Agro-Forestry: A Sustainable Cropping Option for Uplands in Western Thailand
Khalid Hussain1, Ayesha Ilyas1, Ashfaq Ahmad1, Thomas Hilger2
1University of Agriculture, Dept. of Agronomy, Pakistan
In Western Thailand, maize production is mainly carried out on uplands and freshly cleared forests, which is not only reducing the forest area but also soil fertility. The fertility of land reduces over time due to many factors such as losses of fertile top soil due to lack of proper soil cover, low fertiliser inputs, intensive and inappropriate land use. We tested various maize based soil conservation options including alley cropping. A 2-year-data set with maize farmers' practice (monocropping, tillage), maize-chili-hedgerow intercropping (± fertilisation; minimum tillage) was used to access the sustainability of these systems by using the Water Nutrient and Light Capture in Agroforestry Systems (WaNuLCAS) model. After calibration and validation, WaNuLCAS was used to (i) predict production sustainability of maize based agroforestry systems, (ii) improve our understanding of trees' impact on crops in alley cropping, and (iii) identify mitigation strategies for future land use. WaNuLCAS was used to run for five years continuous cropping seasons with the same practices as were used in the field experiments during 2010 and 2011. Total dry matter simulations over a period of five years showed that agroforestry systems are very sustainable production systems on uplands with only 19% decrease as compared to farmer practice with 50 % decrease from baseline. Model evaluated options to overcome the major limiting nutrient at the crop-soil-hedge interface and suggested a small additional amount of fertiliser application just at crop rows planted close to hedgerows, while keeping standard amount of fertiliser in crop rows distant to the hedgerows which will sustain total biomass maize yield up to 1.8 kg m-2. Such strategic management options can be adopted by the local farmers' fostering soil conservation systems for sustainable agroforestry production systems in future, which will directly decrease pressure on uplands due to deforestation.
Keywords: Agroforestry, hedgerows, maize, Thailand, uplands, WaNulCAS
Contact Address: Khalid Hussain, University of Agriculture, Dept. of Agronomy, University Road, 38040 Faisalabad, Pakistan, e-mail: khalid.hussainuaf.edu.pk