Upland Rice Production - Bolivia

Case study of annual cropping systems in tropical zones employing natural processes in species succession 

by Joachim Milz


Based on the principles of natural succession, it is possible to establish more sustainable systems for cultivating annual crops in the tropics. The major problem with common slash and burn agriculture is that burning frees the energy of the biomass which would otherwise be used by soil micro-organisms to perform their beneficial function of supporting soil fertility. The innovative successive agro forestry system described here does not involve burning and builds upon the recycling of organic matter, mimicking nature. Experiments show that yield in these systems is higher and labor necessary for weeding is reduced. This innovation is particularly useful for small scale farms that often only have a small amount of forest left on their land.

ECOTOP approached the problem of how dry rice and other annual crops could be cultivated without the previous slash and burn technique. A 4 year experiment in Alto Beni, Bolivia, showed that it is possible to cultivate dry rice and to sustain the yield on the same piece of land (not needing rotation). After this experiment, plantations were established in cooperation with small scale farmers. As well as establishing plantations without previous burning of biomass, other plantations were also established on fields that had only been burned once before. Another successful experiment was conducted on a 7000m² (1 Manzana) field in Honduras. Even after one rotation period, the agro-forestry cultivation system reduced labor time necessary for weed control by 70 %, reduced nitrogen fertilizer by 50% and increased productivity by 65% compared to monocultures.




 [N1]I don’t know this word except in Barcelona meaning block or square. (Is it about 2 acres?)