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Cattle intensification based on silvopastoral systems with Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit as a strategy to increase production and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the Caribbean region of Colombia

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Different cattle production interventions have been proposed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase animal productivity, but few studies have identified their real potential under grazing conditions and at the whole system level. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of silvopastoral systems (SPS) with Leucaena leucocephala on total GHG emissions, emission intensity, GHG balance and cattle productivity in a series of production scenarios in northern Colombia. A life cycle analysis (LCA) approach was used to evaluate one baseline system (BL) based on pastures and four SPS intervention scenarios. For this analysis, the emissions from enteric fermentation and manure were determined in situ. Methane emissions from enteric fermentation were 9.7% lower in the SPS with leucaena than in BL systems (p = 0.0369). Emission factors for manure were higher in the BL systems (p < 0.05) as were emission intensities to produce one kg of fat and protein corrected milk (FPCM) and one kg of live weight gain (LWG). For animal production and GHG balance, it was found that the inclusion of leucaena increased animal production up to four times compared to the BL system and mitigated GHG emissions per hectare up to 86% due to carbon sequestration. In conclusion, leucaena SPSs are an alternative to mitigate climate change under grazing conditions, as they reduce GHG emissions and increase animal productivity.

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This study was carried out within the framework of project 18_III_106_COL_A_Sustainable Production Strategies. The authors would also like to thank the owners and staff of the Palmeras de Venecia, El Porvenir y La Reserva farms in the department of Cesar for their collaboration during the field work and to MINCIENCIAS and the Autonomous Fund for Science, Technology and Innovation, Francisco José de Caldas for their support to CIPAV (Contract 80740-006-2020).


Project 18_III_106_COL_A_sustainable production strategies. This project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety (BMU) of Germany supports this initiative based on a decision of the German Bundestag.

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Authors and Affiliations



JR, LS, JC and GV contributed to the study design. JR and GV developed the field experiments, collected the samples, and analyzed the results with JC. JC, JR, and LS reviewed the manuscript, and contributed to the discussion. All authors read and approved the submitted version.

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Correspondence to Julián E. Rivera.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethics statement

The study was reviewed and approved by Ethics Committee of the Centre for Research on Sustainable Agriculture — CIPAV and following protocols of the Colombian law No. 84/1989.

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The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Rivera, J.E., Villegas, G.O., Serna, L.P. et al. Cattle intensification based on silvopastoral systems with Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit as a strategy to increase production and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the Caribbean region of Colombia. Agroforest Syst (2024).

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