Tree stumps found to significantly improve soil quality and crop yields

 

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How can tree stumps improve agricultural productivity?

Farmer managed natural regeneration is making a difference in developing countries but institutions need adapting for it to work

There’s a received wisdom that tree stumps, shoots and bushes should be cleared from a field before planting crops. It seems logical, but the experience of farmers in southern Niger suggests otherwise. There, the practice of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) has been found to significantly improve soil quality and crop yields, along with additional resources and income from tree products.

FMNR takes advantage of living underground root systems of previously cleared trees. Rather than remove new shoots, farmers practicing FMNR will nurture five or so of the strongest, most upright stems, pruning the rest away. These stems are allowed to grow, and some are harvested for firewood and timber.

The presence of shrubs and trees helps fix nitrogen in the soil and lessens wind erosion so that seeds don’t blow away and have to be replanted, while falling leaves scattering around fields enrich the soil.

The practice was first introduced in Niger in the 1980s on a small experimental scale in response to widespread drought and land degradation, and a new publication by the World Agroforestry Centre describes how transformational this straightforward practice has been.

It cites a farmer from the Maradi region in southern Niger who estimates that most farmers were getting yields of around 150kg of millet per hectare before FMNR became widespread. Many now get more than 500kg.

“The trees also increase the infiltration rate, and farmers are finding their local water table is going up,” says Dennis Garrity, UN Drylands Ambassador and a senior fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre.

Read the full article: The Guardian

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.