Oil palm and Agroforestry Systems: coupling yields with environmental services, an experiment in the Brazilian Amazon
Oil palm and Agroforestry Systems: coupling yields with environmental services, an experiment in the Brazilian Amazonwca2014-2168 Andrew Miccolis 1 2,*Steel S. Vasconcelos 3Debora C. Castellani 4Osvaldo R. Kato 3Walmir R. D. Carvalho 5Andresa C. D. Silva 6 1Consultant, ICRAF , 2Instituto Salvia , Brasilia, 3Embrapa Amazônia Oriental, Belém , 4Research, Natura Inovação e Tecnologia de Produtos, Cajamar, 5Universidade Federal Rural da Amazônia, Belém, 6Research, Natura Inovação e Produtos , Cajamar , Brazil
Over the last few decades, oil palm has been grown commercially throughout the world in monoculture production systems, becoming a main driver of deforestation in the top producing countries, Indonesia and Malaysia. Meanwhile, low carbon and bio-agriculture have emerged as promising solutions for tackling climate change stemming from agriculture, however, very little research has been done on oil palm and agroforestry systems. In order to test the feasibility of adopting such intercropped systems, a partnership between NATURA, a major Brazilian cosmetics company that relies heavily on palm oil, Embrapa, the national agricultural research agency, and CAMTA, a farmer’s cooperative, in 2007 began experiments on demonstration plots in Tomé Açu, Pará State, Brazilian Amazon. Oil palm was planted in double rows between wider rows of agroforestry systems on three 6-hectare plots, using slash and mulch, leguminous species and organic fertilization to build up soil fertility. The goal of this paper is to analyze the effectiveness of these management practices and environmental services provided, including nutrient cycling by specific crops, and soil carbon storage. Overall, these systems have shown high yields of oil palm, surpassing conventional monoculture systems at the same age, as well as high cacao yields in the first harvests, and high nutrient cycling by certain key species, most notably Tithonia Diversifolia. The spatial variation of C stocks in young (3-yr-old) oil palm-based agroforestry systems was quantified according to different species diversity (high vs. low) and land preparation techniques (manual vs. mechanized) on one of three plots. According to preliminary findings, soil C storage (71 to 76 Mg C ha-1) was significantly higher than on both an adjacent 13-yr old secondary growth forest (60 Mg C ha-1) and a conventional 9-yr-old agroforestry system (57 Mg C ha-1), thus suggesting the feasibility of these systems as a climate change mitigation strategy.