Sustainable Agriculture in Taiwan

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Sustainable Agriculture in Taiwan

Postby headhonchoII » 29 May 2012, 08:13

Farmers sons and daughters can be farmers if they want too, but obviously lots choose to do something else and see the world a bit. Also studying maths and languages and science can still be useful for a farmer, but not the cram school version of it!
There are plenty of farmers in Taiwan still, even up in the high mountains, having less farmers is not necessarily a problem as they can just merge their farms into bigger holdings or let them go wild again.
Taiwan was mostly forest until 200 years ago or so... So the current setup is not exactly natural either.
I can remember the fourth of July runnin' through the backwood bare.
And I can still hear my old hound dog barkin' chasin' down a hoodoo there
Chasin' down a hoodoo there.
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Re: Sustainable Agriculture in Taiwan

Postby finley » 29 May 2012, 10:59

bare dirt exposed to the sun basically just makes the dirt garbage. it kills all the living things in it as it dried and gets exposed. it has all its nutrients washed away the following rainy season due to nothing living in the soil retaining things and also physical structure just eroding.

This is one of the things that really irritates me about Taiwan's farming methods. There are actually plenty of farmers near my place (I suppose we'd call them 'market gardeners' back home) who have a good system going, with dense polycultures and lots of mulch. I suspect this is the 'traditional' method. They have a massive output - you can tell just by looking at it. Then there are others who plough their field, spray it with chemicals, and raise a pathetic little crop of vegetables that might or might not get washed away by the monsoon rains. When they take the crops away it looks like the surface of the moon. You would have thought somebody would have looked at that and thought, hmm, this doesn't seem to be working very well, does it?

I've tried both newspaper and cardboard for mulching and I'd say newspaper is much better. It turns into nice compost after a while, if you heap some vegetation on/under it. Cardboard DOES kill all the weeds, but it seems to kill everything else too - there were loads of termites, but it survived a good six months almost intact. I guess it excludes air too effectively. I don't like plastic mulch because I found about 100kg of it dumped on my land ... and I suspect it 'cooks' the soil and kills animal/bacterial life. It's good for "drowning" tough grasses though.

What do you use for cover crops? I've found that natural weeds are great (there's a kind of solanum, especially, that the bugs seem to like eating) but you can't slash them in-place as mulch because they re-grow from the roots too fast. You have to heap them and compost them to kill them. I've had really good results with wheat and 蘿蔔, but again, they're not very useful. Peas, pretty good too. Buckwheat, fenugreek, and peanuts seem to do OK but they're just not big and tough enough to crowd out the weeds - and again, not very useful. Alfalfa, sesbania spp., lablab - mostly failed miserably. Any thoughts on Pueraria lobata? I believe it's an endemic species.

I'm especially looking for some local species that build tough, extensive root systems. I've planted a few tea bushes but they'll take a while to establish. My land slopes and it's quite heavy clay/silt, so I need something to pin it together and aerate the soil (I want to avoid tilling). Any good ideas?

btw, just a note on snails. I've got a big window-box full of various stuff that somehow managed to get a snail infestation. They were eating some phacelia plants I'd scattered to cover the soil, and bits of rotting leaves, but they were leaving absolutely everything else alone. They didn't touch the beer traps I put out. Snails here seem to have different diets to the ones back home! Anyone know more about this?

once people can live with humanure, the whole system can be nice and easy and closed in.

Indeed! Do you have a composting toilet then?
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Re: Sustainable Agriculture in Taiwan

Postby Pingdong » 29 May 2012, 14:15

This is one of the things that really irritates me about Taiwan's farming methods. There are actually plenty of farmers near my place (I suppose we'd call them 'market gardeners' back home) who have a good system going, with dense polycultures and lots of mulch. I suspect this is the 'traditional' method. They have a massive output - you can tell just by looking at it. Then there are others who plough their field, spray it with chemicals, and raise a pathetic little crop of vegetables that might or might not get washed away by the monsoon rains. When they take the crops away it looks like the surface of the moon. You would have thought somebody would have looked at that and thought, hmm, this doesn't seem to be working very well, does it?


the ironic part is that often these people who have these lush polyculture type homes are the ones who also make their living working fields of XX crop. I notice that a lot. But ya, these people already practice polyculture everywhere, and many do it fairly well. the biggest issue is labor, but most of the small farms in Taiwan are manual labor anyway, If they just did it on a big scale, voila.

I've tried both newspaper and cardboard for mulching and I'd say newspaper is much better. It turns into nice compost after a while, if you heap some vegetation on/under it. Cardboard DOES kill all the weeds, but it seems to kill everything else too - there were loads of termites, but it survived a good six months almost intact. I guess it excludes air too effectively. I don't like plastic mulch because I found about 100kg of it dumped on my land ... and I suspect it 'cooks' the soil and kills animal/bacterial life. It's good for "drowning" tough grasses though.


ya cardboard, and paper too once it gets a little thick, suffocates the ground. one thing that is also pretty bad for soil health is anaerobic conditions, which that can make. thats why real mulch (dead plants) are so much better as they breathe and also rot well to make a nice compost layer. disadvantage is it attracts pests and pathogens because unlike proper compost heaps, it wont get very hot and wont kill all the bad stuff. This is less of an issue with many tree crops though.

Plastic will heat the soil, but I have not seen it heat up so much it hurts any living plant growing above it. weed, annuals, trees etc all do fine. its main effectiveness is cutting out light. And because its woven (I am not talking about that sheet plastic that is like plastic bag material) it readily allows water and gasses through, very important. I will admit it is not natural and does not go away, but it withstands direct sun for many years, and I think ultimately (at least as far as I know) it is the best balance of less pollution and effectiveness. cover crops are great, but require work.

What do you use for cover crops? I've found that natural weeds are great (there's a kind of solanum, especially, that the bugs seem to like eating) but you can't slash them in-place as mulch because they re-grow from the roots too fast. You have to heap them and compost them to kill them. I've had really good results with wheat and 蘿蔔, but again, they're not very useful. Peas, pretty good too. Buckwheat, fenugreek, and peanuts seem to do OK but they're just not big and tough enough to crowd out the weeds - and again, not very useful. Alfalfa, sesbania spp., lablab - mostly failed miserably. Any thoughts on Pueraria lobata? I believe it's an endemic species.


Solanum torvum, i hate the shit due to liek you said it grows from teh roots and it also has big thorns. I slash and mulch it. Other reason i HATE it is that it is woody and if its under the plastic and you step/drive over it the plastic can rip from it. Its spread by bats here, and is used as an eggplant grafting stock. so it gets out everywhere. can make the berries in to a curry like in Thailand, but here in Taiwan its considered poisonous...so I have not tried eating it here (i ate it in thailand and it was ok). I don't risk eating things in the night shade family unless its well known :)

cover crops I have mostly been using mints right now. When i let fields lay open I am planting beans (velvet beans) and when they get big its easy to kill them and stuff their remains under the plastic to decompose. I would avoid grasses and any other super heavy feeding nutrient mining type plant. when possible.

When I look at a cover crop i first look at height, then their water tolerance and drought tolerance. then i take those and pick out ones i can either make money at or can use myself. THere are lots, but surely the species used on a mountainside is different than down on the flats like me. the mint family has a bit of everything, and I like a lot of plants within it. hence my using them. but they are also kind of heavy feeders. its nice having a crop that isnt a heavy feeder.

locals in rotation often use what I think is a Desmanthus sp. Useless but being a legume it will help regenerate the soil. beans will as well as will much of the fabaceae family. if i switch form mints, I am going to legumes, but i personally dont like growing grains due to how cheap they are worldwide and how large a scale they are already grown. More money in fruit, herbs, vegetables and ornamental.

biggest thing for cover crops I find is shade tolerance so you can grow it right under a canopy if the main crop isnt too dense.

never grown Pueraria lobata, looks interesting.


jesus lighting is really bad going to send this and come back later..our house seems to be a magnet for this storm.
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Re: Sustainable Agriculture in Taiwan

Postby Pingdong » 04 Oct 2012, 17:59

well, we have been doing lots of work on our farm and getting ready to soon be planting it all up with the final trees. as doing so, and with trying to improve soil over the years, we have been focusing on everything soil lately so thought I would post some refs for others interested in reading about things. i found all these free online, but if you cant pm me and i can send them as pdf except the really huge ones which probably wont transfer due to size.

Always check bibliographies if the article is interesting to you, countless gems in them.

Land clearing & related
Effects of slash and burning on soil microbial diversity and abundance in the tropical rainforest ecosystem, Ondo State, Nigeria
African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 4(9), pp. 322-329, September 2010


Mulches, composts, nutrition etc
Litter production, decomposition and physico-chemical properties of soil in 3 developed agroforestry systems of Meghalaya, Northeast India
African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 3 (8), pp. 160-167, August 2009

Phytotoxicity of uncomposted and composted poultry manure
African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 4(5), pp. 154-162, May 2010

Slash Mulching and Incorporation as Mechanical Site Preparation for Pine Plantation Establishment and Subsequent Effects on Soil Moisture and Site Hydrology
William A. Lakel, III (thesis) August 24, 2000

THE USE AND INTEGRATION OF INGA EDULIS IN AGROFORESTRY SYSTEMS IN THE AMAZON – REVIEW ARTICLE [I am highly interested int his genus, and if anyone knows wher to buy Inga sp. in Taiwan plese let me know!]
AGRICULTURA TROPICA ET SUBTROPICA VOL. 43 (4) 2010

Soil Contamination
Effect of heavy metal pollutants on sunflower
African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 5(9), pp. 531-536, 6 September, 2011

Phytoextracting cadmium and copper using Mucuna pruriens [this is a common bean in taiwan that grows wild]
African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 3 (12), pp. 277-282, December, 2009

SOIL CONTAMINATION
Edited by Simone Pascucci ISBN 978-953-307-647-8

General soil , improvement etc

Effect of cassava/legumes intercrop before rice on weed dynamics and rice grain yield at Badeggi, Nigeria
African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 5(4), pp. 264-267, April 2011


REPORT ON SOIL CONSERVATION, SOIL IMPROVEMENT AND EXTENSION FOR THE SONG DA WATERSHED AND CARE PROJECTS
SOCIAL FORESTRY DEVELOPMENT PROJECT (SFDP) SONG DA March 1997

Seasonal distribution of soil fungi and chemical properties of montane wet temperate forest types of Tamil Nadu
African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 4(6), pp. 190-196, June 2010

SOIL ECOLOGY by Patrick Lavelle Print ISBN: 0-7923-7123-2 (great book, hard read but great reference

Introduction to The Soil Foodweb - nto that great but big words and big pictures make it ok when bored.
Steve Diver (through ATTRA)


About Death
Fungicides
Edited by Odile Carisse ISBN 978-953-307-266-1

HERBICIDES AND ENVIRONMENT
Edited by Andreas Kortekamp ISBN 978-953-307-476-4

HERBICIDES, THEORY AND APPLICATIONS
Edited by Sonia Soloneski and Marcelo L. Larramendy ISBN 978-953-307-975-2


PESTICIDES - THE IMPACTSOF PESTICIDE EXPOSURE
Edited by Margarita Stoytcheva ISBN 978-953-307-531-0

PESTICIDES IN THE MODERN WORLD – EFFECTS OF PESTICIDES EXPOSURE
Edited by Margarita Stoytcheva ISBN 978-953-307-454-2

PESTICIDES - FORMULATIONS, EFFECTS, FATE
Edited by Margarita Stoytcheva ISBN 978-953-307-532-7

Selective herbicide strategies for use in Australian desmanthus seed crops [Desmantus sp. I believe is used in Taiwan for soil improvement as well, though I have not actually ID'd the species yet]
Tropical Grasslands (2005) Volume 39, 171–181


Other
Bioindicators in sustainable management of tropical forests in India
African Journal of Plant Science Vol. 2 (9), pp. 099-104, September 2008


Aqua____ related
Producing tilapia feed locally: A lowcost option for small-scale farmers

Farming freshwater prawns: A manual for the culture of the giant river prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii)
FAO FISHERIES TECHNICAL PAPER 428

post up more if you have some. these are some pdfs I saw inthe computer that were of some use at some point.
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Re: Sustainable Agriculture in Taiwan

Postby finley » 04 Oct 2012, 21:20

About time this thread was revived.

Inga edulis: IIRC, the seeds are very short viability so you would literally have to take a plane to S.America, pick the beans off the tree, and fly back again within a week. I've been wanting to get hold of these too!

Desmantus: I have one of these growing in a pot, from seeds I collected. Well - I guess that's what it is. I initially assumed it was some kind of acacia.

Mucuna pruriens: I've not seen this anywhere growing wild, but only this afternoon I saw pueraria in flower. At least I'm pretty sure that's what it was, the flowers are very distinctive. I'm going back tomorrow to get some cuttings :) I've heard good things about mucuna, but the idea of itchy stems puts me off growing it. I planted lablab a couple of weeks ago (now easily available in Taiwan - it wasn't last year!), which I prefer since it's attractive and edible.

You mentioned tamarind elsewhere. I've got two little tamarind trees, one outside, one in a pot. Personally I don't think they're very useful; apparently they're slow-growing and shade out everything underneath. OTOH I like tamarind, although I guess I'll need to wait 6-7 years before I see any.

Other stuff doing nicely (so far): moringa oleifera, sesbania sesban, lotus tetragonolobus (next summer I want to try the similar psophocarpus tetragonolobus). I also have bags of trifolium alexandrinum and lupin seeds which I'll try over the winter.

My book recommendation: http://humanurehandbook.com/. This guy has done a quite incredible amount of research into the composting of poo. He's extruded a solid and impressive book on the subject. Also a good reference for composting in general. If you don't want to pay for the book it's available on the website chapter-by-chapter, for free.
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Re: Sustainable Agriculture in Taiwan

Postby Pingdong » 05 Oct 2012, 01:20

I have friends in various south American countries that have tried sending me plants but were all intercepted and that was before i knew about hte work around way of getting htem through without certificates and having them spray them for you. need to try again, I have just been super lazy on the import thing lately. If you find any, let me know. And if I get any i will try and remember you.

the "Desmanthus" you have, is that like the ones they completely fill the fields with as part of rotation? I know I have the name i thought it was somewhere when I was interested in that genus for land reclamation (before i realized how much of a non issue that is for much of Taiwan hah). i cant for the life of me think what it is, need to start reading more again. I don't think there is an Acacia in the world that will grow that fast either. flowers are different as are the leaves. Though the Acacia here are pretty trees, just get big and probably not the best for a farm.

somewhere I read that Taiwan is one of the biggest growers of M. pruriens. not the biggest, but one of the big nations growing it. I have lots growing now in different stages of development. I don't find the stems itchy, but the fruits sure are! the seeds are edible as far as I know.

Tamarind does excellent here. It shades, sure, but not heavily! I actually grow it due to its light shading nature. All the trees I saw in Burma and Thailand were not heavy shaders, at least when you compare them to other fruit trees like lychee, mango, wax apples etc. They are also perfect for mixed crops as they are nitrogen fixers and I am spacing them in between mango and lychee right now and will be growing shade crops under them. Will be growing various Piper species up the trunks as well once they get a bit bigger. biggest one I have now is about 6'. I like them as a fruit crop as their fruit has good storage life, but as with so many edible legumes, their fruit are prone to insect larvae attack...I have not started contemplating that issue yet as its not going to be a year or 2 before i see fruit. While in the middle of burma in the summer (= very damn hot!) many "acacia" trees were about the only form of shade around, and I have loved the Fabaceae family ever since! Its a bright shade, takes the edge off the sun, but can certainly grow crops under them. I would say coffee would be ideal here.

Do you by chance have any knowledge on cashew? Mine flowered early this year, but not fruit development at all. the ovary didnt even bother to swell in the slightest. I read that color change of the flower means pollination, but I don't htink so as mine changed but gave no indication of being fertilized.

Recently I have also been interested in the idea of grafting rambutan and pulsan onto lychee, you ever heard of this? they all grow VERY good here, but finding rambutan seed isnt easy (although plants are becoming available more locally) and lychee is a cheap easy plant to source for potential root stocks.

All this fruit talk makes my feet itchy for a vacation/seed collecting trip!
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