Hybrid improved tree fallows: harnessing invasive woody legumes for agroforestry

Tassin, J and Rangan, H and Kull, C A (2012) Hybrid improved tree fallows: harnessing invasive woody legumes for agroforestry. Agroforestry Systems, 84 (3). pp. 417-428.

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For several decades, agroforestry specialists have promoted the planting of fallow fields with nitrogen-fixing, fast-growing trees or shrubs to accelerate soil rehabilitation and provide secondary products like woodfuel. Yet, such ‘improved fallows’ have not been widely adopted, in part due to the costs of labour and seedlings. In some situations, however, farmers have developed novel approaches to agroforestry fallows by taking advantage of spontaneous invasions of woody leguminous tree species present in the vicinity of their fields. In this paper, we examine cases from Réunion, highland Madagascar, the Bateke plateau in Congo, and the Palni hills of southern India where farmers have adapted their cultivation practices to take advantage of the invasive characteristics of Australian acacias that were introduced earlier for other reasons. We focus on the key social, economic, and environmental factors that influence farmers in these places to gain opportunistic benefit from these introduced tree species that biologists have been deemed invasive and damaging to local ecosystems and biodiversity. We conclude that opportunistic fallowing of invasives can be viewed as a hybrid strategy combining elements of natural fallows and improved fallows—which we call ‘hybrid improved fallows’—in that it takes advantage of the ‘weedy’ characteristics of introduced leguminous tree species in the landscape and offers a cost-effective and pragmatic strategy for soil and vegetation management for farmers.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: All authors shared equally in the development and production of the paper. Tassin’s research was supported by Region-Re´union, Kull and Rangan’s research by ARC-DP0666131. We are grateful to farmers in Re´union, Madagascar highlands, and Palni hills for sharing information and views regarding Australian acacias. The photo showing a fallow on Bateke Plateau was taken by Dominique Louppe. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions, and one of them in particular for the inspired title of our concluding section.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Acacia, Improved tree fallow, Agroforestry technology, Alien invasive species, Biodiversity, Sustainable agriculture
Author Affiliation: 1.CIRAD, UPR 105 Campus de Baillarguet, 34398 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
Subjects: Plant Production
Divisions: General
Depositing User: Mr Siva Shankar
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2012 09:27
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2012 09:28
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10457-012-9493-9
URI: http://eprints.icrisat.ac.in/id/eprint/4059

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