Basic Principles
Basic Principles

Basic Principles

Description of the basic principles of sustainable production systems based on successional agroforestry

Basic Principals

The Dynamics of species succession in nature

The development of a plant can be expressed as a growth and maturity curve.

In nature, however, species do not grow alone, there are many species growing together in consortiums. When we analyse the principles underlying natural succession, we observe and differentiate stages or development cycles.

When planting, eg. corn with papaya and cocoa, initially the corn will grow fast for its growth curve is steep. The growth dynamic of the corn positively influences the growth of the papaya and the cocoa. When the corn reaches the flowering stage, its growth slows down and so does its dynamic. When it matures, the plant begins to wither and its cycle ends. Until it ends, this maturing and "re-absorption" process (its organic matter is reintegrated into the system) affects the development of the papaya and the cocoa tree. Afterwards, the papaya continues its growth, developing with renewed strength until it too reaches its maturity.

Harvesting or pruning at the right moment can overcome the point where the development of a species is negatively affected by the maturity of another. When the corn is producing the kernel, the male flower and the ear should be broken. By doing this, their negative influence over the other species is "neutralized" and they continue to develop as before. When the life cycle of the papaya ends after a few years, it should likewise be cut so that the vigorous development of the chocolate tree and the other plants is not hindered.

In order to make the best use of this succession dynamic we must select species that complement each other over time and within the consortium and stratum they occupy, trying to imitate, as much as possible, the dynamics and structure of a forest. At the end of its life cycle, before any given species starts its maturing process, it must be cut - corn has a 4 - 5 month cycle and papaya a 36 - 48 month cycle. Other species like the Inga (Inga spp.) or other trees should be pruned to rejuvenate them. This way their dynamics can be used to benefit other surrounding species.