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Agroforestry Connections (Part 2)

An agroforest is growing on Common Ground. Follow the process of how we marry centuries-old production models with innovative biological farming applications, which will spread out over the course of several years, allowing the annual plantings to adapt to the evolving needs of the venture as a whole.

Regenerative Agroforestry 

Agroforestry is the integration of crops and animals with trees to create the natural structure of a forest.  Forests are formed in nature by the process of succession, which is how a community of plants, animals and fungi evolve and replace themselves over time.  Managing this process of succession in an agroforestry system allows for intricate relationships and symbiosis to unfold and strengthen over time leading to resilient, biodiverse, productive, and climate-friendly agricultural ecosystems. 

Farm manager John Parziale explains, “In the wild, forests are created by the natural succession of species, each occupying a niche in time and space. By employing nature’s model of succession in the establishment phase of the agroforestry design, it is not just the end result of an intact food forest that is regenerative, but also the pathway we take to get there.”

Agroforestry design

We are designing to reestablish the understory of an existing mature agroforestry area. In the overstory, we have already established Ulu, Rollinia, Açaí palm, and Bananas. We have measured the area and plotted the existing trees on a grid, now we can begin the work of creating a design that maximizes the use of space. Trees are often depicted as circles in design sketches, causing the agroforest design to resemble hexagonal lattices, or maybe even the tree of life in sacred geometry. 

Lactobacillus and plant pathogens

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are a group of beneficial bacteria derived from milk and used for a variety of purposes in biological farming including Korean Natural Farming. We ferment our own lactobacillus culture from raw cows milk.  Apart from adding it to our organic chicken feed as a probiotic for our chickens, we also use LAB as a biological control for bacterial disease and fungal plant pathogens. Spraying a mist of LAB on the surface of leaves permits the beneficial bacteria to colonize the foliage and outcompete other bacteria for light and sugar. These practices highlight the interconnectedness of so many elements within the system!

Contour planting

In Kilauea, Kauai it rains 266 days of the year! It’s important to manage water flow to make best use of the water and prevent it from washing away our soil. The rows of the young Agroforest appear straight at first glance but are curved slightly to trace the contours of the gently sloping ground. Because water flows both above and below the surface of the earth, perennial root systems work to slow subsurface flow when it rains and stabilize soil, preventing erosion and increasing water percolation for groundwater recharge.

Pigeon Peas and cucumbers

Are pigeon peas and cucumbers friends ? Companion planting is a concept often used in permaculture where certain species are planted next to each other in order to benefit from each other's qualities. Pigeon peas fix nitrogen in the soil which creates a natural fertilizer for the cucumbers, they also provide a living trellis as the cucumber vines can be trained to climb the trunk and branches. 

Stay tuned for Part 3!
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