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Tropical Food Forestry Questions

Posts: 17
Location: Finca FruiciĆ³n, Costa Rica
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Hi Fellow Perimes and Dave Jacke,

Thank you for pioneering this movement of remembering. I live in Costa Rica and have been working with creating food forest guilds. I have both your books and love them. We have found great species that work well here both for food and for coffee and cacao guilds. I would love to connect with your wisdom, specifically in that regard. Also, I heard that there is mounting evidence that the Amazon Rainforest is an ancient food forest. I have a few questions for you if you have time to answer them.

* In the tropics, something like 80% of the nutrients reside in the biomass of the forest, in designing a tropical food forest, are there any changes you would make to account for this?

* In Costa Rica, there are many over story nitrogen fixing trees, if we don't cut them, but let them be a dappled shade over-story, will they release enough nitrogen to feed the trees and plants below?

I appreciate that you are reviving an ancient practice and adding ever more information to the study. May we regenerate our garden planet until there is abundance for all life.
With much respect,
Alana Bliss
Posts: 26
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You are welcome--I pass your thanks on to my teachers.

Pet peeve: when you say guilds, what do you mean? Do you mean polycultures, or actual guilds? We often get these two confused, and the terminology confusion leaves us not thinking very clearly. Mollison and others didn't help this situation at all with the wya they write about this. The more I teach this stuff the more I find it central to clarify that a guild is not necessarily a polyculture, but all effective polycultures should be composed of multiple guilds. See volume 1 chapter 4 for the discussion about guilds. Anyway, not to harp on this, but I do think it important.

Re: 80% of nutrients in biomass in tropics--I haven't spent too much time thinking about his, since I live in the temperate zone. I am sure there are changes one should make to account for this. Certainly we want to avoid clearcutting, that is obvious, or if we do need to cut we make sure we plant *immediately* after, and that we have good vegetation in the surrounding areas to catch nutrients as they wash away.

Beyond that, one should probably just keep as much biomass going as possible within reason, and have plenty of n-fixers on hand, as the heat is hardest on N (in my understanding). Lots of rain, if that's what you have, is hard on other things well--especially Ca, Mg, K--but all nutrients. My guess would be that understory herbs would be even more critical in tropics than in temperate zone for catching, storing and cycling nutrients, but that is a guess on my part. I expect there are studies on these topics, probably many--much agroforestry research has been done in the tropics.

As for N-fixers, my understanding is that most of the N they fix goes into the plant that bacteria associate with. More N gets released to neighbors if you cut the vegetation, which then breaks down to release N, but also causes a dieback in roots that releases N. The latter is probably more important than the former! But you can also grow vines up onto the N-fixing trees--cut lower branches leaving stubs as trellis!

Keep up the good work and keep your observations sharp! You know about this than I do because you are there!


Posts: 166
Location: Yucatan Puebla Ontario BC
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Hi I have experience in the tropics. If you have Guanacaste or leucaena in the overstory they are good because they don't shade too much. What I have done at my place to get more nutrients in the soil is two things collect biomass and haul it in and cut limbs for animals. Cutting the limbs lets light in at your new trees, puts stuff back in the soil and permots fresh growth so your animals will have tender leaves the next time you cut them. I recommend planting Ramon (Bread nut), Melicoccus bijugatus and Guanacaste. all for their nutritious nuts and fruits. Oh and Ramon is grown for the leaves as well (fodder). Some types of bananas do well in the shade you can tell what kind by the darkness of the leaves dark leaf dark shade light green leaf light shade. Oh have you heard of Chaya mansa you have to grow it, it grows leaves that can be added to almost every dish cooked or raw. PS Chaya de monte will burn your mouth if you eat it raw.
Posts: 60
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I would like to hear more about what else you are growing that goes well with Coffee and Cacao. I live in the sub-tropics in Qld, Australia, below the area where commercial cultivation of cacao would be viable, of the 20 plants I started with only 3 have survived two winters but they are strong and healthy now.

They are currently growing in pots under shadecloth but I want to get them in the ground soon. At the moment I just have lettuce growing in the pot with them , I had a beetroot and some beets in the pots but I don't think they are enjoying it much.
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