Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 185–198 | Cite as

High density silvopasture systems for quality forage production and carbon sequestration in humid tropics of Southern India

  • K. M. VarshaEmail author
  • Asha K. Raj
  • E. K. Kurien
  • Betty Bastin
  • T. K. Kunhamu
  • K. P. Pradeep


In comparison to conventional grass monoculture practices, well managed silvopasture systems with high tree densities have greater potential for quality forage production and climate change mitigation via carbon sequestration in humid tropics, but needs quantification on above aspects for popularizing among farmers and for payment of ecosystem services. We therefore investigated the comparative forage and crude protein (CP) yields and carbon stocks of six different fodder production systems, viz; 3-tier hybrid Napier (HN) + mulberry + stylosanthus system (planted in 3:1:1 ratio, area basis), 2-tier HN + mulberry/stylosanthus (3:2 ratio) and HN/mulberry/stylosanthus monoculture systems and one control plot with natural grass vegetation, for 2 years. Trees were planted at 60 × 60 cm spacing, pruned at 1 m height at 3 months interval. At the end of 2 years, HN monoculture produced significantly higher dry fodder yield (51 Mg ha−1) (P < 0.001), followed by HN + mulberry (48 Mg ha−1) and 3-tier system (43.35 Mg ha−1). The CP yields followed the trend mulberry monoculture > HN + mulberry > 3-tier system, whereas CP yield was significantly lower for HN and stylosanthus monocultures and their combinations. Carbon stocks were significantly higher (P < 0.001) for mulberry monoculture (174.84 Mg ha−1); followed by 2-tier HN + mulberry (147.67 Mg C ha−1), which captured 11–13% more carbon than 3-tier silvopasture and HN monoculture systems. However, fodder yields from mulberry sole plots were lower. HN monoculture out yielded all other systems in fodder yields, but fodder quality as indicated by CP yield, as well as carbon storage was comparatively poor. Hence, considering the fodder (24 Mg ha−1 year−1, dry basis) and CP yields (3.15 Mg ha−1 year−1), and carbon fixation rates (11 Mg C ha−1 year−1), 2-tier HN + mulberry system with tree density of 11,111 trees ha−1 was found to be the most promising system for meeting both farmer needs and environmental services. Adopting these systems in at least 3 M ha can supply 72 and 9.45 Mt of dry matter and CP respectively, which can meet one-third of the annual dry matter and crude protein deficit of Indian livestock industry and half of the carbon emission standards of India’s INDC commitment over a period of 10 years.


High density silvopasture systems Hybrid Napier Stylosanthus Mulberry 



This work forms part of the master’s dissertation project of the first author. The original experiment was established using a research grant from the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment, Kerala, India to Asha. K. Raj during May 2013. The authors acknowledge the Academy of Climate Change Education and Research, College of Forestry, laboratory and other facilities provided by Kerala Agricultural University, Vellanikkara, Kerala, India.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. M. Varsha
    • 1
    Email author
  • Asha K. Raj
    • 2
  • E. K. Kurien
    • 1
  • Betty Bastin
    • 3
  • T. K. Kunhamu
    • 2
  • K. P. Pradeep
    • 4
  1. 1.Academy of Climate Change Education and ResearchKerala Agricultural UniversityThrissurIndia
  2. 2.Department of Silviculture and Agroforestry, College of ForestryKerala Agricultural UniversityThrissurIndia
  3. 3.Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry, College of HorticultureKerala Agricultural UniversityThrissurIndia
  4. 4.Instructional Farm, College of HorticultureKerala Agricultural UniversityThrissurIndia

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