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Readers Digest on Successional Agroforestry Systems (SAFS)

Focus on Syntropic Agroforestry & the work of Ernst Götsch.

This article is based in part on the work of Katherine J. Young Author of:
Mimicking Nature: A Review of Successional Agroforestry Systems as an Analogue to Natural Regeneration of Secondary Forest Stands

Succionalal Agro-Forestry Systems (SAFS) have been promoted by agronomist Ernst Götsch in Bahia, Brazil over the last 30 years as an approach for regenerating degraded soils and improving productive agro-ecosystems in degraded agricultural landscapes.

Ernst Götsch brought Syntropic Agroforestry into the world as a complete guide and systems approach to regenerating landscapes with highly beneficial ecologic and economic outcomes.

Syntropic Agroforestry teaches you how to design your own successional agroforestry systems that become composed of stratified multifunctional species guilds that collectively appear to have a similar structure to native forests.

Integrative Approach. Mimicking Nature’s Forest Dynamics

Syntropic agroforestry integrates indigenous knowledge of intercropping multi-purpose subsistence species, and plant specie succession to establish productive forest dynamics to increase biodiversity, and cause quickened natural regeneration through selective management practices. Mimicking Nature is a large part of the Syntropic Farming approach.

The idea of simulating principles active in nature or “working with” nature has been practiced for thousands of years by indigenous land cultivating navigators.

This biomimicry approach practiced in Syntropic Agroforestry is based on (and aimed at) continuing to increase the quantity and quality of consolidated life better known as biodiversity into the system. In Syntropic Farming this is accomplished by integrating forest dynamics for agricultural outcome purposes and planning for dense plant specie succession.

Mimicking natural ecosystems in agroecosystems and understanding the succession of plants requires the knowledge of species-specific origins, their growth, functional traits, and niche resource requirements to develop ideal spatial arrangements for stratified system structures through time.

Design Functionality of Syntropic Agroforestry

Syntropic Systems can be designed for annual purposes but commonly involve a minimum 20 years plant strategy for the tree species to be able to contribute and create yield in any Syntropic System.

For proper design and management of successional agroforestry systems, it is vital to understand individual species’ requirements and how to pair them in successional plant associations to improve the optimal functioning of your Syntropic Agroforestry systems.

Through the mixture of trees, shrubs, vegetables, and herbs crops, as well as the inclusion of grasses, a broader spectrum of functionally different species brings about a more efficient use of the available nutrients, solar energy, and water, giving more stability to the system and reducing the need for external inputs.

In the management of Syntropic Systems selective removal, by means of pruning, is promoted to produce more plant growth in the next succession planted in the system and create an increase in biomass and nutrient availability.

Succession in Nature traditionally refers to the changes observed in an ecological community following a disturbance.

According to Götsch, removing plants just before they reach maturity may accelerate succession by “shortcutting the homeostatic phases of the different succession stages”, removing any antagonistic growth reduction.

Managing the plant life cycle in a timely fashion by means of pruning to help speed up or increase Life in the ecosystem is based on the knowledge of the growth-reducing effect of maturing plants at the end of their life cycle on their neighboring plants, that when removed aka pruned causes a growth-stimulating effect on the vegetative development of adjacent plants.

In Götsch’s Syntropic Agroforestry system overstory species are intensively pruned (up to 95%) each year, and the trimmings are cut into smaller pieces and evenly distributed on the ground with larger branches placed on contour to prevent erosion. Intensive pruning regimes stimulate high biomass production (increasing foliar growth and fruit production) intensifying photosynthesis, it helps increase moisture retention in soil, and moderates ambient temperatures.

Additionally, mulching made from “chopping and dropping” selected plants (such as banana stems, and maturing plants at the end of their life cycles) provides organic material from which microbiological activity can rapidly mineralize nutrients, building rich topsoil supporting in situ nutrient cycling— much like a natural forest under assisted regeneration.

Of course, pruning as a management practice has many more functional benefits as it brings in more sunlight into the (former) understory of plants.

Readers Digest Conclusion:

The Syntropic Agroforestry methodology shows great promise as an innovative approach to increase agro-biodiversity, regenerate severely disturbed agricultural landscapes, diversify harvest yields, and reduce ecological and economic risks associated with conventional agricultural systems.

Successional Agroforestry or Syntropic Farming when applied improves biodiversity in any agricultural system, regenerates degraded (agricultural) landscapes, and has a direct micro or bioregional climate harmonizing or influencing function affecting the larger biome of the wider environment.

For its successful adoption, agroforestry managers must have a working knowledge of natural successional development and tropical forest stand dynamics to manage their system appropriately.

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For the full original source and Technical Research Paper by Katherine Young:
Mimicking Nature: A Review of Successional Agroforestry Systems as an Analogue to Natural Regeneration of Secondary Forest Stands


Published by Souvereign

Free, self sovereign human Life expressing and sharing natural comprehensions around human Nature and how Life Functions in all its aspects, expressions and forms by simply questioning the function.

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