- Intercropping in oil palm plantations can scale back deforestation, improve biodiversity, and enhance farmers’ earnings, all with out hurting palm oil yields, new analysis suggests.
- The strategy has been adopted by smallholders, however giant firms are nonetheless reluctant to implement it.
- Integrating livestock like cattle with oil palm plantations additionally produces a number of advantages, equivalent to decreasing the necessity for fertilizers and herbicides.
JAKARTA — Intercropping, the follow of rising two or extra crops in shut proximity, could possibly be one of many keys to mitigating the impression of oil palm plantations on forests and biodiversity, new analysis suggests.
The frequent views shared by oil palm farmers and firms is that the crop must be cultivated as a monoculture — row upon row of nothing however oil palms — in an effort to maximize yields. That is as a result of perception that different species rising among the many oil palms will compete for gentle and vitamins.
However there’s really no detrimental impact on oil palm yield from intercropping or livestock integration, in accordance with Maja Slingerland from Wageningen College & Analysis, the Netherlands, who researches palm oil and cocoa manufacturing from agronomic and socioeconomic views.
Slingerland co-authored a latest analysis paper revealed by Tropenbos Worldwide, a Dutch consultancy centered on sustainable forestry, that checked out smallholder oil palm plantations in Uganda. It discovered no detrimental results on the expansion of oil palms or intercrops within the first 4 to 5 years of lifetime of the plantations.
Many smallholders in Indonesia and Malaysia, which collectively produce practically 90% of the world’s palm oil, have adopted intercropping in younger oil palm plantations. In Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province, farmers develop banana and cassava in between oil palm timber on mineral soils; in Johor state, Malaysia, farmers plant pineapple on peat soils.
A extra formalized system of intercropping was developed by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board in 2009, referred to as the double-row avenue system. It sees the identical variety of timber planted per hectare (138) as within the standard planting configuration, however nearer collectively in double rows. This leaves broad “avenues” for rising different crops between the double rows.
For farmers, this enables the cultivation of assorted mixtures of high-value crops, equivalent to cacao, espresso, vanilla, fruit, or timber timber, with minimal detrimental impacts on oil palm yields. It additionally permits for a wider alternative of crops that may obtain sufficient gentle, water and vitamins.
Rising a number of sorts of annual and perennial crops collectively in a system mimicking a forest like that is referred to as agroforestry, an agricultural method discovered everywhere in the world, with well-known examples like shade-grown espresso.
This in flip can enhance the livelihoods of the farmers, as they turn out to be much less depending on a single crop, on this case oil palm, and fewer vulnerable to the fluctuating worth of the commodity.
“It will increase dwelling earnings, meals provide and rural growth,” Slingerland mentioned throughout an internet seminar on palm oil smallholders in June.
In addition to that, intercropping additionally saves land, as a result of when various money crops like pineapples will be planted between oil palm timber, forests surrounding the plantations don’t have to be cleared.
Agricultural land growth typically drives deforestation and forest degradation. In Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, the huge growth of oil palm and different monoculture crops has contributed to huge deforestation in latest many years.
“This saving of land must be rewarded as a result of it doesn’t have to be deforested,” Slingerland mentioned. “It is a lacking hyperlink in all of the certification methods.”
Carry on the cattle
Intercropping additionally reduces the necessity for fertilizers and herbicides when livestock, equivalent to cattle, are built-in into the plantations, Slingerland mentioned.
Protecting animals below intercropped methods with a number of perennial and/or annual crops is a type of agroforestry referred to as silvopasture, which regularly additionally contains goats, geese and chickens.
When integrating cattle in a plantation, they graze within the plantation, inside a chosen plot primarily based on grass availability. Day by day, the cattle are rotated to different components of the plantation. Within the course of, they eat the weeds that sprout among the many oil palm timber.
“They save herbicide as a result of the cattle acts as a weeding mechanism, they usually save fertilizers as a result of cattle leaves urine and feces,” Slingerland mentioned.
Oil palm plantation growers can save 25-50% of weeding prices and improve the manufacturing of contemporary palm fruit yield by 16.7% below such a system, analysis has proven.
Silvopasture has additionally been discovered to mitigate forest fires in Spain, with sheep and cattle grazing the comb that always ignites throughout dry instances.
“Livestock scale back the danger of forest fires, eliminating [the] biomass of bushes and lichens from the bottom,” mentioned María Rosa Mosquera-Losada, president of the European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF), who’s answerable for the Division of Crop Manufacturing on the College of Santiago de Compostela (USC).
Different environmental advantages of intercropping which have been recognized are the rise of carbon inventory, the advance of abrasion management, and the lower of nitrogen leaching.
With many advantages supplied by the intercropping system, Slingerland mentioned there’s no purpose for the palm oil trade to not be inventive in integrating different crops inside oil palm plantations.
“All these seas of oil palm timber will not be crucial,” she mentioned. “Why not be inventive? We must always consider overlapping land use, and we do the identical in EU. As a result of that may save numerous land and greenhouse gasoline emissions and biodiversity.”
Whereas intercropping will be adopted with out sacrificing oil palm yields, Slingerland mentioned some analysis nonetheless must be achieved on planting timber timber along with oil palm timber. It’s because timber timber could compete for assets with oil palm timber, she mentioned.
Analysis carried out at 18 demonstration websites of oil palm agroforestry in Brazil, which included the planting of native hardwoods like ipê and andiroba, and exotics like mahogany, discovered that the oil palm plantations really had greater yields.
Referred to as the SAF Dendê challenge, the analysis is supported by numerous organizations, together with World Agroforestry (identified additionally by its acronym ICRAF).
“With a smaller variety of palm crops per hectare than standard types of cultivation, the SAF Dendê challenge reached greater yields as in comparison with monoculture methods: 180 kg of contemporary fruit bunches per plant, in contrast with 139 kg in monocrops of oil palm,” Andrew Miccolis, nation coordinator for ICRAF, mentioned. “The oil yield from the palm fruit on this system was additionally considerably greater than in monoculture, primarily based on direct measurement of the fruits.”
Moreover, oil palm agroforestry additionally provides to biodiversity and ecosystem companies.
A brand new research revealed within the journal Forest Ecology and Administration discovered that oil palm agroforestry that’s managed effectively may positively have an effect on the microclimate or land floor temperatures, and consequently contribute positively to biodiversity and ecosystem operate enhancement.
Miccolis mentioned this optimistic contribution to biodiversity and ecosystem features will be seen within the SAF Dendê challenge.
“Area staff and researchers have noticed all kinds of native fauna within the oil palm agroforests, together with deer, monkeys, sloths, porcupines, tapirs, and plenty of varieties of birds, reptiles and bugs, which signifies ecologically balanced methods,” he mentioned. “Soil samples have additionally proven very wealthy soil properties and a really excessive potential for sequestering carbon, properly above standard monocrop methods, and akin to secondary forests.”
Regardless of the advantages of intercropping which have been recognized, its follow within the palm oil trade continues to be restricted.
Rusman Heriawan, an adviser for the Nationwide Motion Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil Discussion board in Indonesia, mentioned few palm oil firms combine cattle ranching into their plantations, despite the fact that the mannequin was launched 10 years in the past.
Slingerland mentioned one of many the explanation why giant firms are nonetheless reluctant to undertake intercropping is as a result of they are going to want extra staff to take care of the intercrops.
“However you possibly can have smallholders within the plantation to handle the opposite crops,” she mentioned. “I’ve seen it in Malaysia with grazing. So that they don’t should hassle about veterinary care and smallholders can have earnings from the opposite crops. For biodiversity, it’s higher. For surroundings, it’s higher. It’s win-win-win.”
Namanji, S., Ssekyewa, C., & Slingerland, M. A. (2021). Intercropping meals crops into oil palm plantations – Experiences in Uganda and why it is sensible. Ecological Traits Alliance, Kampala, Uganda, and Tropenbos Worldwide, Ede, the Netherlands. Retrieved from https://www.tropenbos.org/file.php/2398/2021_brief_intercropping_oil_palm_uganda.pdf
Slingerland, M. A., Khasanah, N. M., van Noordwijk, M., Susanti, A., & Meilantina, M. (2019). Enhancing smallholder inclusivity by way of integrating oil palm with crops. In Exploring inclusive palm oil manufacturing (No. 59, pp. 147-154). ETFRN and Tropenbos Worldwide, Wageningen. Retrieved from https://library.wur.nl/WebQuery/wurpubs/fulltext/508982
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Donfack, L. S., Röll, A., Ellsäßer, F., Ehbrecht, M., Irawan, B., Hölscher, D., … Zemp, D. C. (2021). Microclimate and land floor temperature in a biodiversity enriched oil palm plantation. Forest Ecology and Administration, 497, 119480. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2021.119480
Henuk, Y. L., Hasnudi, Yunilas, Ginting, N., Mirwandhono, E., Hasanuddin, … Kapa, M. M. J. (2018, April). The built-in farming methods between cattle and oil palm plantation in Indonesia. Paper introduced at seventeenth ADRI Worldwide Convention, Ternate, Indonesia. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.internet/publication/327662867_The_integrated_farming_systems_between_cattle_and_oil_palm_plantation_in_Indonesia
Banner picture: Terraces are cleared on a hillside in Malaysian Borneo to make approach for an oil palm plantation. Picture by Rhett Butler/Mongabay.
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