Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 47, Issue 1–3, pp 67–91 | Cite as

Adoption of mucuna in the farming systems of northern Honduras

  • D. BucklesEmail author
  • B. Triomphe


In many parts of Central America long fallow periods are no longer feasible due to increasing land pressures. Farmers in northern Honduras have developed and diffused from farmer-to-farmer a maize cropping system using velvetbean (Mucuna spp.) as a short-term fallow. High total annual rainfall in a bimodal distribution is favorable to the system because it allows the completion of two rainfed cropping cycles annually. The first season is dedicated to the production of the mucuna crop and the second season is dedicated to maize. Soil pH and exchangeable Ca were not reduced during a 15-year period of continuous mucuna use. Soil organic matter, infiltration, and porosity increased with continuous mucuna use. Maize yields in fields with continuous rotation of mucuna were on average double those obtained without mucuna. The mucuna system was more profitable than the existing alternative bush-fallow system due to higher returns to land and labor resulting from higher yields, lower weeding and land preparation costs, and reduced risk of drought stress. The relative profitability of the mucuna system was also enhanced by seasonally high maize prices during the second season when maize is harvested in the mucuna system. Relatively easy access to land through inexpensive land ownership and land rental markets has made it possible for even small-scale farmers to dedicate land to the mucuna system. Land-use intensity is increasing in the region, however, as land is converted to pastures for cattle production. The opportunity costs of keeping land in the mucuna system, while also accessing land for first-season maize and other crops, are also increasing. These experiences remind us that a viable livelihood is the primary factor in farmers' decision making about adoption particular components of farming systems.

cover crops farmer innovation land tenure maize nutrient cycling velvetbean 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Development Research Centre (IDRC)OttawaCanada
  2. 2.Rockefeller Foundation and CIMMYTMexico, D.F.Mexico

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