Characterization of multistrata silvopastoral systems on seasonally dry pastures in the Caribbean Region of Colombia
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Latin American pastures usually include trees that may be important in sustaining productivity and conserving resources and biodiversity. A participatory survey of trees in seasonally dry pastures of 54 farms in the Caribbean region of Colombia, followed by cluster and correlation analyses, revealed a multistrata configuration. Trees of large stature (e.g., Tabebuia rosea, Albizia caribaea and Sterculia apelata) provided shade and produced timber. The most important fodder trees were those of medium stature (Albizia saman, Guazuma ulmifolia, and Cassia grandis) that produced fruits or pods, while other species were managed as shrubs producing green leaf fodder (e.g., Crescentia cujete and Gliricidia sepium, which was also ubiquitous as living fence posts). Trees were present on between 26 and 69% of the pastures on each farm, at densities varying from less than 3 to more than 50 trees ha−1. There were more trees in drier areas, of lower fertility, with extensive grazing, where milk as well as meat was produced. Most farmers planted timber trees, encouraged regeneration of fodder trees, and knew about fodder species preferences of cattle and the effects of trees on pasture and animal productivity. Their knowledge of tree phenology was less certain and varied even amongst farmers in similar locations. There is scope to develop silvopastoral systems with woody species familiar to farmers, but it is critical to determine how important different vegetation strata are for sustainability of cattle production. An experiment has been established to achieve this, with treatments based on an analysis of how trees are presently used on farms in the region.
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