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Authors

  • Gene C. Wilken

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