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Regenerative agriculture in Mexico boosts yields while restoring nature
by Dimitri Selibas
Mongabay Translate This Article
29 August 2022
On 29 August 2022 Mongabay reported:
Chiapas is Mexico's second-most biodiverse state and provides 30 percent of the country's freshwater, but has lost 55 percent of its forests for farmland and livestock pasture. Now, an unlikely alliance of conservationists, farmers, and cattle ranchers is working to incorporate 2.5 million hectares (6.2 million acres) of land into sustainable management schemes, focusing on soil health and aiming to restore and reforest 1.4 million hectares (3.5 million acres).
Global Good News service views this news as a sign of rising positivity in the fields of environment and science, documenting the growth of life-supporting, evolutionary trends.
... Walter Lopez Baez, Chiapas coordination and liaison director with the Mexican government's National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture, and Livestock Research (INIFAP), who has worked with farmers in the region for more than 30 years, tells Mongabay that although crop productivity initially increased after the start of the Green Revolution in Mexico in the 1940s -- a farming model that promoted high-yielding crop varieties and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides -- yields began dropping about 20 years ago, despite the continued intensive use of agrochemicals.
In 2010, INIFAP worked with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to analyze 300 plots in Chiapas, Mendoza's among them, and found similar results. Results showed that soils had high levels of acidity and aluminum, were lacking nutrients, and were highly compacted from tractors. This meant roots couldn't grow deep, creating drainage problems -- all signs of bad land management, according to Baez.
'Farmers were saying that the soil was tired,' Baez says. 'It's extractive agriculture where you're not giving anything back to the soil, unlike what happens in forests.' Based on research in Guatemala and Honduras, the team began to experiment with intercropping the corn with species that can help the soils recover, focusing on two key species: the trailing legume Canavalia and the ice cream-bean, Inga edulis, locally known as guama. This practice is part of agroforestry, an agricultural system combining trees with growing crops and raising livestock which not only produces food, but supports biodiversity, builds organic content in soils, boosts water table levels and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. Both the guama and the Canavalia are part of the Fabaceae or bean family, and as such have roots that fix nitrogen in the soil. They also grow quickly, making them a 'permanent biomass factory,' providing a cover of organic matter on the ground surface that maintains soil moisture, breaks down nutrients for other plants, and prevents the growth of weeds, thereby reducing the need for herbicides.
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