Native Trees and Shrubs for the Productive Rehabilitation of Tropical Cattleranching Lands
The authors of this study examined strategies to improve cattle ranching in Colombia and Mexico through the use of intensive silvopastoral systems. Silvopastoral systems transform extensive cattle ranching with intensively managed systems with high densities of trees and shrubs to improve yields and environmental impacts.
Conclusions & Takeaways
The systems developed by CIPAV do not require intensive use of inputs, but because of the amount of biological activity on these farms resulting from the highly productive mix of species in a multi-strata system. The environmental benefits include increased carbon storage, increased water infiltration and storage, increased tree and wildlife species, increased connectivity, and reduced use of agrochemicals. With the environmental improvements, there are also large increases in the productivity of cattle in these systems across climatic zones. Milk production has increased over 100%. Intensive silvopastoral systems can also help with climate change because the shade from the trees and multi-strata vegetation maintains temperaturs 2-3 degrees Celcius cooler and 10-20% higher humidity, which reduces stress for plants and animals. During a recent drought, silvopastoral systems maintained high quality fodder while conventional farms did not. The use of fodder species also reduces methane emissions from cattle by 20%. Silvopastoral systems have also been found to have much higher levels of biodiversity than conventional cattle systems. In recent study, many of the bird species observed are considered forest dependent. Despite the profitable nature of silvopastoral systems and environmental benefits, they have not been widely adopted. The authors identify lack of access to capital to cover establishment costs and lack of knowledge as the main barriers.
Native trees and shrubs for the productive rehabilitation of tropical cattle ranching lands. Forest Ecology and Management. 2011;261:1654–1663. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2010.09.027..
- CIPAV – Centro para la Investigación en Sistemas Sostenibles de Producción Agropecuaria, Barrio El Cedro, Cali, Colombia
- Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, New Haven, CT, USA
- Fundación Produce Michoacán, Aramen, Col. Félix Ireta, Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico