Tree plantations on farms: Evaluating growth and potential for success

Tree plantations on farms: Evaluating growth and potential for success


Interest in native species is growing across the tropics as reforestation of degraded lands becomes more widespread. Evaluation of successful species is an important component of reforestation planning.

Research goals & methods

The authors recruited farmers to grow four tree species native to Panama. Survivorship and growth data were compared to those from nearby species selection trial sites. Participant farmers were also asked about their interest in planting trees in general as well as their interest in 61 species grown in the species selection trial.

Although on-farm survivorship was variable and generally lower than that found on the species selection trial, one species (S. saman) experienced high and consistent survivorship. High survivorship combined with growth data from farms at both sites for this species suggests it would be a good candidate for extension projects working with rural farmers.

Conclusions & takeaways

By 2009, approximately 80% of the farmers planting trees still wished to participate in tree planting activities. All of the farmers no longer wishing to continue with the project expressed slow growth rates of trees as a principal reason. As long as specific site and management conditions are carefully considered, data from species selection trials can be useful in informing tree planting projects with rural farmers; however, care should be taken to manage expectations.


Hall JS, Love BE, Garen EJ, et al. Tree plantations on farms: Evaluating growth and potential for success. Forest Ecology and Management. 2011;261:1675–1683. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2010.09.042.


  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panamá, Panama
  • Department of Agriculture, Food, and Nutritional Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  • Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT, United States
  • United States Peace Corps, Panamá American Embassy, Ciudad del Saber, Clayto, Panamá, Panama