CURLA Demo Center, Honduras
In 1996 we planted 2 hectares of alley cropping research plots containing 6 Inga species at the Centro Universitario Regional del Litoral Atlantico (CURLA), in La Ceiba. From this time on CURLA has served as our demonstration center, allowing us to showcase our techniques in practice. Being right in the city, it is ideally placed to play this role as it is much more easily accessible than the plots of the farmers we working with in the mountains in the Cuero Valley.
Restoring the Demonstration Plots
The alley cropping plots have been largely neglected since 2002, meaning many gaps have appeared in the rows. We took the decision in 2011 to replant and fortunately were able to exploit a massive seeding event of Inga oerstediana and I. edulis in November 2011. The replanting is now complete and involved a total of around 12,000 seedlings. The site is currently being maintained while the trees establish.
The research value of these plots of previously degraded soil that have spent 12 years under Inga alleys is very high and will yield invaluable insights into the long-term management of Inga alleys.
The Biological Corridor/Inga Seed-bank
In 1999 a further 1.5ha was planted. Initially this served as an Inga seed bank, and was then later developed into an example of how Inga can be used to establish biological corridors.
Inga were planted at 4m spacings to begin the process of site recapture from the dominant grasses (mainly Rottboellia cochinchinensis and Digitaria swazilandensis; both notoriously aggressive). Each 4th Inga was replaced by one of 15 native rainforest tree seedlings for which the Inga would act as “nurse” trees. 12 years on and some of these trees have reached 60 feet in height and have begun to form buttresses.
The biological corridor is now performing exactly as intended; it is full of birds and insects and the soil’s physical appearance is beginning to resemble that of a rainforest. The corridor is now a very valuable educational resource for teaching Forestry students about Inga’s potential for restoring links between isolated forest blocks.
The consequence of the successful establishment of a forest canopy is that the Inga have largely ceased producing seed due to shading. While this means the loss one of our seed sources, it is an encouraging demonstration that the rainforest canopy trees are able to out compete Inga as the natural process of succession progresses and the forest becomes established.