Hello and welcome to Reforestation.me. This site is about practical, synergistic and cost-effective solutions, techniques and systems for reforestation, environmental restoration, agricultural regeneration and climate issues, as well as social and poverty issues.
Update February 2023: I have changed the name of the AID plus seeds system (Animal Improved Dung) which I developed in 2010, to ADS (Animal Dispersal System) because I think people were associating AID with AIDS/HIV, which was not my intention (my intention was that it would be associated with aid, as in help). I also chose the name ADS because the system adds soil improvers, beneficial micro-organisms and seeds to supplementary fodder for livestock/dung beetles/earth to disperse. I am hoping to work om revising the invention, because there have been numerous interesting developments since 2010, many of which have proven some of my early speculations.
This site features ideas, systems and inventions from around the world, including Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, permaculture, agroforestry, Zai holes, newspaper Zai holes, deluxe Zai holes, demi-lunes, seed balls, Arborloos, Holistic Management/Planned Grazing, natural sequence farming, mixed improved fallows, and my own ADS (Animal Dispersal System, where livestock are used to ingest and disperse seeds for revegetation, as well as used to spread soil improvers such as biochar and beneficial bacteria and fungi, with the help of dung beetles and earth worms), and the “Zai hole biochar cycle” for sequestering carbon.
Click on the menu at the top of this page for various topics (in alphabetical order).
May 2023: more free wallpapers added to the “Free Wallpapers” page. Example below:
January 2023: More work done on the “Zai holes” page and more research papers added to the “Resources: Reforestation, Agroforestry, Smallhold Farming” page.
Some more resources you may find interesting below:
rehobothorganicfarm.com Mostly about growing Super Napier grass for fodder, but also much advice on smallhold farming in the tropics. Based in Tamil Nadu, India.
La Vie re-belle Excellent site with an extremely well researched page on Zai holes and demi-lunes/half moons.
Joel Salatin on YouTube. Lots of practical farming advice, especially about rotational grazing. USA.
Greg Judy. As above.
Grandeur Africa. Samuel Mbugua on YouTube: about hydroponic fodder (sprouted seed fodder), aquaponics, cut-and-carry smallhold farming, etc. Kenya.
Leaf of Life Films on YouTube. Stories from around the world about reforestation and ecological restoration projects. Inspiring!
5 most epic earth healing projects. Andrew Millison on YouTube. Similar to the above.
Edible Acres. Excellent and very comprehensive resource on permaculture, especially “Sprouts for chickens – let’s make it simple!” On YouTube. USA.
fixdeserts.com: Rodger Savory: Planned grazing and his ambition to fix the Salton Desert in California. USA.
May 2022: Please see the new page “Free Wallpapers” page with free to download and share wallpapers for your phone, desktop or laptop. Enjoy!
March 2022: a few more photos added to the “Mixed improved Fallows” page.
Please visit a very interesting web site:
Some articles from the site here: Growing Food in South East Asia – for printing
Basic Food Gardening in Zimbabwe
August 2020. See the latest results comparing Zai holes and newspaper Zai holes growing maize and beans, by Salim Shaban in Kenya. The newspaper Zai holes have yielded 50% or more than Zai holes without newspaper. See the Zai holes page for more details.
Info on COVID19:
For more information and scientific papers, please visit: https://tracts4free.wordpress.com
INTRODUCTION – topics include – fixing carbon, improving soils, climate solutions, reforestation and environmental restoration, and increasing agricultural productivity, fighting poverty.
“Ideas are the root of creation.” Ernest Dimnet.
“The man with a new idea is a crank – until the idea succeeds.” Mark Twain.
Despite all the doom-and-gloom we hear and read about, there is hope for the future. In the past few decades many ingenious new techniques and systems have been invented and developed, coupled with greatly increased knowledge and understanding of how ecosystems work, which make it possible to achieve much more with less work and resources, in less time, in the fields of agriculture, agroforestry, and environmental restoration and management. We live in exciting times with great opportunities.
Many of these techniques and systems can also work together synergistically, to fix carbon, improve soils, restore degraded ecosystems and increase agricultural productivity, with the added benefit of reducing poverty, which in turn tends to lead to greater concern and care for the environment, and also tends to reduce environmental degradation.
Please see some of these techniques and systems in the pages listed in the menu at the top of this page, including Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, complementary plants, holistic management/planned grazing, mixed improved fallows, Zai holes, seed balls, ADS, and much more.
August 2019. Visitors to the Masai Mara in Kenya can now help with reforestation by throwing seed balls out of hot air balloons!
The project is a partnership between Kenya Seedballs and the Governors’ collection of safari camps/lodges.
July 2019. Please see the Zai holes page where experiments conducted by Salim Shaban and farmers in Kenya have demonstrated that my invention of newspaper Zai holes has more than doubled the production of beans, yams, and soybeans, compared with standard Zai holes. Furthermore, newspaper Zai holes are likely to out produce typical row cropping by 300% or more.
Newspaper Zai holes have huge potential for small-hold farmers in developing countries, to increase food production, food security, and possibly provide additional income, as well as for vegetable gardeners in developed countries with limited space or water.
June 2019. An interesting article on elephants dispersing seeds in their dung:
June 2019. An article by Patrick Barkham in the Guardian quotes a research paper that states that reforestation “could provide 37% of the greenhouse gas mitigation required to provide a good chance of stabilising global heating below the critical 2C threshold”. Of course they claim or infer that we will still need to reduce emissions, switch to renewables, and the like, as usual. Links to the newspaper article and the research paper are provided below:
The estimate of 37% is probably greatly constrained by conventional thinking, and I suggest is a gross underestimate.
When discussing and attempting to quantify carbon fixation by plants it is necessary to specify which plant species, in which combinations, as well as providing details about climate, latitude, soil type, soil biology, slope and aspect, and show calculations, etc., otherwise the estimates cannot be questioned, discussed, or alternatives presented.
The authors do not supply enough of these details nor do they show how they calculate carbon fixation/storage by reforestation, but these estimates are commonly from single species tree plantations rather than complementary species of both grasses and trees, estimates are often from colder climates where carbon fixation is lower, and frequently do not include carbon storage by roots (for grasses this may be around 50-80% of the plant), soil life such as bacteria and fungi (which may be the largest storage mechanism), or humus (which may last for a hundred years or more), nor the potential of ongoing carbon storage for thousands of years by incorporating biochar* into soils, and that incorporating biochar and increasing humus and soil life further improves soils which should result in additional carbon fixation and storage by both soil life and vegetation, in a continual and synergistic process.
*See an interesting article and video about charring bones here:
Multi-storey revegetation using complementary species of fast-growing large grasses and nitrogen-fixing trees would fix more carbon than single species tree plantations, perhaps three times as much or even five times as much, along with storage of carbon in soils for a hundred (ongoing) or thousands of years (biochar).
Logically, if a mix of trees and grasses which are complementary to each other could fix three times or more carbon than typical estimates, then three times 37% fixes the problem!
If you are dubious or sceptical about this possibility (good, you should be), then by all means exercise due scientific diligence and do some research into carbon fixation by different plant species and combinations thereof.
A good place to start would be the web site tropicalforages.info and look up the grasses Pennisetum purpureum (now Cenchrus purpureus) and Panicum maximum (now Megathyrsus maximus), and the book PROSEA volume 11 Auxilliary Plants (Plant Resources of South-East Asia).
I decided to some of the work for you, but I still say you should check up on me:
Consider for example the carbon fixation possibilities in the warm wet tropics in reasonably fertile soils of the grass Pennisetum purpureum (now Cenchrus purpureus) combined with the tree Falcataria moluccana* or with Sesbania species* and perhaps about 33% fast-growing selections of eucalyptus (perhaps also Leucaena leucocephala*, Parkia species*, Albizia* species such as rain trees, Inga species*, Erythrina species*).
In poorer sites (less rainfall and less fertile soils but still in the warm tropics) the tree Acacia crassicarpa* (see PROSEA and the Woroi Wipim provenance) with a shade-tolerant cultivar of the grass Panicum maximum (now Megathyrsus maximus), and in Africa Faidherbia albida* with Panicum maximum. Also, perhaps the tree Prosopis cinerea*. Mangrove forests also have great potential for carbon dioxide fixation and storage in the mud, with Rhizophora stylosa being particularly easy to plant.
In colder climates there is also potential to accumulate more humus in soils and even in colder climates there are still plants which grow quickly and fix a large amount of carbon. Some possibilities include the grasses Miscanthus sinensis and Cortaderia spp. and fast-growing forms of Paulownia, poplars, Robinia* and Albizia julibrissin*.
*trees which fix nitrogen (and so make the soil more fertile for grasses growing as an understorey so that the grasses fix more carbon), and which are suitable as additional fodder for livestock which quickly recycle carbon (as manure) into the soil which becomes humus and promotes the growth of soil life (perhaps the largest and most important carbon storage mechanism) . The livestock could be given supplementary fodder which includes biochar (made from the trees and grasses) which would end up in the soil (incorporated by earth worms, dung beetles, termites) and would store carbon for thousands of years. They can also be fed deficient nutrients and the spores of beneficial soil bacteria and fungi to further increase plant growth and soil carbon storage.
More forests will also have a cooling effect, and increase cloud formation which also has a cooling effect. If instead the world cools as some predict, food production is likely to go down, and we will need more fertile soils to partly compensate for this.
Consider also the increase in livestock production possible with these complementary combinations of forage/fodder species, and that the livestock could be employed to ingest and disperse biochar (now proven by research – see Joseph et al Feeding biochar to cows, further down this page) with ongoing increases in plant carbon fixation due to improved soils, and increasing amounts of carbon stored long-term in the soil as biochar, humus, and soil life such as bacteria and fungi.
The potential to advantageously utilise anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions and store them as carbon in plants and in soil is consistently underestimated, and seems to be wilfully downplayed with negative and misleading spin doctoring, or just ignored, or even suppressed.
In summary, carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere from anthropogenic sources and pre-existing carbon dioxide can be stored for generations as carbon in vegetation and soils, with the increased vegetation and livestock providing more of the essentials of life for people (e.g. food, fibre, timber, etc.), and the improved soils providing for today’s youth and for future generations. This means we can continue to maintain democratic and free societies/Western civilisation, as well as increase the standard of living in developing countries, with cheap and reliable energy from fossil fuels, without sabotaging either by driving the poor deeper into poverty with radical and rapid reductions in emissions. The phenomenal sums presently spent on reducing emissions could be spent on storing carbon in reforestation projects and in the soil, and thereby make a much better world. We get to have our cake and eat it too. What’s not to like?
Even if this type and scale of reforestation fails to keep pace with carbon dioxide emissions (quite possible, with emissions from developing countries constantly increasing and now exceeding those of developed nations), it could still fix most of the emissions, and made the most of the opportunity to grow more vegetation and improve soils provided by the extra carbon dioxide. It is reasonable to expect that in the near future, just as the bronze age and the following iron age took us out of the stone age, technological developments (in fusion energy for example), will largely reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
More further down this page (under the heading carbon sequestration by multi-storey revegetation projects), and elsewhere on this site (see for example, the pages on mixed improved fallows, the AID article, complementary plants, etc.).
March 2019. Please read this fascinating survey about carbon dioxide and climate change which demonstrates public perception versus the facts: Co2 Levels2
Please see the new “Zai Hole Training Session Photos” page, which has photos of a Zai hole training session held by Pastor Salim Shaban in Africa, for school children in Kenya.
The site is also about at least partial solutions to possible climate change, regardless of its direction or cause, through reforestation and carbon sequestration, and the potential for greater success in reforestation and agricultural production because of increased atmospheric Co2. For more on research into Co2 and plant growth and climate change, visit Co2science.org.
The reforestation work done by the Salgado family and the Instituto Terra in Brazil is amazing and inspiring! Click here for more, and see the dvd “Salt of the Earth”: www.institutoterra.org/eng/
The photos below show what they achieved in just a few years:
New Zai holes project
October 2018: Placing 20 sheets of newspaper at the base of zai holes increased the yield of green beans by 300%! Experiment carried out by Salim Shaban et al in Western Kenya.
Below is a concept outline for using zai holes, fuel efficient stoves and biochar for co2 fixation and long term carbon sequestration:
David Clode 10 May 2018.
Research update – feeding biochar to cows to disperse biochar, with dung beetles incorporating it into soils. 23 April 2018.
In 2010 I invented a system of using livestock for soil improvement and revegetation/reforestation. I call this the “Animal Dispersal System” (ADS) and wrote an article about it. Recent scientific research has proven some of my proposals: biochar and molasses has been fed to cows, and then the manure with it’s biochar has been incorporated into the soil by dung beetles, resulting in improved soils and productivity, and sequestration of carbon in the soil for thousands of years. For a PDF on the research, click here: Josephetal2015Pedosphere-Feedingbiochartocows
Combine this adding of biochar to livestock feed with utilising livestock to disperse deficient nutrients and seeds in their manure, in a holistic management/planned grazing system, plus the natural process of succession, and you have a recipe for restoring and perhaps even enhancing ecosystems on a grand scale around the world.
Reducing nitrogen losses by mixing urea with molasses
Research by Dr. Pam Pittaway et al, reported by the ABC, shows that mixing urea with molasses reduced the leaching losses of nitrogen fertilizer. “About 37 per cent of the nitrogen from the molasses-blended fertilizer was still in the soil four months after application, compared to just 27 per cent with granular fertilizer”. For small hold farmers in developing countries, the likely implication is that applying a liquid fertilizer made from human urine and molasses would provide a cheap, effective, and long lasting fertilizer, which would be well suited to pouring into plastic bottles with holes in them, that are placed in Zai holes for irrigation and fertilization. This should work for both crops and reforestation.
Research paper on the positive benefits to mental health of exposure to nature
A research paper by scientists at the University of Exeter in England and published in the journal Bioscience, has demonstrated what most of us intuitively knew already: that exposure to nature (in this case specifically related to vegetation cover and observing bird activity in the afternoon) is good for mental health. Given the enormous costs to government/tax payers of poor mental health, this provides a powerful case for much more government funding for reforestation and plant landscaping generally, including in workplaces, especially in or near populated areas. Click here for the paper: biw173
See the pages on this site which cover topics which could apply to nature/plants/birds and reducing the costs to society of poor mental health, e.g., wetlands, vertical gardening, living fences.
Anti-poaching camouflage and conserving endangered wildlife
I am also passionate about conserving endangered wildlife, as well as biodiverse ecosystems as a whole. You may find it interesting to visit my site https://camouflagepatterns.wordpress.com/ to find out more. Anti-poaching rangers risk their lives to protect elephants, rhinos, tigers, etc., from poachers. They are often poorly equipped, and commonly wear camouflage which is not very effective, for example, green in dry terrains/the dry season. I have designed multiple camouflage patterns specifically for them, to increase their chances of survival, and to help them be more effective in their work protecting endangered wildlife. See the photos below, which show a typical situation, and a mockup of one of my designs:
I am prepared to donate one of my designs (non-exclusive use) per conservation group. Contact: email@example.com.
If you are looking for funding for a tree planting or other reforestation project, you may find this site helpful: http://info.tree-nations.com/planters
Francisco Granados contacted me and informed me of their work, providing funding through sponsors and crowdfunding for tree planting projects around the world.
The illustration below shows plant succession, what could be called a natural healing process. This can be hastened and facilitated to help in reforestation projects, and for soil improvement to increase agricultural productivity (e.g. mixed improved fallows):
Wildlife can and often does play a part in the above process of succession, and domestic livestock can also be utilised. Below is a photo demonstrating that livestock can be used to improve soils and plant growth:
We can work with nature to reforest and restore or even enhance the environment. As can be seen from the photo above, domestic livestock can be used to improve soils and establish and enhance the growth of vegetation (planned grazing of livestock and ADS). Where livestock are not available, or as an additional technique, seed balls and planting can be used to establish grasses, groundcovers, trees etc. See the “AID plus seeds” article below, pg. 26; and “Direct seeding Faidherbia albida“, pgs. 4 and 5, (Direct seeding Faidherbia albida in the Sahel final), and the “Reforestation Methods” page, for more on using seedballs.
If acted upon, these innovative techniques and management philosophies mean that it is possible to restore or even enhance the environment, including forests, grassy woodlands, grasslands, soils and microclimates; as well as dramatically increase food/agricultural production. This would raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world, which in turn has the added advantage of reducing deforestation and environmental degradation generally.
Carbon sequestration by multi-storey revegetation projects with complementary species to fix anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions
The potential of forests to sequester carbon is usually grossly underestimated because the figures commonly given are for single species tree plantations with no under-storey, and usually for cooler climates. Conversely, complementary combinations of certain complementary trees and grasses in the warm wet tropics that I suggest on this site can greatly exceed these estimates, even three to five fold.
That much carbon fixation means that multi-storey revegetation projects of complementary plants in the wet tropical regions of the world could therefore fix all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, without having to reduce emissions, convert to renewables or vegetarianism, etc., and therefore avoid sabotaging industrialised nations, hindering development in developing nations, and driving already poor people deeper into poverty, and so on. As an added bonus, ecosystems would be restored or even enhanced and soils would be improved for future generations.
The question has to be asked: why aren’t the climate alarmists adopting this solution with alacrity and vigour?
Could it be that there are too many vested interests and hidden agendas in climate alarmism, so that they don’t actually want any solution that does not involve reducing anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions?
Reforestation, deforestation and agriculture
Land clearing for agriculture, including slash-and-burn agriculture, is a major cause of deforestation worldwide. By contrast, including trees within agricultural cropping and pastoral systems can increase productivity, biodiversity and ecological stability.
Including trees and other plants, as an over-storey, and as windbreaks/living fences, connecting corridors, multi-species pastures etc., effectively extends the forests/natural vegetation, and usually reduces deforestation pressure on existing natural forests/vegetation. Regarding the causes of deforestation: “The FAO/UNEP forest survey found that 45 per cent of the deforestation in the 76 tropical countries in the survey was caused by shifting cultivation”; and “Shifting cultivation was responsible for 70 per cent of the deforestation of tropical Africa” (Ooi 1993). “Most forest conversion to agricultural land in Africa is due to clearance by subsistence farmers. A sustained elevation in smallholder crop productivity through expansion of Evergreen Agriculture can result in significant co-benefits by providing a basis for reducing the overall rate of deforestation on the continent (Garrity et al 2010). Soils, agricultural land and biodiversity can also be improved with, for example, Evergreen Farming, see www.amazingcarbon.com., intercropped legumes, and rotations of mixed, improved fallows (see photos 4, and Garrity et al (2010) below).
Since there is an ever-increasing demand for food, and most countries only possess a small percentage of arable land (land with soil and climate good enough to grow crops) and a high percentage of rangeland (land which is not good enough to grow crops, but can still produce food/products from livestock – in Australia and Kenya it is high – about 80% of the land)…it makes sense to concentrate environmental restoration/enhancement efforts on the rangeland, and to use the livestock to do it. This is working smart rather than hard, turning what is normally perceived as a problem (overgrazing from set-stocking) into a solution, is relatively simple, and can be achieved quickly and cost-effectively with the AID plus seeds system and planned grazing/holistic management, as well as FMNR.
Increased agricultural productivity, whether it be food from crops or livestock, reduces the need to cut down forests, so that natural forests and other ecosystems can be set aside and protected – see “Increasing agricultural productivity” and the quotes by Gocklany, Budiansky, and Lomborg further down this page. This is called “land sparing” (Lindenmayer et al, 2012) and, while not a panacea, it can be combined with “biodiversity-friendly farming”/”wildlife-friendly farming”, to conserve or enhance biodiversity, and at the same time, increase agricultural productivity. With creative, lateral-thinking solutions, biodiversity/conservation and productivity are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and there is even the possibility of synergy… “Eco-agriculture or agriculture based on traditional crops and traditional land use practices, and principles of agroforestry can not only increase ecosystem services and productivity on farms (Scherr and McNeely 2008), but also have a positive impact on wild biodiversity”(Bawa et al, in Lindenmayer et al 2012, pge. 69). For example, the techniques/systems/solutions presented on this site may even be able to turn degraded rangeland into arable land, or, alternatively, to restore degraded environments to high biodiversity, near-natural forests/grassy woodlands, to be conserved for the future.
The Animal Improved Dung (AID) plus seeds system of treatments, where seeds and soil improvers are fed to livestock or wildlife, which then disperse the seeds and soil improvers in their dung, can be used as a revegetation technique to establish a buffer of protective indigenous vegetation around remnant natural vegetation, thus enlarging patches of indigenous vegetation (important for “deep forest” species, and many endangered species), and to establish corridors which link patches of remnant vegetation, enabling wildlife to move from one patch to another (and in the process of moving from one patch to another, they will disperse more seeds).
Ooi, Jin Bee. 1997. Tropical Deforestation. The Tyranny of Time. Singapore University Press. ISBN 997-69-183-3. Pgs. 24, 25
Deforestation, fuel wood, and fuel efficient stoves
Another major cause of deforestation is collecting fuel wood from forests (which may be made into charcoal) for cooking and heating fires (mostly in developing countries). Fuel efficient stoves reduce the amount of fuel wood needed, and so reduce deforestation.
These stoves can also use briquettes made from dried compressed waterweeds – see http://aconetwork.weebly.com, where water hyacinth is used to make fuel briquettes, and the juice is used to fertilize crops. In addition, the ash and charcoal the stoves produce can be added to Zai holes, or ground to powder and, along with seeds, can be fed to livestock to disperse in their manure, and so increase soil fertility, store carbon in the soil, and aid the establishment of trees, grasses and other plants. In this way, a cause of deforestation can become an aid to reforestation. See the appendix in the AID article (pges 43-44) at the bottom of this page, for more.
Bush fires/forest fires
Plants can be used as protection against fires, and reduce the intensity of fires.
As an aside, another potential use for the AID plus seeds treatment and planned grazing is to reduce the problem of forest fires. Livestock can be used to reduce the fuel load of dry grass and leaves, twigs etc.(and thus the intensity of fires) by browsing and grazing. They can also be used to browse and so reduce the establishment and growth of highly flammable, fire-promoting plant species, (e.g. pines and eucalypts) and to introduce (from seeds in their dung) fire-retardant or at least low-flammability plant species. Vegetation can therefore be modified from being dominated by highly flammable, fire-promoting plant species, to vegetation which is dominated by low-flammability plants which do not promote fires or produce large quantities of highly flammable fuel for fires. For example, protective buffer strips of low-flammability vegetation could be established near or around human habitation – for more on this topic, and ways to protect people, animals and homes from fire, click on the “Forest Fire Shields” button at the top of the page, and visit the “Articles” page.
Reforestation, deforestation and increasing agricultural productivity – two blades of grass
Some quotes demonstrating the value of increasing agricultural productivity and the resultant reduction in deforestation:
“…increasing agricultural productivity would not only reduce conversion of wild land to new cropland, but it could return existing cropland back to nature. Increasing agricultural productivity is the single most effective method of preventing habitat loss and fragmentation, and conserving global forests, terrestrial biodiversity and carbon stocks and sinks.”
Indur M. Gocklany, 2003.
A similar quote from Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist:
“One of the main reasons we cut down natural habitats is to increase farming output for a growing population, so one proposed policy is to increase agricultural yields through research and development, making it possible to feed more people with less land. This is a controversial answer to the challenge of the loss of biodiversity but one which might do more, at lower cost, than our current efforts.”
Bjorn Lomborg (Avery, D: ‘Skeptical environmentalist Lomborg adopts high-yield farming.’ http://cfact.org/a/2010/Skeptical-environmentalist-Lomborg-adopts-highyield-farming .
“In India alone, improvements in wheat farming alone have spared 100 million acres of additional cropland that would otherwise have had to be slashed out of forests somewhere over the last 50 years to produce the same amount of wheat that Indian farmers produce today thanks to technological advances. That’s the equivalent of three Iowas or 50 Yellowstone National Parks. Without modern farming, we literally would have already cut down every acre of rainforest just to grow the staple food crops that feed the world. Would that be “sustainable”?”
Stephen Budiansky, in Delingpole, 2012. Killing the earth to save it. pp. 219, 220. This is largely due to Norman Borlaug’s work (the green revolution).
Lindenmayer, David; Cunningham, Saul; and Young, Andrew (Eds.). (2012). Land use intensification: effects on agriculture, biodiversity and ecological processes. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-4665-1714-1.
It is possible to “make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before”: for example; millet, sorghum and maize grown under the canopy of the tree, Faidherbia albida, can produce two to four times as much “corn” as the same crops grown in the open. Pasture grasses beneath this tree also grow better, with the addition of falling seedpods providing extra fodder for livestock (allowing higher stocking rates, even twice as high, producing yet more food). See, for example, Garrity et al (2010) “Evergreen Agriculture: a robust approach to sustainable food security in Africa”, pg. 201, at http://www.springerlink.com/content/km2157pp56158603/, and http://www.worldagroforestry.org/downloads/publications/PDFS/b09008.pdf.
Over more than a decade, an intercrop of nitrogen-fixing Gliricidia sepium (cut and used as mulch) in maize in Malawi, produced an average of 3.7 t/ha/yr of maize, compared with a control of .5-1t/ha/yr; see Garrity et al above, pg. 204.
In cooler climates, lucerne (alfalfa) can be grown in rows between vegetables, and cut and used to mulch the vegetables, increasing productivity, see the book “Out of the scientist’s garden”, by Richard Stirzaker.
After growing a mixed improved fallow including the fast-growing, deep-rooted tree Sesbania sesban, maize produces two to four times as much. Mucuna pruriens is another successful fallow or cover crop, improving soils and suppressing weeds. See the AID plus seeds article, pg. 28, and the article on Faidherbia albida, and pg. 202 of Garrity et al above, and http://ecoport.org/storedReference/559660.pdf.
The productivity increases in all three of the techniques above are due mostly, or at least in part to increasing the carbon (organic matter) level in the soil (which can also include long-lasting biochar, which could come from fuel-efficient stoves, and be dispersed by livestock, dung beetles and earth worms); and biological nitrogen-fixation.
Increasing the amount of organic matter in a soil is the single best thing that can be done to improve or build most soils in most places – see articles at http://www.amazingcarbon.com/ .
For more on mixed improved fallows/cover crops, click on the “Mixed Improved Fallows, green manure, succession” button at the top of this page.
Sesbania species could also be used in reforestation, especially in areas with degraded soils, and the seeds could be dispersed by livestock. Mixed improved fallows can improve soils and add mulch in degraded sites, increasing the growth of the following plants, not just for crops, but potentially before reforestation projects, and before and between forestry plantations.
Some other techniques which can increase plant productivity include greenhouse culture, carbon dioxide enrichment (see here: Plant response to Co2 enrichment), temperature control, light manipulation, fertilization, irrigation, windbreaks/shelter, managing pests and diseases, plant breeding and genetic modification, introducing appropriate mycorrhizal fungi and managing soils, vegetation and mulch to promote and maintain fungal associations, Rhizobia and free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and synergistic systems which include the prudent utilisation/management of livestock, dung beetles and earthworms (the Animal Improved Dung plus seeds treatment), etc.
For more on Mycorrhizal fungi see http://www.amazingcarbon.com/ and http://mycorrhizae.com/. The largest known living organism in the world is a fungus which covers and area of 9.6 square kilometres – see the “Environment Quotes” page.
In the photo above, earthworms are thriving in a moist spot under a mulch of leaves which have fallen from the nitrogen-fixing tree Adenanthera pavonina, and a Ficus species. Earthworm numbers can increase dramatically as the organic matter level in a soil rises. In turn they incorporate organic matter into the soil, improve aeration and water infiltration rates, their burrows/tunnels provide passages for root growth, and soil and organic matter passing through their gut makes nutrients more available, all of which greatly increases plant growth, which adds more organic matter, and so on.
For more on earthworms see pages 41 – 43 in the article at the bottom of this page, and for more on dung beetles, page 41; as well as the website dungbeetleexpert.com.au (click on “benefits”).
For more, click on the “Earthworm” page in the menu bar at the top of this page.
Some more quotes:
“A nation which destroys its soils destroys itself”
Theodore Rooseveldt, 1907.
“A nation which builds it’s soils builds itself”
David Clode, 2012.
“A nation which looks after it’s soils, looks after itself”
The Honourable Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. October 2018. (Australian Story, Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
It is very encouraging to hear this from a national leader. I am however proposing much more. It is possible to go much further: it is possible to actively build soils in an ongoing process, and thereby build nations. Many of the techniques to enable us to do this are on this website, including planned grazing/holistic management, the Animal Dispersal System, mixed improved fallows, Natural Sequence Farming, etc.
Earthworms – “One trial found worms built an 18 cm thick topsoil in 30 years”
Rebecca Lines-Kelly, 2004.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent, it takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction”
E. F. Schumacher.
I would add, and a lot of humility.
“The world’s soils hold around three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and over four times as much carbon as the vegetation”
“Organic carbon additions are governed by the volume of plant roots per unit of soil and their rate of growth. The more active green leaves there are, the more roots there are, the more carbon is added”
From the article “Building soil carbon with Yearlong Green farming” by Dr. Christine Jones – see http://www.amazingcarbon.com/ . It is also generally the case that the more carbon there is in the soil, the more active green leaves there are, the more roots there are, the more carbon is added, and so on. The green leaves themselves also die and fall to the ground, where their carbon is incorporated into the soil (and twigs, branches, tree trunks etc.).
Forests, transpiration, precipitation and climate change
Rain makes rain forests, and rain forests make rain. Transpiration (and evaporation) from plants adds to the water vapour in the air, and bacteria growing on the leaves become airborne and act as cloud condensation nuclei, forming larger water droplets, which in turn may fall as rain. Also, when clouds form on the tops of hills, trees on the tops of hills provide an enormous surface area on which moisture can condense, and then drip down to the soil, greatly increasing overall (sometimes more than doubling) precipitation, which is known as “cloud stripping” or occult precipitation. This additional water feeds in to streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater. Some very good reasons not to cut down trees on hills, and to reforest hill tops and slopes.
Reforestation results in an increase in low-level clouds which reflect incoming solar radiation, and so reforestation indirectly ameliorates local microclimates. More reforestation covering larger areas equals more reflective low-level clouds, more rain and more cloud stripping. It follows that large-scale Worldwide reforestation could act as a buffer against possible global climate change (and extreme weather events), regardless of direction or possible cause, while sequestering carbon. This would be good for nearly everyone in every country, and less costly than other measures presently being promoted.
We need to reforest much larger areas than at present, and as soon and as quickly as possible. This calls for broadscale, cost-effective environmental restoration techniques, such as the Animal Improved Dung plus seeds treatment, planned grazing and farmer managed natural regeneration. Planting trees by hand has its place, but is not nearly enough. Click on the “Climate Change, Epiphytes, Waterplants” button above, and see pgs. 6-7 in the AID article, for more.
Some Photos: Free photos to download and print.
The photos, environment posters, paintings, articles etc. on this site are available for you to download (free), print, use as screensavers etc., but not to sell or for any commercial use. I plan to make some environment posters in the near future (and provide materials for you to make your own posters), which I hope people will print and put in public places such as schools and universities (and their own homes). Hopefully this will inspire and motivate more people to plant trees, become involved in reforestation, and adopt a more caring stewardship approach to the environment.
Eucalyptus tereticornis and other eucalyptus species, plus mulberries, mangoes, bananas, papaya etc. have been grown with great success on or next to arborloos, initially fertilized with diluted human urine. The end result can be an orchard of useful trees, such as fruit and nut trees, or perhaps a woodlot (see Peter Morgan’s wonderful work in Zimbabwe – click on the “Arborloo” button at the top of the page). Arborloos may prove to be an effective way to establish Faidherbia albida trees.
In any reforestation/revegetation project in the wet tropics, using a variety of figs is recommended. If multiple fig species are established, they will provide food for many wildlife species, spread over most of the year. Up to 44 species of birds and monkeys have been recorded visiting a single fruiting fig tree in a day (in South America, bbc.co.uk/planetearth.jungles, 2006). The photo above is Ficus racemosa, at Freshwater, Cairns, Australia. The figs are edible for people, but not as good as the Mediterranean fig, Ficus carica.
Butea monosperma, the Indian Flame of the Forest, is related to Erythrina (Coral trees), but is slower-growing. The flowers are rich in nectar, and attract birds and bees.
A female Yellow-bellied sunbird visits Odontonema strictum for nectar.
Amorphophallus titanum, the Titan arum lily, Cairns botanic gardens.
Reforestation (or reafforestation) is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as “To replant with trees: to cover again with forest”. On this site a much broader view of reforestation is taken including revegetation with grasses, herbs, climbers, other under- and middle-storey species, and epiphytes where appropriate.
Other related topics on this site include agroforestry, improving soils and climate, facilitating succession, food production/security, and other humanitarian concerns. Ideas, systems, and reforestation techniques are presented which should lead to a more beneficial and synergistic integration of people with livestock, wildlife, vegetation, soils and the environment generally.
My mother and I enjoy painting when we can – here are a few examples:
“…and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as a forest” Isaiah 32:15b. Australian outback painting in pastel by Sian Butler. For more: http://tracts4free.wordpress.com/australian-outback-paintings-1/
If you are interested, at http://tracts4free.wordpress.com you can print off more (free) paintings, and tropical flower photos and wildlife photos. A few more paintings below:
Lotus lily painting, Nelumbo nucifera. Acrylic painting on watercolour paper by David Clode. More: http://tracts4free.wordpress.com/water-lily-paintings/
An abstract expression of the pattern or design of the Clown triggerfish. For more on patterns and design in nature: http://tracts4free.wordpress.com/divine-designs-gods-creation/
For more Australian seascape paintings: http://tracts4free.wordpress.com/australian-seascape-paintings/
I have over a thousand free photos available on the web site Unsplash.com. To find them, use the search terms “unsplash david clode”.
Comments – Your feedback is valued and appreciated. I am sorry but I may not always have time to read all the comments properly, or publish/respond to them. Thanks again.
Macaranga, and the functionally similar Cecropia and Musanga are some classic pioneer plants, useful in reforesting degraded land, fixing carbon, increasing soil organic matter and suppressing weeds in the tropics. In New Guinea, Macaranga trees have been recorded growing eight metres a year (bbc.co.uk/planetearth.jungles 2006).
Appropriate contributions in the way of comments, photos, articles, scientific research papers, etc. are most welcome. For the greater good, it would be appreciated if you could help to make the ideas on this site more widely known, by whatever means are available to you. Perhaps you could, for example, place this leaflet on public notice boards in schools, universities etc. firstname.lastname@example.org_20130129_125143 . Thank you and best wishes.
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