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Dynamics of fallow successions and introduction of robusta coffee in shifting cultivation areas in the lowlands of Papua New Guinea

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The traditional shifting cultivation system in the lowlands of Papua New Guinea consists of mixed food crop gardens in which yams (Dioscorea spp.), bananas, taro (Colocasia esculenta) and sugarcane predominate. The cropping cycle is usually for 18 months, followed by a fallow cycle of up to 30 years. During the cropping cycle, two species of fruit trees, Pometia pinnata and Artocarpus altilis are also planted, the leaves of the former also being used as a mulch and green manure in yam cultivation. Fallow succession follows rather systematic patterns about which farmers have a thorough understanding. Robusta coffee, a cash-crop component, has been added to the system in some areas since the late 1950s. It is usually grown in permanent blocks, but is interplanted with Leucaena as shade. Food crops are planted in the establishment stage, bananas and Xantohosoma being retained even in mature coffee gardens. The system seems to be a potentially promising one. But very little quantitative information is available on the production and performance of the system and practically no systematic research has been undertaken. Since the Papua New Guinea fallow gardeners are willing to accept innovations, it will be appropriate and timely to undertake serious studies so that the system can be improved. A few items that merit immediate research attention are indicated.

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Allen, B.J. Dynamics of fallow successions and introduction of robusta coffee in shifting cultivation areas in the lowlands of Papua New Guinea. Agroforest Syst 3, 227–238 (1985).

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