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Jeff Palmer

Published By
Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC)
Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur, Philippines

With Funds Provided By

Southern Mindanao Agricultural Programme (SMAP)

Jeff Palmer

Published By
Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC)
Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur, Philippines

With Funds Provided By

Southern Mindanao Agricultural Programme (SMAP)
Cover Photos:
1) An A-frame is used to find contour lines, the framework of any SALT project.
2) SALT, or Sloping Agricultural Land Technology, integrates fruit, field, and
vegetable crops within contour hedgerows of nitrogen-fixing species.

Published by the

Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center

Kinuskusan, Bansalan
Davao del Sur, Philippines.

First Edition, 1996

Second Edition, 1999

With the purpose of facilitating information transfer, permission is hereby given for reproducing
the contents of this manual, with the condition that proper acknowledgments are made and two
copies are sent to the publisher.

Bibliographic Citation:
Palmer, J. Jeff. (1999). Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT): Nitrogen Fixing
Agroforestry for Sustainable Soil and Water Conservation, 2nd Edition.. A publication of
the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC). ** pp.

Foremost, an acknowledgment of gratitude should be given to the Southern

Mindanao Agricultural Programme (SMAP) for sponsoring the printing of this book. For
many years, the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) has been striving to find
simple and applicable solutions to the problems that the upland farmers of southern
Mindanao face day to day. Through the Testing and Development Division (T&D) of the
MBRLC, other MBRLC staff members, and through farmers’ experiences, a tremendous
amount of knowledge has been accumulated, especially in the area of hillside farming,
namely the SALT technologies.

SMAP, by supporting this publication, is helping to give a boost to the MBRLC’s

capability of increasing the public’s general knowledge about the subject of nitrogen-
fixing agroforestry. Therefore, a great deal of gratitude goes to SMAP and its

Namely, MBRLC would like to thank the Project Co-Directors of SMAP, Dashiel
P. Indelible and Patrick Sweeting, for their support. Also, thanks to Jose Jorge C. (Boy)
Yap, Jr. and Jeremy Cole, Co-Managers, SMAP, Zone 2. A belated thank you goes to
Graham Garrod, former Project Co-Director and Ike Matulong, former Co-Manager,
Zone 2.

The staff of the MBRLC should also be given an acknowledgment for their hard
work over the years in coming up with the ideas and data enclosed. The lessons
presented are the results of many people’s work over the years that Sloping Agricultural
Land Technology and its offshoots have been developed and used. This book would not
be possible without the originators of the SALT, namely Harold R. Watson, MBRLC
Director, Warlito A. Laquihon, Associate Director MBRLC, and Rodrigo “Rod” Calixtro,
Farm Manager MBRLC.

Finally, a special thanks to the Testing and Development staff of MBRLC who
have compiled years and years of data and helped finalize this work: Gener Laquihon,
Supervisor, Carlos Juano, Technician, and Paula Wilson, Journeyman/Editor.

Jeff Palmer
Director, MBRLC
I) Introduction and Rationale 1

II) What is NF Agroforestry? 4

III) Background Information on How MBRLC Has Used

Nitrogen-Fixing Agroforestry 10

IV) Ideas and Lessons Learned About Nitrogen Fixing Agroforestry 13

Lesson 1 NFT/S hedgerows can adequately control erosion if planted 13

and maintained properly.

Lesson 2 Not all legumes are NF plants and thus not all are beneficial 18
to NF agroforestry systems.

Lesson 3 Management practices of NFT/S hedges affect biomass yields 22

and thus crop production.

Lesson 4 The fertility of humid tropical farming systems greatly 27

resides in the above- ground biomass (standing
plants plus mulch) of the system.

Lesson 5 The mulching effect of the aboveground biomass does 30

more to the physical properties of the soil than to the
chemical properties. These improved physical properties
lead to greater ability to utilize existing soil fertility,
thus giving higher production.

Lesson 6 Total moisture is actually conserved in NF agroforestry 32

systems as opposed to most traditional systems due to the
mulching, shading, and cooling effect of the NF trees.

Lesson 7 Agroforesters have erroneously limited themselves to NF 33

trees and overlooked the other nitrogen fixing plants
in potential cropping schemes. Similarly, “cover crop”
specialists have overlooked the trees and their benefits.

Lesson 8 The benefit of the NFP comes primarily from the dead and 33
decaying biomass applied directly to the cropping zone.

Lesson 9 In NF agroforestry farming systems, phosphorous can quickly 35

replace nitrogen as the limiting factor in sustainable
production, especially in acidic soils.

Lesson 10 The observation that NF alley cropping systems are more 38

laborious than traditional farming systems is largely
a myth. A different type of labor is required, but
possibly in lesser amounts.

Lesson 11 Root invasion into cropping alleys of NF agroforestry 42

systems such as SALT are not a serious problem, as much
literature indicates.

Lesson 12 Crop production and consequently farm income can be 43

greatly enhanced by NF agroforestry systems.

Lesson 13 One of the best hidden secrets about NF agroforestry 44

species is their value as high quality animal feeds.

Lesson 14 Hedgerows for erosion control and N rich mulch are not 46
necessarily harborers of unwanted pests and actually
may help reduce certain pests by providing diversity
in the system.

V) Constraints to Nitrogen-Fixing Agroforestry 48

VI) Conclusion 49

VII) References/Further Reading 51

VIII) Appendices 53


Table 1 Available N, P, and K in selected crop residues. 7

Table 2 Cumulative soil losses in Test SALT (SALT vs. Non-SALT). 15

Table 3 Compilation of Runoff Test in Test SALT - 30 months. 16

Table 4 Most utilized and promising species of nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs for SALT 20
hedgerows at MBRLC, 1988 to 1995.

Table 5 Corn yield response to differing vegetative barriers in SALT; Four croppings at 22
MBRLC from 1994 to 1995.

Table 6 Hedgerow Biomass Test: The effects of cutting heights on Flemingia and 24
rensonii, May 8, 1992 to Dec. 8, 1995. Sample taken from 2 meter
linear double hedge
of each species.

Table 7 Hedgerow Spacing Test - Eleven croppings, 1992 to 1996. 26

Table 8 Total kilograms of N, P, and K per hectare nutrient analysis in a SALT vs. a 28
Non-SALT system.
Table 9 Yield of tomatoes (kg/plot) for four croppings with differing sources of 30
fertility management.

Table 10 Physical properties comparison of a SALT and Non-SALT side by side plot. 31

Table 11 Moisture block readings - SALT vs. Non-SALT at an average depth of six inches, 32
September 1991 to February 1994.

Table 12 Comparison of corn yields grown in SALT - Hedgerow cuttings added versus 34
hedgerow cuttings removed. Twenty-three croppings from 1982 to 1993.

Table 13 Effects on corn production of live mulching versus “killed” mulch of close-growing 35
cover crops Arachis pintoi and Desmodium heterophyllum.

Table 14 Comparison of labor inputs. SALT vs. Non-SALT, 1985 to 1990 measured in 39
man days/hectare/year.

Table 15 Comparison of labor required by activity - New Test SALT, 20 months 40

of recording.

Table 16 Hedgerow Spacing Test - Labor comparisons of hedgerow pruning and 41

alley weeding on a per-hectare basis for one typical cropping of corn.

Table 17 A general comparison of production benefits of local farming practices 44

and the NF SALT systems in the southern Philippines. Data gathered
from tests and surveys.


Figure 1 The law of inputs and outputs in regard to nutrient management and 9

Figure 2 Results of SALT fertility test in tons/ha. Treatment number corresponds to 37

fertility treatment.


Appendix 1 Commonly Used NF Plants in the Southern Philippines. 53

Appendix 2 Nitrogen Fixing Species Tested and Used by MBRLC. 58

Appendix 3 MBRLC Rainfall Records, 1992 - 1995. 59


At the start, let us lay down some parameters. This book is

an account of one experience largely based upon the Sloping
Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) projects in the southern
Philippines. SALT was first developed by the Mindanao Baptist
Rural Life Center (MBRLC), Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur in
the mid 1970s. Since SALT's development, its idea, spirit, and
focus on sustainable upland development has quickly spread
throughout the Philippines as well as much of Asia.

SALT was born in the foothills of Mt. Apo, the tallest

mountain in the Philippines. Its birthplace was in a volcanic
soil classified as a eutric nitisol. The soil is locally known
as Miral clay loam and is characterized by a medium pH (5.0 to
5.5), medium to low levels of available nitrogen and phosphorous,
and relatively high levels of potassium. The average annual
rainfall of the area is about 2400 mm. (See Appendix 3, Rainfall
records). The original one hectare demonstration plot of SALT was
established and fully functional by 1978. It is located on a
mountainside with an average slope of 30% in the demonstration
area. The altitude is approximately 350 meters above sea level.

Like other farming systems developed at MBRLC, SALT grew out

of problems that farmers expressed to the MBRLC staff in formal
meetings as well as during on-the-farm visitations (Watson and
Laquihon, 1989). Low and declining farm yields were the foremost
problems mentioned. Through closer examination, soil erosion was
seen as the major contributor to this declining yield. Corn (Zea
mays) production on hillside farms had dropped in 10 years from
3.5 to 0.5 tons per hectare per cropping.

This book is an effort to look at the successes and failures

of the first 25 years of SALT and its offshoots. It is also an
effort to look at agroforestry in a new way, challenging readers
to view agroforestry through a nitrogen fixing paradigm.


Agroforestry is the marriage of agriculture and forestry and

is a relatively new term in the modern history of agriculture.
Lundgren (1982) defines it as “a collective name for land-use
systems in which woody perennials (trees, shrubs, etc.) are grown
in association with herbaceous plants (crops, pastures) or
livestock, in a spatial arrangement, a rotation or both; there
are usually both ecological and economic interactions between the
trees and other components of the system.” For those wanting a
less academic definition, Young (1997) suggests that “Agroforest
= growing trees on farms” if the term “growing” can mean managing
and obtaining benefits and the word “farms” includes rangelands,
forest land, etc.

Agroforestry, as used in this writing, is a holistic
incorporation and inter-working of all things within the small
family farm including animals, trees, crops, and natural
resources. In reality, agroforestry is an old practice which from
the beginning of time has been used by people to produce food and
livelihood in order to provide for their families. It is a
natural way of farming integrating many crops (trees and animals
included), using a multi-storied approach and being diversified
in terms of plants and animals on the small farm. This book
treats the term “agroforestry” in this sense.

Nitrogen fixing agroforestry is a challenge to observe

farmers’ existing practices and to improve upon them through the
use of nitrogen fixing plants. Traditionally, farmers’ practices
have been judged to be inadequate and thus below standard when
measured against “modern” agriculture, which relies heavily on
improved varieties, commercial fertilizers, chemicals, etc.
However, these so-called “modern” methods, even though
scientifically proven, are often out of reach of the majority of
the world’s farmers and can actually cause a decrease in
productivity if not used properly. This book on nitrogen fixing
agroforestry encourages the reader to acknowledge the existing
farmers’ practices and use these as a starting point to help
improve the situation of the local farmer. The difference is
that the improvements to be introduced to the local farmers’
practices should be based on nitrogen fixing species.

In preparing this material, an effort has been made to keep

the message simple. In light of this simplicity, it was decided
to make the book an easy reading one for a broad spectrum of
readers. We wanted to provide a useful publication for the field
technicians and people who do the work. Although non-academic in
approach, this work is based upon some of the best information
available today. "Implementors" of nitrogen fixing (NF)
agroforestry systems may use and comment on our experience and
the results given here. This work is also for the student
wanting to get an overview of the topic. Lastly, SALT: Nitrogen
Fixing Agroforestry for Sustainable Soil and Water Conservation
is for the larger agencies which are considering implementing and
funding projects with SALT-type agroforestry components.

This work is not an “anti” book, either. This book, as well

as our work over the years at the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life
Center, is not anti-chemical, anti-non-nitrogen fixer, or “anti”
to any structures or systems which promote conservation for the
humid tropical uplands. It is "pro" nitrogen fixing hedgerows
for erosion control and soil fertility enhancer. Most of all,
this is a “pro” nitrogen fixing plant book.

We will try to show the important role of the nitrogen

fixing plants (NFPs) in tropical agriculture based largely upon
the experiences of the MBRLC.

The definition and “spirit” of NF agroforestry. Nitrogen
fixing agroforestry, or “NF” agroforestry, is an approach to
farming which acknowledges the benefits and encourages the
incorporation of nitrogen fixing species into any and every
farming system. The nitrogen fixing plant is seen not as an
option to sustainable farming systems but rather as the
foundation for the system. Nitrogen fixing agroforestry is open
to all forms of nitrogen fixing plants found occurring naturally
in the environment and seeks to use them symbiotically in farming
systems to enhance the sustainability of the system.

Nitrogen fixing
agroforestry is not limited to
trees which fix nitrogen or
nitrogen fixing cover crops, but
rather openly embraces all forms
of nitrogen fixers as potential
allies in creating sustainable
farming systems. For example, if
vegetative barriers are used to
control soil erosion in a
conservation cropping system,
the pro-nitrogen-fixing
agroforester immediately looks
toward a nitrogen fixing plant to act as a barrier.

Thus the term nitrogen fixing plant (designated NFP) will be

used throughout this book. Although the systems discussed will
rely heavily on nitrogen fixing trees, other plant forms such as
shrubs and vines, perennials and annuals will be found within the
total experience of NF agroforestry as well as free living NF

Nitrogen fixing plants and their uniqueness. Nitrogen fixing

plants are unique in the simple fact that they are nitrogen
fixers. Even though all plants fix nitrogen to a certain degree,
these plants unquestionably, when given the right conditions and
organisms, can produce high levels of nitrogen which can be made
available to agricultural systems. This fixation occurs through
symbiotic relationships involving the NF plants and soil
organisms such as Rhizobium and Frankia.

One of the most limiting nutrients in agricultural

production around the world is nitrogen, which is ironic since
about 79% of the air we breathe is composed of gaseous nitrogen.
The irony is that even though this is the most “in demand”
nutrient by our agricultural systems and one of the most
plentiful nutrients occurring naturally around us, nitrogen in
its gaseous form is not available for use by the majority of our

agricultural crops.

Industrialized nations rich in petroleum resources meet the

demand for this nutrient by converting precious non-renewable
fossil fuel resources into nitrogen-based fertilizers. Through a
process of burning the fuels and creating a chemical reaction
with atmospheric nitrogen, most of the world’s commercial
nitrogen-based fertilizer is produced. This fertilizer is then
sold on the market to rich and poor alike to enhance agricultural
production in a variety of ways. However, the high cost of this
process manifests itself both environmentally and economically.
Can the environment and the small farmer afford the use of such

As beneficial as nitrogen-based commercial fertilizer is to

the local farmer, some serious questions must be raised about the
continuing practice of heavy reliance upon these products.
Serious questions are now being raised about the sustainability
of this process. For instance, as the depletion of the world’s
reserves of fossil fuels occurs, what will happen to the price of
the fuel and thus the commercial fertilizers which are produced
from them? As competition for heating fuel, energy generation,
transportation, and other items begins to grow, what will happen
to the production of commercial fertilizers?

Moreover, new questions are arising about the sustainability

of using heavy applications of commercial fertilizers in
agricultural systems. As heavier and heavier applications are
being made to the soils, what are the long-term effects on the
environment? Even more serious is the possibility that over-
fertilization with some commercially-produced nitrogen-based
fertilizers may cause negative production in the long-term future
due to sterilization of the soil, acidification, etc.

This brings us to a simple law of inputs and outputs within

most any system. Humorously stated,the axiom says:

“In any system, if the outputs exceed the inputs, then the
upkeep of that system becomes the downfall.”

In other words, any system constantly generating “outputs”

greater than its necessary production “inputs” is in danger of
consuming its resource base for production and eventually
destroying itself. This general rule, applicable to economics,
transportation, etc., is applied here to sustainable farming

In any farming system, if the output of nutrients from the

system exceeds the input of those nutrients, then we can say that
system is non-sustainable. Eventually, due to constant outputs
and inadequate inputs, yields will decline and the farmer will

abandon the system.

Farming systems are made up of many types of outputs and

inputs. Outputs include nutrient losses (soil erosion, leaching,
volatilization, denitrification) as well as nutrient removal
(crop harvest, animal feed, fuelwood harvest, burning). Soil
erosion, in many cases, tends to be the major cause of nutrient
loss, with up to two to three hundred tons per hectare per year
on steep slopes in the humid tropics. Controlling soil erosion on
sloping areas is a major step toward reducing the most serious
wasteful output to any hillside farming system.

However, controlling soil erosion usually is not enough to

ensure that a balance exists between outputs and inputs in a
particular system. Desirable outputs such as crop yield, animal
feed, and fuelwood harvest can place a strain upon a balanced
system. The more harvest, the more inputs are needed to replace
the N, P, and K (as well as other nutrients) removed during that

Inputs to agricultural
systems include natural,
inorganic and organic
categories. Examples of natural
inputs include existing
nutrients in the soil profile,
dust and other particles carried
by the wind, rainfall which
forces these particles down to
earth, nitrogen fixed by
lightning, and ecological
nitrogen fixation caused by
organisms naturally occurring in the soil. Inorganic inputs come
mainly from commercially produced chemical fertilizers. Organic
inputs come mostly from on-farm sources such as crop residues,
animal manures, and green manures of NFPs.

Although natural inputs of nitrogen vary from place to

place, these methods can contribute from five to 15 kilograms of
nitrogen to the system each year. The amount of N added through
chemical fertilizers depends upon their cost and availability,
as well as the ability of the local farmer to use them properly.
The amount of N (and other nutrients) added by organic methods
largely depends upon the management practices of the local

For instance, crop residues added back to the soil can

provide large amounts of N to the system. If those residues are
burned, most of the available N returns to the atmosphere. The
following table illustrates the amounts of the three major

nutrients available in selected crop residues on a per hectare

Table 1. Available N, P, and K in selected crop residues.

Source: ATIK.
<----------- Kg per hectare ------------->
Residue Nitrogen Phosphorous Potassium
Rice stover 30-50 4-7 150-250

Corn stover 7-23 2-4 19-76

Peanut hay 34-108 3-10 38-84

Cowpea hay 35-57 6-8 53-65

Unnecessary burning or removal of crop residues causes a

tremendous output strain on any agricultural system. Not only
that, removal by burning or feeding instead of decomposition,
allows greater exposure of the soil surface by removing ground
cover. This exposure can lead to greater potential for soil
erosion and thus even greater nutrient loss in the system.

Animal manures are another

excellent input to a farming
system. This resource is
underutilized in many countries
while others have known its
benefits for centuries. Labor
and cultural constraints have
been the biggest barriers to the
use of animal manures in certain
areas of the world.

Perhaps the most

underutilized input (which is the focus of this book) for
balancing farming systems nutrient input and output is the
nitrogen fixing plant. Depending upon the usage, some NF
agroforestry systems have been estimated to provide 40 to 60 tons
of fresh organic matter (in the form of leafy biomass) to a farm
system. Amounts of N as high as 200 kg/ha have been added. In
areas where commercial fertilizers are not used due to high cost
or unavailability, great potential exists for this type of input.

A graphical presentation of the balance of inputs and outputs in
farming systems is presented below.

Figure 1. The law of inputs and outputs in regard to nutrient
management and sustainability.

One of the better advocates of nitrogen fixing agroforestry
is the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) and its 25
years of promoting the Sloping Agricultural Land Technologies

SALT definition and SALT models. As stated earlier, the original

Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) was developed by the
Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) in the mid-1970's.
SALT was designed to aid hilly land farmers in making a decent
living in a sustainable way on their fragile, sloping lands.
Like other farming systems developed at the MBRLC, SALT grew out
of problems that farmers expressed to the MBRLC staff in formal
meetings as well as during on-farm visitations.

SALT and its offshoots are packages

of technology utilizing diversified crop
production which integrate several soil
and water conservation measures.
Basically, SALT is a method of growing
field crops, permanent crops, forages, and
forestry species in contour bands 3 to 5
meters wide. Contoured rows of nitrogen
fixing trees and/or shrubs (NFT/S) are
thickly planted in double rows to form
hedgerows. When a hedge is 1.5 to 2.0 m
tall, it is cut back to a height of 50 to
100 cm and the cuttings are placed in the
strips between the hedgerows, also called
alleys, to serve as organic fertilizer and
ground-cover mulch.

The main thrust of all SALT

technologies is to: 1) Minimize soil erosion, 2) improve and
maintain soil fertility, and 3) provide food and income for the
farm family. In short, the SALT idea has sought to provide
sustainable balanced farming systems where the undesirable farm
outputs (erosion, pollution, etc.) are minimized and desired
outputs (production) are maximized. All of this is done in a NF
framework where the inputs to the system are maintained largely
by the use of NF plants. A brief description of each SALT is
listed below.

SALT 1 - Sloping
Agricultural Land
Technology. SALT 1 is a
one- hectare agroforestry
model established in
1978. SALT 1 is a system
of growing food crops
(45%) and permanent crops
(30%) in 3 to 5 m
contoured alleyways
formed by double
hedgerows of fast-growing
NFT/S species (25%).
SALT 1 uses minimal tillage and the formation of green terraces
of the NFT/S to control erosion and act as a rich source of N-
fertilizer through applying the leaf biomass to the soil.

SALT 2 - Simple Agro-Livestock

Technology. SALT 2 is a one-
half hectare agroforestry model
established in 1987. It is
basically a SALT 1 system which
incorporates an animal component
into the SALT farming scheme.
The animal component in the
original model is a 14-head goat
dairy. One-fourth hectare of
the 0.5 ha model is a standard
SALT hedgerow/alley system
devoted to food production for the family. The other 0.25 ha is
a forage garden area producing food for the animal unit. Animal
manures from the dairy are placed back into the system for

SALT 3 - Sustainable Agro-forest
Land Technology. SALT 3, a two-
hectare agroforestry model
established in 1987, is
basically a farmer-focused,
small-scale reforestation
scheme. The lower hectare is
devoted to a regular SALT 1
system and is called the food
component. The upper hectare is
devoted to a reforestation
scheme which is simple and
readily acceptable by the local farmer. The 1 ha forestry
component is planted to tree species in “time zones.” These time
zones are the harvest dates for different species, with
progressively more valuable products reaching maturity at 1-5,
6-10, 11-15, and 16-20 years from establishment.

SALT 4 - Small Agro-fruit Livelihood

Technology. SALT 4, established in 1992,
is a one-half hectare agroforestry model
devoted to fruit production. The whole
area is planted into SALT 1 type
hedgerows. The alleyways on the lower
one-fourth of the project are devoted to
food production while the alleyways of the
upper three-fourths are set aside for
fruit production. The fruit alleyways are
integrated with durian (SCIENTIFIC NAME),
lanzones (SCIENTIFIC NAME), mangosteen
rambutan (SCIENTIFIC NAME) and other high-
value fruit trees. Food crops are planted
in the fruit alleys until the fruit trees
reach maturity.

This section is the heart of this book. In the following
pages the reader will find the lessons learned by the MBRLC as
well as questions raised about NF agroforestry. Bear in mind as
you read that this book was written to address primarily the
technical, biophysical side of the topic.

LESSON 1: NFT/S hedgerows can adequately control erosion if planted and maintained

For the last few years the question has been asked, “Can
vegetative hedgerows adequately control soil erosion?” Thus the
debate of those who are pro-structure and pro-grasses in
vegetative barriers to control erosion on steep croplands versus
those who rely heavily on vegetative barriers such as the NF
tree/shrub. The answer of the MBRLC based upon the SALT
experience and data is “yes,” NF trees and shrubs, if planted and
maintained well, can adequately control erosion in most hillside
farming situations.

Erosion is caused by two primary forces: the raindrop

splash, which loosens up the soil through kinetic energy upon
impact, and moving water upon the soil surface. Two control
measures are then needed to stop soil erosion. Number one is to
stop the effect of the raindrop splash with a good ground cover.
Tests around the world have confirmed this principle. Number two
is to stop the surface water moving down a slope a barrier
applied on the contour. Thus, the two approaches to erosion
control: cover and barrier approach (Young, 1990).

Most hillside conservation control systems have concentrated

on controlling the surface flow of water using “barriers” within
the system. Terraces, check dams, contouring, rock walls, etc.,
are good barrier approaches to erosion control and soil
conservation. However, a barrier is only one part of a good soil
conservation system.

Equally important is ground
cover for soil and water
conservation which prevents the
raindrop splash from initiating
erosion. If the ground is well
covered--due to zero tillage,
mulching, and/or good plant
canopy--little erosion will
occur. Therefore, in designing
an erosion control system,
attention must be paid to the
cover as well as the barrier.

The SALT technologies have focused on both of these aspects.

The vegetative hedges of NFT/S are thickly seeded in double rows
50 cm apart along the contour. These double rows, which are
spaced every 3 to 5 meters depending upon the slope and cropping
system, become the barriers to fast-moving water as well as a
source of mulching materials for soil cover through frequent
prunings. Moreover, since these plants are NF in nature, the
mulch provided is nitrogen-rich giving added fertility to the
system. This results in improved crop production gives an extra
soil conservation component to the system than just an inert

How well can the thickly planted double hedges of NFT/S

control erosion in the SALT system? In one test known as “Test
SALT” conducted for six years at the MBRLC, erosion data was
gathered from a side by side comparison of a traditional farmer’s
cropping system (Non-SALT) and a SALT project. The individual
plots were 0.08 ha in size and replicated for minimization of
error. The slope of the plots averaged 18%.

The Non-SALT treatments were cropped by no-till methods.

Standing corn stalks were slashed three times and left on the
soil surface. Corn was planted fairly close to the contour. The
cropping system was a rotation that averaged two crops of corn
(Zea mays) and one crop of mung beans (Vigna radiata) per year,
in keeping with local cropping traditions.

The SALT plots were planted to NFT/S
double contour hedgerows spaced about
three to four meters apart. Every third
cropping strip or “alley” was used for
permanent crops: banana (Musa sp.), coffee
(Coffea robusta and C. arabica), and
calamondin (Citrus microcarpa). The
annual or seasonal alleys were farmed
using the same methods as the farmer
treatment, except that the seasonal crops
were planted along the contour to follow
the hedges. Soil movement was measured by
stakes placed within each treatment.

Table 2. Cumulative soil losses in Test SALT (SALT vs. Non-SALT).

Month from SALT Non-SALT
Start (ton loss) (ton loss)
0 0 0
5 6.2 53.8
34 10.6 278.0
45 15.6 618.1
50 21.3 776.2
57 22.0 950.1
60 23.1 1025.4
68 21.4 1101.1
72 (Final) 20.2 1162.4
Tons/year 3.4 194.3

Table 2 shows that the SALT system wit thickly-planted NFT/S

is effective in controlling soil erosion. Where the Non-SALT
system yielded a total of almost 1,200 tons of erosion over the
six years of the test, the SALT farm yielded only 20 tons. The
annual rate of soil loss for SALT (3.4 T/ha/year) is much less
than that of the Non-SALT system (194.3 T/ha/year). The data
illustrate a soil loss reduction of approximately 98% from the
Non-SALT to the SALT system.

As a check to the system, a separate runoff test was

conducted on the same area described above. Water and soil
runoff were collected in 2.5 cubic m sample tanks below one of
the SALT and one of the Non-SALT plots. Measurements were taken
over a two and one-half year period.

The Non-SALT catchment basin (right) collected almost 113 times

the soil of the SALT catchment and overflowed 15 times.

From Table 3, the catchment basin below the Non-SALT

treatment recorded more runoff in terms of water and sediment
load. Out of 156 measurable rains during the recording period, 81
produced runoff in the Non-SALT treatment while only 9 produced
runoff in the SALT treatment. The Non-SALT catchment had a total
of 15 overflows (periods of intense rainfall causing spillover on
the tanks) while the SALT catchment recorded only 6.

Table 3. Compilation of Runoff Test in Test SALT - 30 months.

Total rains with measurable precipitation 156


No. of collections 81 9 9:1
No. basin overflows 15 6 2.5:1
Water collected 38,111 l 2,974 l 13:1
Soil collected 1,968 kg 17 kg 113:1

The total water collected in the Non-SALT basin was 12.8

times as much (38,111 l) as that collected in the SALT basin
(2,974 l). This indicates less surface runoff in the SALT system,
meaning more water is being placed back into the soil, ensuring
less erosion and greater water availability to crops. The total
sediment load collected in the Non-SALT catchment was 115.7 times

higher (1,968 kg) than the SALT treatment (17 kg), showing NF
agroforestry systems such as SALT 1 to be excellent erosion
control systems.

The combination of mulch and barrier used in SALT is the key

to good erosion control in upland farming systems. Although
grasses such as vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) and engineering
structures may be better as barriers to soil erosion, the barrier
is but one aspect of erosion control. We see that management of
the cover can play as critical a role in controlling soil erosion
as the barrier itself.

The species of NFT/S used to control erosion at MBRLC have

been selected over a number of years and are proven nitrogen
fixers. Thus an added benefit from the cover provided by NFT/S
barriers is a nitrogen-rich mulch. This nitrogen-rich mulch
facilitates better crop growth, encouraging better production and
sustainability as well as greater erosion control through
healthier canopy cover.

In a recent test established at the MBRLC, cement canals

have been constructed below a new side by side SALT versus Non-
SALT test plot. The individual plots measure 12 by 33 meters and
are located on a 12% slope. The treatments are triplicated giving
a total of six plots (three SALT and three Non-SALT plots). The
canals have been constructed to trap the total sediment load
resulting from the erosion of each of the plots. Initial results
from two months of data (starting with the 1996 rainy/cropping
season) show a remarkably higher sedimentation below the Non-SALT
plots as opposed to the SALT treatments. Total sediment load per
Non-SALT canal is 384.8 kg during the time period listed above as
opposed to 1.0 kg for the SALT treatment. This is a ratio of
about 400:1, showing more erosion without the NF contour
hedgerows than with. This test will be monitored for at least
another three years to give even more accurate data on the total
sediment load erosion from the test. However, it does support and
confirm earlier MBRLC data that NFT/S hedgerows, when managed
properly, can significantly reduce erosion in upland systems.

LESSON 2 - Not all legumes are NF plants and therefore not all are beneficial to NF
agroforestry systems.

A major problem leading to erroneous results within alley

cropping research has been the inclusion of non-nitrogen fixing
plants as vegetative barriers. Two widely-accepted facts support
this claim: 1) not all legumes are nitrogen fixing and 2) some
non-legumes are nitrogen fixing. The word legume basically means
“pod bearing plant,” and the most common examples are beans and
pulses. Many plants in the legume family (Fabaceae or

Leguminosae) are nitrogen fixing; many however are not.

Since verifying the nitrogen fixing ability of a plant

involves a difficult technical process, the MBRLC has always used
the rule of thumb that a plant which produces good NF nodules on
the roots must be nitrogen fixing. To qualify as having “good NF
nodules,” the plant must have many nodules which are moist and
pinkish in color when crushed.

Based upon this general rule, many well-known legumes have

been excluded from the MBRLC’s line up of often-used nitrogen
fixers. The genus Senna (formerly Cassia) has not been found to
nodulate under conditions in the southern Philippines and
therefore is not considered a potential hedgerow or component of
our NF agroforesty systems. The nitrogen fixing ability of many
of the plants in genus Acacia has also come into question.

The MBRLC guidelines for a good species to be used in NF

agroforestry systems as contour hedgerows are as follows:

1. A nodulating, nitrogen fixing plant.

2. Coppices readily under heavy pruning (12 times per
3. Grows well in the MBRLC double hedgerow system.
4. Produces at least 25 metric tons of fresh
biomass/hectare/year based upon 5 m double hedgerow
intervals for approximately 2000 linear meters per
5. Readily sets seed for farmer reproducibility.
6. Asexually/vegetatively reproduced.
7. Tolerance to insects and diseases.

8. Able to grow well when thickly planted.
9. Adaptable to a wide variety of soils and climates.
10. Deep/tap rooted.
11. Grows into a tree if left unattended.
12. Usable for forage.
13. Multi-purpose (i.e., fencing, fuel, feed, etc.).

The most utilized and promising species for NF agroforestry

systems at the MBRLC are listed below in Table 4 and ranked from
highest to lowest in regard to fresh biomass yields. The biomass
yield was determined on a per hectare basis for a five-meter
spacing of hedgerows.

The species of the genus Calliandra listed are excellent

hedgerow candidates but have a problem with setting seed at lower
altitudes. The MBRLC is at 350 meters and Calliandra sp., based
upon local experience, needs at least 500 to 600 meters of
altitude for good seed production. Ability to produce seed under
local conditions is one criterion of a good hedgerow species.
This characteristic is important for farmer reproducibility of
the system.

Leucaena diversifolia (small-leafed or acid-tolerant

Leucaena) listed in the table shows promise as a contour hedgerow
species but has not performed as well as others in actual farm
trials. A good seed producer, this variety shows tolerance to
the jumping plant lice (Heteropshylla cubana) which plagues
larger leafed Leucaenas in this area. Where there is no jumping
plant lice infestation, Leucaena leucocephala is one of the best
NF contour hedgerows.

Table 4. Most utilized and promising species of nitrogen fixing

trees and shrubs for SALT hedgerows at MBRLC, 1988 to 1995.

Fresh Dry
NFT/S Species (T/ha) (T/ha)
1. Calliandra tetragona* 51.9 16.1
2. Calliandra calothyrsus 49.8 15.9
3. Leucaena diversifolia 42.3 11.8
4. Gliricidia sepium 36.5 8.4
5. Erythrina poeppigiana 34.3 5.8
6. Flemingia macrophylla 34.1 9.5
7. Desmodium rensonii 31.0 6.5
8. Indigofera anil** 28.5 9.1

* First harvest - December 1990

** First harvest - November 1989
All other species were planted and first harvested in 1988.

Gliricidia sepium is one of the most widely-used NFT/S in
Asia. Well known for use as fencing material (largely via
cuttings) and animal feed, Gliricidia is possibly one of the best
species choice for hedgerows as well. Unfortunately, many people
have not learned to plant Gliricidia by direct seeding instead of
cuttings. Direct-seeded plantings have better tap root formation
and less lateral root invasion into the alleyways of SALT
systems. Moreover, direct seeding can reduce the amount of labor
establishing a NF agroforestry system over the use of cuttings.

The benefits of Gliricidia cuttings are evident. However,

effort should be made to find local seed sources. Gliricidia
seems only to set seed well in areas with dry zones having at
least a 4 to 6 month dry period.

Erythrinas are good nitrogen fixers and grow well from seeds
or cuttings. However, due to their thorns, they are of limited
use as hedgerows in NF agroforestry systems.

Flemingia macrophylla may be the most widely adaptable NF

contour hedgerow species for Asia since it also originates in
this part of the world. It may also be the best NF hedge in terms
of providing a long lasting ground cover after trimming. Many
native and untested species of Flemingia grow around the area,
and the possibility of finding and developing “undiscovered”
cultivars exists.

Desmodium rensonii is still fairly unknown around the world

but is possibly the best animal feed in the tropics. With a crude
protein content (23%) rivaling alfalfa in temperate climates,
rensonii has been successfully tested as an animal feed for
goats, sheep, cattle, rabbits, guinea pigs, swine, and fish.

Indigofera tyesmani (anil) may be one of the more

underexploited species. It shows promise in hedgerow systems, as
an animal feed, and as a fuelwood crop. In simple tests at the
MBRLC, Nubian goats have been fed a diet of 100% Indigofera for
over a year, grown well and even kidded. It is showing to be one
of the most promising new species being utilized by the MBRLC
SALT systems and like Flemingia, it is also a native to the
general region.

In one interesting test conducted by the MBRLC to research

the value of NF hedges, different vegetative barriers along the
contour were tested for the effect on corn production grown in
the corresponding alleyways. The hedges consisted of a double
hedge of proven NFT/S (Desmodium rensonii + Indigofera anil), a
double hedge of a NFT/S plus a grass (Desmodium rensonii +
Vetiveria zizanoides), a grass double hedge (Vetiveria +
Vetiveria), and a double hedge of a non-nitrogen fixing legume

(Senna spectabilis + Senna spectabilis). Each system was assumed
to adequately control soil erosion, but in question was the
effect of biomass applied from the specific hedge on crop growth
in the alley.

Senna spectabilis yielded the highest biomass produced of

all four treatments with the Desmodium/Indigofera treatment being
next. The Desmodium/Vetiveria treatment was third in total
biomass production while the Vetiveria double hedge was last in
terms of sheer biomass produced. Yields of four croppings of corn
from the alleyways are listed in Table 5.

Table 5. Corn yield response to differing vegetative barriers in

SALT; Four croppings at MBRLC from 1994 to 1995.

Dry shell
Double hedge type weight(kg) Ton/ha

Nitrogen fixing trees 6.6 2.63 a


Nitrogen fixing tree + 5.8 2.35 b

Grass strip

Grass strips 5.6 2.23 b, c

(Vetiveria zizanoides)

Non-nitrogen fixing trees 5.0 2.12 c

*Significant difference is determined using the one-tailed Z-test
for alpha = 0.05

Using a one-tailed “Z” test, the effect of the vegetative

barrier on corn production was demonstrated to be significantly
greater in the NF hedge compared with any of the other hedgerow
species combinations used in the trial. There was no significant
difference between the effects of the NFT/grass hedge and those
of the solid grass hedge on corn production. There was also no
significant difference between the effects of the grass hedge and
those of the non-NFT hedge.

In spite of the fact that the non-NFT species S. spectabilis

was found to be the largest biomass producer, in this trial it
was shown to be a poor quality mulch for corn production. In both
hedge combinations utilizing NFT species, the effect on corn
production was significantly greater than that of S. spectabilis.
This suggests that although biomass quantity is important,
nitrogen fixing capabilities are equally if not of greater
importance when considering hedgerow species.

Additional trials using other hedgerow species and crops are
needed before general conclusions could be made. However, the
data from this trial do sugges that careful selection of hedgerow
species is an important factor for good crop production. And from
tests and on-farm experience here at the MBRLC, it has been found
to be important that these hedgerow species be nitrogen-fixing.
It has been our observation that some research conducted in the
past on alley cropping systems by other researchers might have
reached different conclusions had good NF species been used for
hedgerows in their trials.

LESSON 3 - Management practices of NFT/S hedges affect biomass yields and thus crop

From years of tests and field experience, the MBRLC has

found that a crucial factor in successful NF agroforestry systems
such as SALT is the proper management of the NFT/S used for the
vegetative barrier. Trimming height, frequency of trimming,
spacing of the hedgerows, maintaining hedgerow health, etc., all
contribute to the successful, sustainable SALT system.

Step number ten in the SALT manual is “Maintain your green

terraces,” meaning the vegetative barrier of NFT/S. In expanding
this idea, the MBRLC requirements for management of good “green
terraces” are as follows:

a. Use of nitrogen fixing (NF) species (such as those

already mentioned).
b. Thickly planted double hedgerows (not single and not
triple rows). These double hedges should be spaced 50
centimeters apart along the contour. The spacing of
individual NFT/S species within each of hedgerows is
“as thick as possible.” The MBRLC general rule of
thumb for in-row spacing is one plant every
c. Contour hedges spaced three to five meters apart
(center of double hedge to center of double hedge)
depending upon the steepness of the slope.
d. Hedgerows maintained from 50 to 100 centimeters high.
Trimming of hedges should not be lower than “knee
high” because constant low trimming may cause dieback
in a number of NF species used for vegetative barriers
in SALT.
e. Timely replanting of skips and missing hills within
the hedgerow.
f. Building of the terracing ability of the hedgerow by
placing rocks, branches, etc., between the double

In regard to the practice
of trimming the hedges (item “d”
above), tests and farmers’
experience have shown that
trimming height and frequency of
trimming the NF vegetative
barriers affect the
survivability and biomass
production of the hedgerows. All
of the major NFT/S species
promoted by the MBRLC for use in
hedgerow and forage systems are
able to withstand heavy prunings of up to 12 times per year (once
per month). However, in field situations where indiscriminate
browsing may constantly occur from roaming animals, survivability
under this heavy pruning and grazing may be reduced.
Consequently, farmers who choose to trim their hedges “to the
ground” for reduced shading effect may find their vegetative
barriers dying back because of lack of sufficient reserve in the
plant for coppicing.

A test on the effects of hedgerow trimming height on biomass

production was conducted at the MBRLC from 1992 to present.
Double hedges of Flemingia macrophylla and Desmodium rensonii
were planted and then given different treatments in terms of
cutting height. Each species was trimmed at a 1.0 m “waist high”
trim, 0.5 m “knee high” trim and ground height. The treatments
were triplicated for each species and the results are as follows:

Table 6. Hedgerow Biomass Test: The effects of cutting heights on
Flemingia and rensonii - May 8, 1992 to Dec. 8, 1995. Sample
taken from 2 meter linear double hedge of each species.

Flemingia Rensonii Average

Treatment (Kg) (Kg) (Kg)
Waist high trim (1 m) 1.39 1.78 1.59a

Knee high trim (0.5 m) 1.26 1.11 1.19b

Ground trim 0.47 0.62 0.55c

*Significant difference is determined using the one tailed Z-test

for alpha = 0.05

From the above data, the “waist high” trimming yields the
best biomass production from the hedgerow with the “knee high”
trimming second and the ground trimming a distant third. Thus the
recommendation of good hedgerow maintenance is to trim somewhere
between waist to knee high (100 to 50 cm). Any lower would cause
significant yield reductions in biomass and consequently crop
production. Higher trimming might cause excessive shading of the
crops in the alleyways.

In regard to hedgerow spacing (item “c” above), the MBRLC

recommends alley spacing between hedgerows at 3 to 5 m depending
upon slope. For seasonal cropping purposes, hedgerows should not
be placed any closer together than 3 meters. Note: Crops
requiring intensive cultivation should not be grown on extremely
steep slopes (greater than 40%). At these slope extremes, MBRLC
recommends permanent crop systems such as forages for animals
(SALT 2), forestry species (SALT 3), and/or fruit trees (SALT 4).

The spacing between hedges should be based upon vertical

drop. A standard rule of thumb is to allow no more than one meter
vertical drop between hedges. Vertical drop can be determined
with a leveling instrument or more easily using the “eye-hand”

In the eye-hand method, a person stands perpendicular to the

slope along a contour line which has already been located. Facing
uphill, he then holds his arms straight out in front of him,
forming a ninety-degree angle between his arms and body. He then
sights over the tips of his extended fingers into the ground
before him. This sighting will be the point to begin the next
contour hedgerow.

Even though the eye-hand method may place contour hedges

extremely far apart on flatter slopes, no hedgerows should be
spaced over 5 m. Wider hedgerow spacing, although adequate for

erosion control, dilutes the fertilization effect of the hedgerow
leaf matter because the trimmings must be evenly distributed over
a larger area.

In one test conducted at the MBRLC beginning in 1992, the

effects of svaryied hedgerow spacing was monitored. Plots were
replicated four times and each individual plot measured 10 by 20
meters. Five treatments of hedgerow spacing were tested: 6, 5, 4,
3 and 2 meter treatments per plot. Desmodium rensonii and
Calliandra calothyrsus were used for the double hedge. Corn (Zea
mais) was planted in the alleyways in such a way to give the same
population per proportionate area. Thus, the two-meter treatment
had one row of corn, while the three meter treatment had two rows
of corn, and so on. The only crop planted was corn and an
average of three crops per year were harvested.

From the results in Table 7, the five-meter spacing yielded

the highest per-hectare production. This may be an erroneous
conclusion due to the fact that three of the four 5 m treatments
were in favorable positions relative to the rest of the
treatments. They were randomly placed in the lower plots which
were more fertile.

However, the actual yields show no added advantage (under

local conditions) to spacing hedgerows 6 meters apart as opposed
to 3 meters. In other words, any spacing of hedges greater than 3
meters did not give a significant yield increase (if one ignores
the 5 meter aberration). This might indicate that closer hedgerow
spacings could possibly yield as much as wider ones. This would
increase soil holding capacity and fertility management resulting
in increased sustainability of the system.

Table 7. Hedgerow Spacing Test - Eleven croppings, 1992 to 1996.

Treatment Actual yield Productivity

Spacing Tons/ha Tons/ha
2m 2.69 a 5.41
3m 3.23 b 4.85
4m 3.22 b 4.31
5m 3.66 c 4.57
6m 3.17 b 3.81

*Significant difference is determined using the one tailed Z-test

for alpha = 0.05

A good indicator of the fertility added back into the system

from NF hedges is the productivity measurement above. Visibly,
the individual corn plants and fruit in the 2 meter treatment

consistently produce better than those in the 3 meter treatment,
which in turn are consistently better than in the 4 meter
treatment, etc. This productivity measurement is based on
observing the crops in the alleyways as compared on a per-unit
basis not just a per-hectare basis.

The numbers show that on a per-unit basis, the best “ear” of

corn is produced in the 2 meter treatment. This is due to the
high inputs of nitrogen-rich biomass from the closely spaced
hedges. Therefore the closer the spacing, the higher the amount
of biomass produced. Consequently, the greater the NF biomass
availability (to a certain point) the greater the production of
each individual plant.

LESSON 4 - The fertility of farming systems in the humid tropics greatly resides in the
above-ground biomass (standing plants plus ground cover mulch) of the system.

When the tropical rain forests are removed due to logging

and clearing, normally poor, nutrient-depleted, acid soils remain
to be farmed. If one were to remove the ground cover biomass of
most forested areas in the humid tropics and take a soil sample,
the results would likely show a need for heavy additions of soil
amendments to make the land farmable.

However, the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the face

of the earth are the tropical rain forests. Why then would the
soil underneath the vegetative cover register so poorly by
accepted measurable standards? One reason is that the fertility

of the tropical system resides largely in the biomass or “living
matter” of the ecosystem. Moreover, most of that biomass is found
aboveground and is not measurable using traditional techniques.
When the soil of a tropical rain forest is tested in the
laboratory, the aboveground portion where the storehouse of
nutrients resides is not represented.

High rainfall amounts, high humidty and high temperatures

among other factors contribute to a rapid decomposition rate of
biomass in the humid tropics. Moreover, these factors leading to
high decomposition rates also contribute to poor soil fertility
and rapid nutrient depletion in tropical farming systems. The
secret to farming in these systems seems to be the promotion and
maintenance of a high biomass input into the system serving as a
nutrient pool for production.

In a “total nutrient” test conducted at the MBRLC, an effort

was made to look at the total profile in SALT and Non-SALT
farming systems and see just where the storehouse of nutrients
resided. As noted in the 1985 to 1990 Test SALT side by side
comparison, when soil chemical properties were compared between
the two systems, little to no difference was observed. However,
the SALT system was yielding at a much higher rate than the Non-
SALT system, and the soil was soft with good drainage in SALT,
while hard and compact in the Non-SALT system.

Therefore, a test was set up in which the nutrients of the

standing corn, the ground mulch, the soil, and the hedgerows (in
SALT only) were measured and the data compiled to give a more
complete picture of the nutrient balance between the two systems.
The data are recorded as follows:

Table 8. Total kilograms of N, P, and K per hectare nutrient

analysis in a SALT vs. a Non-SALT system.

<SALT NPK kg/ha> <Non-SALT NPK kg/ha>

Particular N P K N P K
Standing corn 50.2 19.3 39.4 55.5 21.3 43.6
Ground mulch 10.3 6.0 1.8 5.4 2.8 1.2
Soil 9.2 10.9 1.3 8.8 14.3 1.7
Standing hedge 47.6 12.2 22.3 - - -
TOTALS (kg/ha) 117.3 48.4 64.8 69.7 38.4 46.5

The data show that the SALT and Non-SALT systems were
virtually the same in total nutrients when the standing corn
crops, ground mulch, and soil analysis nutrients were totaled.
However, the superiority of the total nutrients in the SALT
system becomes evident when the nutrients from the standing

hedges are added. This test was conducted after three years of
cropping with corn as the major crop. The yields of the SALT
system were greater than those of the Non-SALT (2.3 vs. 2.0 T/ha)
which also testifies to greater system fertility.

In a related test, the effects of different fertilizer

sources in tomato production were monitored. This test was used
to show the benefit of NF biomass as a fresh garden compost. NF
biomass alone was tested against a mixture of animal manure and
NF biomass, commercial fertilizer alone, and a control treatment
of no added fertilization.

The tomato fertilization treatments were:

A. Control; no additional fertilizer (organic or

B. NF plant biomass in a “basket compost”
C. NF plant biomass + animal manure in a “basket compost”
D. Commercial fertilizer (5 gm 16-20-0 and 5 gm 46-0-0 per
hill applied at planting)

The results in Table 9 show that the lowest tomato yield was
in the plots with no added fertilizer. There was a significant
increase in yield with any amount and type or fertilizer. The
commercial fertilizer plot gave the highest yield but was the
most costly. The animal manure plus NF biomass was second. The NF
biomass plot was third in terms of yield.

The data show that biomass from NF plants can increase the
yields of crops such as tomato. Since these plants are grown on
the farm, adding available biomass is an economical way to
provide fertility to crops. Moreover, manure additions to the NF
plant biomass can take yields up another level. Even though the
commercial fertilizer plots yielded the highest, the long-term
effects to the system as well as the high cost of purchasing
these inputs should be taken into consideration.

The data show the role of biomass in tropical agriculture

systems. The importance of utilizing NF biomass as an available
and inexpensive fertilizer in such systems is also evident.

Table 9. Yield of tomatoes (kg/plot) from 4 croppings utilizing

different sources of fertilizers.

Harvest kg/plot kg/plot kg/plot kg/plot Average
First 7.2 10.8 11.9 14.0 10.9
Second 4.4 5.6 6.8 7.9 6.2

Third 10.5 12.5 15.0 15.5 13.3
Fourth 12.5 17.5 18.8 21.3 17.5
Mean (kg/plot) 8.6 11.6 13.1 14.6

LESSON 5 - The mulching effect of the aboveground biomass does more for the physical
properties of the soil than for the chemical properties. These improved physical properties
provide greater ability capacity to utilize existing soil fertility, thus giving higher

Much emphasis has been put on the nutrients (primarily N)

brought into the farming system by the use of NFPs. However,
maintaining a good biomass mulch on the soil surface has another
effect that may be just as important.

Maintaining a good surface mulch in tropical agricultural

systems improves the physical properties of the soil, enabling
plants to better utilize soil nutrients. Though chemical
differences in the soil between a SALT and Non-SALT system are
hard to detect using standard measuring techniques, certain
physical properties are readily seen. The important physical
properties of the soil include water-holding capacity, drainage
and aeration. These properties are largely the result of the
decomposition of plant biomass on the soil surface.

As the plant biomass decomposes on the soil surface, it

provides for several physical functions of the top soil. These
functions are essential for producing and maintaining healthy
soil and healthy crops.

1) Humus. Humus is the brown to black upper layer of the

soil consisting of partially or wholly decayed
vegetable matter that provides nutrients for plants. It
is organic matter decayed to a relatively stable,
amorphous state. An important component of fertile
soil, it affects physical properties such as soil
structure, water retention, and erosion resistance.
Humus is formed when soil microorganisms decompose
animal and plant material into elements usable by
2) Soil Organic Matter.

3) Soil Moisture Conservation.

4) Soil Organisms.
5) Surface mulch.

These physical factors are important in making and

maintaining a healthy soil and a healthy soil is vial to

producing healthy crops. This also illustrates differences
between soil in a SALT and soil in a non-SALT agricultural
system. By virute of applying plant biomass from the hedges to
the soil as mulch, enhancement of these factors is facilitated
and therefore the production of healthy crops.

Roland Bunch (1997) says basically the same thing when he

cites five principles his organization has learned about farming
in the humid tropics:

1. Maximize organic matter production

2. Keep the soil covered
3. Use zero tillage
4. Maintain biological diversity
5. Feed plants through the mulch

He summarizes all he has learned in stating,

“In order for humid tropical agriculture to

be both highly productive and sustainable, it
must imitate the highly productive, millions-of-
years-old, humid tropical forest.”

At the MBRLC in a seven-year-old plot of SALT versus Non-

SALT, fertility indicators were compared. Percent ground cover,
earthworm castings per 30 cm square, infiltration rate, surface
flow, and percolation were compared. The results are in Table 10.

The percent ground cover was determined by randomly tossing

a 30-cm square and estimating percent ground cover based upon
visual references in standardized charts. Averages were taken for
10 tosses per each treatment.

Earthworm castings were collected from 30 cm square areas

using the same 30 cm square and random method. They were oven
dried and weighed.

Infiltration rate was based upon the rate of four liters of

water entering the soil. A rectangular vegetable oil can (40 cm
by 30 cm by 30 cm) with the bottom cut out was placed halfway
into the soil and then water added. The can was place into the
soil in a way to ensure minimal damage to the existing surface
cover in each trial.

The surface flow was determined by tipping a ten-gallon

container on each treatment and measuring the resulting length
of flow. The length of surface flow was measured from the point
of the 10 gallons of water leaving the container to where the
water finally was totally absorbed into the soil.

Percolation was measured by digging a 15 cm cubed hole in

the ground and then filling it with one liter of water. The time
needed for complete absorption of the water was recorded as the
percolation time in each treatment.

Table 10. Physical properties comparison of a SALT and Non-SALT

side by side plot.

Property SALT Non-SALT Ratio

Percent ground cover 92% 52% 2:1

Earthworm castings 58 g 4 g 14:1

Infiltration rate 4'45" 12'25" 1:3

Surface flow 1.7 m 5.7 m 1:3

Percolation 15'55" 25'54" 1:2

*Data measured in 1992, MBRLC.

In the areas tested, the SALT side gave continuously higher

crop yields than the Non-SALT side. However, a test of major soil
nutrients showed little or no difference between the two systems.
The biomass analysis yields part of the explanation for this
phenomenon. Another part was answered from the data which show
that NF agroforestry systems do more to change the physical
properties of the soil than the chemical properties. Since
yields are so much better in the NF agroforestry treatment and
since standard soil tests do not indicate this difference, it
brings into question the method of testing for soil fertility
applied in the tropics. Most standard soil tests are developed
for temperate climates. Perhaps a new method of testing system
fertility inclusive of the above-ground biomass could be designed
for tropical agricultural systems.

LESSON 6 - Total soil moisture is actually conserved in NF agroforestry systems as

opposed to most traditional systems due to the mulching, shading, and cooling effects of the
NF trees.

In late August 1991, a soil moisture test was implemented in

the Test SALT project. Gypsum blocks were buried at intervals in
the Non-SALT farming system area and also in the SALT system
area. Eleven initial blocks were buried a depth of 16 cm
simulatubg the uptake of moisture by the crops from the “plow
layer.” In May 1992, ten more blocks were added to the system to
help monitor moisture levels more effectively. Using a <NAME of
moisture meter company and type inserted here> moisture meter

which measures moisture in percent and bars, data was collected
until February 1994.

Results indicated that moisture patterns in both farming

systems are amazingly similar. However, the overall soil moisture
availability is higher in the SALT system than the Non-SALT
system. This measurement is a value given by the moisture meter
indicating the presence or lack of presence of water in the soil.
A reading below 65 signifies the wilting point of most crops and
indicates irrigation is needed.

A comparison of the
moisture use in a SALT system
shows that the average moisture
availability at a six-inch depth
is the same in the permanent
alleys and hedgerows and
slightly less where seasonal
crops are grown. Overall, each
of the SALT components tends
towards more available soil
moisture than the Non-SALT
farming system at a six-inch

Table 11. Moisture block readings - SALT vs. Non-SALT at an

average depth of six-inches, September 1991 to February 1994.
Non-SALT SALT Corn Perm. Hedge
Mean Mean Mean Mean Mean
Reading 79 81 80 81 81

The data indicate that trees within a cropping system do not

necessarily compete for moisture. Moreover, they may benefit one
another in the long run.

LESSON 7 - Agroforesters have often limited themselves to NF trees and overlooked other
nitrogen fixing plants in potential cropping schemes. Similarly, cover crop specialists have
often overlooked trees and their benefits.

In the MBRLC SALT experience, we have attempted to pay

attention to all types of NFPs. Not only are NF trees considered
an integral part of nitrogen fixing agroforestry systems, but NF
shrubs, crops, cover crops, and others are also incorporated. For
instance, in SALT 1, a heavy reliance is made upon the NF
hedgerow. However, use of NF crops is encouraged in rotation with
non-NF crops (Step 9 in the SALT methodology). Moreover, good NF
cover crops are incorporated into the permanent crop alleys to
provide additional soil erosion control and fertility management.

Due to specialization in agricultural/agroforestry fields,
the tendency is often to overlook plants which do not fit in with
a particular discipline. For instance, a forester might be
interested in Leucaena, Gliricidia, or Calliandra, but disregard
shrubs such as Desmodium and Flemingia. Since these species are
“shrubs” and not “trees,” they are not considered by many
forestry people. Conversely, cover crop specialists are
interested in plants such as Arachis, Mimosa, and Mucuna, and
ignore erect NF species.

A successful agroforester needs to look at how the whole

scheme of NF plants available and what plants best fit into local
farmers’ practices. From crop rotation with nitrogen fixing and
non-nitrogen fixing crops, to hedgerows of NFPs and reforestation
with NF trees, each system is in need of the NF potential.

LESSON 8 - Benefits of the NFP comes primarily from the dead and decaying biomass
applied directly to the cropping zone.

Much debate has arisen over the actual source of NFP

benefits. Do they come from the roots where the NF nodules occur?
Are they gained from a “leaching” of N around the plant itself
into the cropping areas? The MBRLC data show that the primary
benefits of NFPs come from the dead and decaying biomass
“harvested” from the NF plant and applied to the crop as mulch.

Growing a NF plant by itself does not insure soil

enrichment. A nitrogen fixing plant does fix nitrogen but is
rather “selfish.” In other words, the NFP makes only enough
nitrogen for its own use and not for others. However, depending
upon management practices, the NFP can be coerced to “give” other
plants the nitrogen it produces.

This is demonstrated from the results of a test called

“Nitrogen Test” conducted at the MBRLC. The test consisted of 23
croppings of corn covering a period from 1982 to 1993. The test
location was an established SALT project on a 30% slope, and an
average of two crops of corn per year were grown. One plot
received all of the hedgerow prunings of Leucaena and Flemingia
while the other plot received none of the hedgerow prunings;
those were removed and added to another plot. Both treatments
were grown within the framework of an NF agroforestry system, but
the cuttings of the NF species were applied only to the crops in
one treatment. The results are as follows:

Table 12. Comparison of corn yields grown in SALT - Hedgerow

cuttings added versus hedgerow cuttings removed. Twenty-three
croppings from 1982 to 1993.

Plot A Plot B
Hedges Removed Hedges Added
Ann. Yield (T/ha) 0.87 a 2.02 b

*Z test at alpha = 0.05

The data show that corn growing in close proximity to NF

hedgerows does not necessarily reap the NF benefits of those
hedges through leaching or contact with the nodules. On the
contrary, an adjoining plot where the NF hedge trimmings are
added as a nitrogen-rich mulch shows excellent yield response to
the biomass. An almost threefold increase in yield is recognized
by the addition of the NF mulch as opposed to dependence on root
nodulation only.

This fact is very important for those who promote the use of
the NF vegetative barriers as animal feed. Even though these
species do make good animal feed, a separate area devoted
exclusively to forage production should be maintained and its
fertility replenished through the spreading of animal manures in
the forage area.

This principle has also been tested using NF cover crops in

corn production systems. In systems using Desmodium heterophyllum
and Arachis pintoi, treatments where the live mulch has been
killed back to cause the biomass to “drop” its nitrogen are the
highest yielding. In each case where a live is used for corn
production, significant yield reduction is observed.

Table 13. Effects on corn production using live mulching versus

“killed” mulch of close-growing cover crops Arachis pintoi and
Desmodium heterophyllum.

<--- Corn yield in tons/ha --->

Treatment Killed mulch Live mulch
D. heterophyllum 3.1 0.9

A. pintoi 2.6 0.6

LESSON 9 - In NF agroforestry farming systems, phosphorous can quickly replace

nitrogen as the limiting factor in sustainable production, especially in acidic soils.

One negative observation about NF agroforestry systems in

the experience of the MBRLC is in relation to the nutrient
phosphorous. Medium amounts of phosphorous are needed by most
crops to ensure good growth and fruiting. In the soil,
phosphorous is highly bound to soil particles and can become
“fixed,” or not available to cropping systems. In acid soils this
fixation becomes even more severe to the point that phosphorous
sometimes becomes the major limiting factor.

Phosphorous is not a highly mobile nutrient due to the high

fixation rate to soil particles. Efforts to add mineral
phosphates to the soil are wasted unless they are added fairly
close to plant rooting zones for ready uptake. Also, phosphorous
is naturally available in the soil only through weathering of
existing minerals.

In intensive croppings of corn in SALT systems, phosphorous

deficiencies have appeared. These systems involved two to three
crops of corn per year. Corn is a heavy user of phosphorous, so
most soils would show phosphorous depletion under this kind of
cropping scheme.

One test in particular, called “Fertility Test,” was

designed to monitor the problem of depleting phosphorous
reserves. Three replications of twelve different fertilizer
treatments were applied. The test was run for seven croppings of
corn, and the alleys chosen for the test had been planted to corn
fairly consistently for ten years.

The fertilizer application per treatment, measured in kg/ha

applied per plot, was as follows:


T1 0 0 0
T2 90 60 0
T3 45 30 30
T4 90 0 0
T5 45 0 0
T6 0 60 0
T7 0 30 0
T8 0 0 60
T9 0 0 30
T10 45 30 0
T11 0 30 30
T12 45 0 30

In the graph below, the best corn production response was

from the applications which had at least a combination of
nitrogen and phosphorous (Treatments 2, 3 and 10). However, the
nitrogen additions alone were found to be no better than
phosphorous additions (Treatments 4/5 vs. 6/7). This may indicate
that under low-input systems such as SALT type NF agroforestry
systems, additional inputs of commercially produced fertilizers
might be more wisely focused on phosphorous applications instead
of nitrogen.

The biomass from the hedgerow supplies the system with a

good deal of nitrogen. Since these systems are moderate
producers, the addition of small amounts of nitrogen in the form
of commercial fertilizers may not give good returns economically.
Less expensive phosphate fertilizers coupled with nitrogen-rich
biomass may give the better economic yield.

A final observation concerns the insignificant response to

added potassium (Treatments 8 and 9). This is attributed to the
fact that soils in the MBRLC area are already moderately high in
potassium without any additional inputs.

Results of SALT Fertility Test

Yield (Tons/ha)

t1 t3 t5 t7 t9 t11
Treatment Number

LESSON 10 - The traditional view that NF alley cropping systems are more laborious than
traditional farming systems is largely a myth. A different type of labor is required, but
possibly in lesser amounts.

One of the perceived constraints by many to using NF alley

cropping systems such as SALT is the belief that these systems
tend to be more laborious than traditional farming systems.
However, according to the experiences of the MBRLC and the SALT
technologies, the opposite might be true.

In the Test-SALT research conducted from 1985 to 1990, labor

requirements between the two systems were monitored and recorded.
This test was a side by side comparison of the SALT farming
system (utilizing NF contour hedgerows) and a traditional (to the
local area) Non-SALT farming system.

Although both SALT (left) and Non-SALT (right) strips require weeding, the Non-SALT area is greater, and
weeds are not suppressed by mulch from the

hedgerows. Therefore, the Non-SALT area requires more weeding labor.

Until this test, the MBRLC staff thought that SALT farming
would be more laborious. The hedgerows were perceived to be the
extra labor factor due to the need for locating, planting, and
maintaining (which includes pruning). However, Table 14 shows
that although more labor was involved in the first year of the
project, less labor was involved in the succeeding four years.
The relatively low labor requirements in SALT from 1986 to 1989
can be explained by the smaller area under annual crops and the
low labor intensity in land under perennial crops. Also, even
though hedgerow pruning labor is involved in the SALT system, the
benefit of labor saving in mulching and weed control more than
offsets the “extra” hedgerow labor.

Table 14. Comparison of labor inputs. SALT vs. Non-SALT, 1985 to
1990 measured in man days/hectare/year.

SALT Labor Non-SALT Labor Difference

Year MD/Ha/Yr MD/Ha/Yr (SALT-Non-SALT)
1985 354 337 +17 (-5%)
1986 237 290 -53 (18%)
1987 152 206 -54 (26%)
1988 172 211 -39 (19%)
1989 270 290 -20 (7%)
1990 316 208 +108 (-52%)

Average 250 257 Total = -41 MD/ha/yr

Average = 2.7% lower

In 1990 the labor requirement in SALT became higher than in

Non-SALT due to the high production of permanent crops (primarily
citrus and coffee). Thus labor in SALT tends to increase with
time until the permanent crops attain maturity and reach maximum
production. The increase in labor in the SALT treatment is
primarily harvest labor of permanent crops. In both treatments,
the largest percentage of labor was from weeding of annual crops,
primarily corn. On the average, annual labor input for SALT was
slightly lower than that of the farm treatment for the six-year

In a separate study of a new area planted to a similar side

by side test, labor was measured and recorded as labor type per
system. This area, called New Test SALT, is currently being
monitored. The results from the first year and one-half of labor
comparison between a SALT and Non-SALT system are found in Table

The data are expressed in actual hours worked per 10 x 35

meter plot. Three plots of the SALT system and three plots of the
Non-SALT system are alternately located side by side on a slope
of about 16%. Each plot is exactly like the others in terms of
seasonal and permanent crops with the exception of a double
contour hedgerow of NF species located every three to four meters
apart in the SALT treatments.

Table 15. Comparison of labor required by activity - New Test

SALT, 20 months of recording.
<----- Average per plot ----->
Activity Hours spent Hours spent
Land preparation 191.3 191.3
Establishing contours 10.0 -

Hedgerow pruning 18.0 -
Land prep./seasonal crops 5.1 4.8
Planting seasonal crops 14.0 18.4
Weeding seasonal crops 75.5 122.8
Harvesting seasonal crops 21.0 30.8
Planting of permanent crops 6.0 6.1
Weeding of permanent crops 1.7 -
Totals 342.6 374.2

The data show for the first 20 months of the test, less
labor was required in the SALT system than in the Non-SALT
system. SALT requires “extra” hedgerow labor, but the overall
labor is less because of decreased cropping area to weed and
decreased weed growth due to mulching. Even though the SALT
treatment has less area for seasonal crop (corn) production, it
has consistently outyielded the Non-SALT treatment on a per-
hectare basis (2.3 tons/ha versus 2.1 tons/ha over five

This supports the idea that hedgerows, when used properly,

can help reduce labor requirements instead of increasing them.
Much is written about labor intensity establishing and pruning
the hedges. However, the above data show that this “extra” labor
is compensated for by a reduced need for weeding.

Data from a separate test further prove this point. In this

test, actual labor required to trim hedges was compared to that
needed to weed the cropping area of corn mulched by the prunings.

This test was conducted in the hedgerow spacing test (described
earlier) with a varying hedgerow spacing of two, three, four,
five, and six meters (Table 16).

Table 16. Hedgerow Spacing Test - Labor comparisons of hedgerow

pruning and alley weeding on a per-hectare basis for one typical
cropping of corn.

Hedge Weeding Total

Treatment Labor Labor Labor
Spacing (MD) (MD) (MD)
2m 14.1 11.0 25.1
3m 10.9 20.4 31.3
4m 7.7 25.0 32.7
5m 6.7 29.0 35.7
6m 5.6 32.2 37.8

*Hedge labor is cased upon four actual measured trimmings.

**Weeding labor is measured for every weeding in the test, which
averages two times per cropping.

The above data confirm that in a hedgerow/alley cropping

system such as SALT, the hedges when properly used for mulching,
can actually reduce labor requirements in a system. From the
table, the more hedges to prune (2 m treatment), the less weeding
required. Therefore, with more hedges, there is less overall
labor when only comparing these two labor components in the
system. Conversely, with wider or fewer hedges (6 m spacings)
less hedge labor is required but total labor per hectare is
greater. However, wide hedgerow spacings do not supply
sufficient mulch to control weed growth.

In short, the hedgerow can lead to less overall labor in the

SALT system as opposed to a Non-SALT system. This labor reduction
is mainly brought about by the mulching factor of the NF
vegetative barriers. Pruning is a different type of labor,
considered an “easier” labor than weeding of seasonal crops.

LESSON 11 - Root invasion into cropping alleys of NF agroforestry systems such as SALT
is not as much a serious problem as some literature may indicate.

The literature on NF hedgerow cropping systems such as the

SALT system often comments on potential competition from hedgerow
roots invading the alleyways where the crops grow. Some even go
so far as to recommend “root pruning” to reduce NFT/S and crop
competition for nutrients and moisture.

Results at the MBRLC have shown that root competition in

SALT systems is minimal. Root studies have shown that under
normal conditions, the roots of the hedges do invade the
alleyways and even meet in the middle of those alleys.

Further studies showed that about 75% of the root biomass of

the hedgerow was found within the top 15 centimeters of the soil,
generally considered the rooting zone for crops. However, none of
the major species produced large roots which interfered with
cropping practices.

Perhaps one reason for this is the frequent prunings

conducted in SALT. Hedge pruning is recommended when the hedge
reaches a height of about one meter from the initial pruning. In
the MBRLC context, this allows for an average of eight prunings
and thus eight applications of nitrogen rich biomass to the
system per year.

This heavy schedule of pruning keeps the basal stems of the

NFPs from getting large and also reduces the risk of shading out
alley crops. Moreover, this frequent top pruning also prevents
the formation of large lateral roots. As the branches are lopped,
a percentage of the roots die back due to shock in the plant. The
majority of the roots that die back are the ones farthest from
the main plant, which are the ones in the alleyway. This dieback
of roots in the alleyway also gives an extra burst of nitrogen
release, as many of the nodules for the NFP are on these “feeder”

Furthermore, if roots which enter the cropping alleyways

provide competition, the tests have shown more improved crop
yields with hedges than without. And if competition from ivading
roots exists, higher yields due to the presence of hedgerows more
than offset losses from competition.

LESSON 12 - Crop production and consequently farm income are enhanced by NF

agroforestry systems.

SALT systems which make use of NF fixing hedges and plants

have consistently shown higher and more sustainable production,
especially when compared to local farming practices. The nitrogen
fixing capacity of the system yields itself to good crop
production and increased farm income. This combination makes NF
agroforestry systems attractive as viable farming systems in the
humid tropics.

In the area surrounding the MBRLC, average annual corn

yields range from 500 to 1,000 kg/ha under local systems and
conditions. Introduction of NF hedges have enabled farmers to
increase this yield to at least 2,000 kg/ha within the first two
to three years of implementation. Moreover, in a SALT 2 system

with the additional use of animal manures, corn yields have
reached 4,000 kg/ha. In terms of income, each of the SALT
agroforestry systems achieves good results. Below is a general
summary of the comparisons of the SALT systems and their

Table 17. A general comparison of production benefits of local

farming practices and the NF SALT systems in the southern
Philippines. Data gathered from tests and surveys.

Farming Average Average

System Corn yield T/ha Annual Income P/ha

Traditional systems 0.5-1.0 6,000

SALT 1 2.0-2.5 14,400

(NF hedgerow system)

SALT 2 3.0-4.0 32,000

(Animal system +
NF species/hedges)

(Small scale reforestation 2.0-2.5 20,000
scheme with NF species)

(Fruit production
with NF hedges)

LESSON 13 - One of the best-hidden secrets about NF agroforestry

species is their value as quality animal feeds.

Despite the data and available literature, the full value of

NF species is still largely overlooked. Many farmers and
technicians verbally acknowledge the value of NFPs as forages
when asked or prodded, but relatively little thought is given to
them when forage systems are implemented for domesticated

Many NF species are
excellent animal feeds.
Desmodium rensonii has been
called “the alfalfa of the
tropics” because of the 23%
crude protein content in the
leaf matter. D. rensonii
readily seeds and can be fed
directly to most ruminants and
non-ruminants. Years of feeding
pure rensonii to goats at the
MBRLC testify to its excellent
forage potential. Rensonii can be fed solely to rabbits with
little side effects and is good for cattle, fish, swine, sheep,
and guinea pig. Some bloating has been observed in sheep fed
purely rensonii, but that problem is contained by mixing in a
little grass.

Gliricidia sepium may be the most overlooked forage that

grows readily throughout Asia. Some literature claims that
wilting is necessary before feeding to livestock. However, fresh
cuttings are usually taken out of your hand when entering the
MBRLC goat barns. Gliricidia is noted to be a good feed for
cattle, goats, and sheep. No ill effects on goats have been
noticed, but some bloating has been observed in sheep if fed
exclusively Gliricidia for long periods of time.

Ipil-ipil or Leucaena leucocephala has recently been

discarded as a forage and multi-purpose NFP due to the jumping
plant lice invasion. Overall, Leucaena may be one of the best NFP
sources of feed, whether fed fresh used as leaf meal. Experience
has shown that after livestock become accustomed to eating
Leucaena, heavy feedings of the plant can be given. In terms of
milk production in goats, Leucaena is one of the best species to
give (Laquihon, et. al., 1996).

Flemingia macrophylla has also been used extensively by the

MBRLC as an animal feed. Although not as palatable and
digestible as some of the species mentioned earlier, Flemingia is
used as a “filler” feed. However, goats fed exclusively with
Flemingia are noted for poor growth.

Indigofera tyesmani (anil), a fairly new species at the

MBRLC, has been tested initially for goat feed. Initial results
have shown great promise for this plant as an animal forage. In
one simple test, a small herd of crossbred goats (Nubian x
native) were raised a whole year on nothing but water and
Indigofera. Two of the does in the test were bred and kidded
during the test with no adverse affects to the pregnancy and

The Calliandras are also excellent forages. These species
are reported high in tannin, which can cause problems in animals
such as hair loss, poor weight gain and poor performance. Little
effects of this nature have been observed at MBRLC feeding

One observation should be made about how the NFPs have been
used in the MBRLC animal systems. Primarily, they have been used
in cut-and-carry systems, not free grazing. Most SALT 2 type
systems at the MBRLC are with penned animals, and the forage is
cut twice daily and brought to them. This controls what and how
much the animal unit consumes. If these species are grazed
heavily, they possibly would not survive.

More about this topic is covered in Appendix 1 which relates

the MBRLC experience with currently used NF forages.

LESSON 14 - Hedgerows for erosion control and mulch production are not necessarily
havens for unwanted pests and may actually help reduce certain pests by providing
diversity in the system.

Much ado has been made in literature about the problem of

contour hedgerow farming systems such as SALT harboring unwanted
pests. Many have cited the “possible” infestation of cropping
areas by pests being harbored in the vegetative barrier. While a
possibility, this has not been observed at the MBRLC.

One major pest in SALT over the years has been field mice
and/or rats. They live in the hedgerows and other parts of the
farm and damage newly planted crops. However, most Non-SALT
farmers in the area have the same problem even without contoured
vegetative barriers, as in the SALT system.

In terms of pest management, very few if any commercial

pesticides are used in SALT. This is due to the fact that 1) they
are costly to the farmer and 2) spraying of insecticides also
kills beneficial insects. Therefore, a balance is sought in which
some crop damage due to disease and pests is allowed and natural
predators are encouraged to help control the problem. In extreme
cases of infestation, timely applications of appropriate
chemicals in appropriate amounts can be made. However, most SALT
tests and projects of the MBRLC are not sprayed unless absolutely

While true that the NF hedges may harbor fungi, bacteria,

insects, and rodents, which may be detrimental to the crops in
the alleys, these same barriers offer diversity which may help
reduce other pest problems. For example, hedges can act as
barriers to pest migration so that instead of destroying a whole

field, the “stripping” effect breaks up the crop, localizing and
minimizing pest problems. Moreover, while serving as a potential
host to unwanted organisms, hedges also serve as a host to
beneficial ones. Further research and documentation is needed in
this area.


Up to this point, mostly positive lessons have been pointed
out about NF agroforestry systems. However, some questions may
be raised along with some unexplored ideas. Since this book has
approached the topic from mainly a biophysical perspective, the
following constraints will also be discussed in this manner.
Although we acknowledge other restraints, such as the
socioeconomic, they will not be considered here.

First of all, a great need remains for further testing of

these systems in other climates, ecosystems, etc. The data and
lessons learned within this book are limited largely to the
experiences of the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center. Even
though the staff of MBRLC has traveled extensively in tropical
Asia and seen most of these same results, the NF agroforestry
case would be made stronger if more research and experience from
other organizations and areas were shared. Experience from dry
zones, high altitude zones, etc., would be very valuable.

Second is the problem of acid soils and non-nodulation of

proven nitrogen fixing species. The more acidic the soil, the
lower the chance of nodulation. Even though the pH of the soil
around the MBRLC is mildly acidic (5.0 to 5.5), it is still
within the range of nodulation ability for most species.

Other in Asia have claimed to have problems with SALT due to

the acidic soils of their particular area. This may be a true
observation. Since this is a strong possibility for limiting NF
agroforestry systems, more research is needed in getting NF
species to nodulate in these types of soils as well as continued
searching for local NF species that nodulate well under such

A third problem is the apparent lack of benefit of the

nitrogen rich mulch on NF crops within the alleyways of SALT type
systems. Most MBRLC tests are carried out on corn since this is
the food staple crop in the area of the Center. However, we have
observed that short growing crops such as vegetables and NF crops
such as beans do not seem to benefit from the system as readily
as corn. This may be due to shading effects on the lower growing
crops and the apparent fact that NF crops such as beans do not
benefit from the extra nitrogen given by the NF mulch. Further
tests and research need to be conducted in these areas also.

In conclusion, this book has been about promoting nitrogen
fixing agroforestry farming systems based largely upon two
decades of experience at the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center.
However, the MBRLC also promotes and widely uses non-nitrogen
fixing species and crops and integrates them fully into all of
the SALT farming systems. Thus the MBRLC is not limited to
exclusively using NFPs for reforestation, forage systems,
erosion control, etc. Many trees and plants which are non-
nitrogen fixing are wonderfully effective for these uses.
However, NFPs have always been the base for building of
sustainable systems, and that is the encouragement of this book.

Conservation and sustainability in farming systems largely

depend upon two things: preservation plus production. A system
must be productive enough to keep the farmer from abandoning.
However, production must be maintained and enhanced in a way that
is simple, affordable, and preserves the resources upon which
this production is based. In short, a system that either falls
short of the farmers’ needed production or a system that produces
well but erodes the resource base is non-sustainable.

The law which states that inputs need to be greater than or

equal to outputs in a farming system calls to mind that
unnecessary outputs, such as soil erosion and burning of organic
matter, need to be minimized while affordable and sustainable
sources of inputs need to be sought and added.

One of the major sources of unnecessary nutrient outputs

from systems is soil erosion. Soil erosion control needs barrier
and cover consideration. A barrier along the contour is needed
to reduce the surface flow of water, which is the carrier of
loosened soil particles. A cover on the soil surface is needed
to absorb the energy of the rain’s impact, which is the initiator
of the erosion process. This book expounds NFPs as the best
barrier and cover combination because of the added benefit of
nitrogen fixation.

Moreover, NFPs are valuable to all types of farming systems.

As animal feeds, they are an excellent source of protein compared
to grasses and non-nitrogen fixers. In reforestation schemes
they are excellent recovery species on degraded lands by acting
as their own “fertilizer factories,” making useful nitrogen out
of atmospheric nitrogen. In crop and fruit production systems,
NFPs can help hold the soil as contour hedges during
establishment and provide an inexpensive source of nitrogen rich
organic biomass mulch to be applied to the base of the crops and
fruit trees.

Thus, the title of this book, SALT: Nitrogen Fixing

Agroforestry for Sustainable Soil and Water Conservation, will
serve as the parting thought. We should be in tune to the
potential of nitrogen fixing agroforestry. We should try to view
farming systems through a nitrogen fixing paradigm which
acknowledges and makes use of this wonder of nature: the nitrogen
fixing plant. It’s time to “catch the spirit” of NF

For more information about nitrogen fixing agroforestry and

in particular the Sloping Agricultural Land Technologies, contact
or visit the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center.

Project address: Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur

Mailing address: P.O. Box 80322

8000 Davao City

We will be glad to share our experiences and ideas with you and
are eager to hear your experiences.

Bunch, R. (1997) ECHO Development Notes, Issue 58, November.

International Institute of Rural Reconstruction. (1989).

Agroforestry technology information kit. IIRR, Silang, Cavite.

Laquihon, W.A., D.S. Laquihon, , and J.S. Laquihon. (1996)

Performance of Dairy Goats fed with Concentrate and Forage
Legumes in Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) Farm.
Proceedings of the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC),
Taiwan, Department of Agriculture (DA), Philippines, and Asian
Rural Life Development Foundation (ARLDF) Philippines, sponsored
seminar/workshop on Crop-Livestock Integration in Asian Sloping
Lands held in Davao City, Philippines o September 3-5, 1996. 25

Lundgren, B. (1982). Introduction [Editorial]. Agroforestry

Systems 1, 3-6. As cited in Young, “Agroforestry for Soil

MacDicken, K.G. (1994). Selection and management of nitrogen

fixing trees. Winrock International, USA, and Food and
Agriculture Organization, Bangkok, Thailand.

MBRLC Editorial Staff, ... MBRLC, Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del

Sur. Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center. For the following

How To Farm Your Hilly Land Without Losing Your Soil:

Sloping Agricultural Land Technology, SALT 1. 1991
Edition. 24 pp. How To Series No. 1

How To Make FAITH (Food Always In The Home) Garden In

Your Homeyard. 1987 Edition. 21 pp. How To Series
No. 2

How To Farm Better. 1989 Edition. How To Series No. 3

How To Raise Goats. 1991 Edition. 67 pp. How To Series

No. 4

How To Raise Ducks for Food and Profit. 1988 Edition.

44 pp. How To Series No. 5

Simple Agro-Livestock Technology (SALT 2)

Sustainable Agroforest Land Technology (SALT 3)

Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) Test

Results. Testing and Development Divison. 31 pp.

NFT Highlights: A publication of the Nitrogen Fixing Tree
Association 1010 Holomua Road, Paia, Hawaii 96779-6744, USA.

Partap, T. and Watson, H.R. (1994). Sloping Agricultural Land

Technology (SALT): A regenerative option for sustainable mountain
farming. ICIMOD Occasional Paper No.23. Kathmandu, Nepal:
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.

Watson, H.R. and Laquihon, W.A. 1985. Sloping Agricultural Land

Technology (SALT): A Social Forestry Model in the Philippines.
Found in: Rao, Y.S., Hoskins, M.W., Vergara, N.T., Castro, C.P.,
ed. Community Forestry: Lessons from Case Studies in Asai and the
Pacific Region. Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA)
of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United
Nations, Bangkok and Environment and Policy Institute, East-West
Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, 21-44.

Young, A. (1989). Agroforestry for soil conservation. UK: CAB


Young, A. (1997). Agroforestry for Soil Management, 2nd Edition.

UK: CAB International, 320 pgs.

Appendix 1 - Commonly Used NF Plants in the Southern Philippines.

(Some of the information in the following database was obtained from the sources listed below.)

Awang, K. and Taylor, D.A., eds. (1993). Acacias for rural, industrial, and environmental development. Proceedings of the secdon
meeting of the Consultative Group for Research and Development of Acacias (COGREDA), held in Udorn Thani,
Thailand, February 15-18, 1993. Bangkok, Thailand: Winrock International and FAO. 258+ v pp.

Bailey, L.H. (1929-1930). The standard cyclopedia of horticulture. The Macmillan Company, New York.

Community forestry: some aspects. (1983). Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA), Regional Forestry Economist, FAO of
the UN, Bangkok, Thailand.

Evans, D.O. and Szott, L.T. (1995). Nitrogen fixing trees for acid soils. Nitrogen Fixing Tree Research Reports (Special Issue).
Winrock International and NFTA, Morrilton, Arkansas, USA.

Evans, J. (1992). Plantation forestry in the tropics, Second Edition. Oxford University Press, Great Britain.

Hensleigh, T.E., and Holaway, B.K., eds. (1988) Agroforestry species for the Philippines. U.S. Peace Corps, Washington, D.C.

Horne, P.M., MacLeod, D.A., and Scott, J.M., eds. Forages on red soils in China: proceedings of a workshop. Lengshuitan, Hunan
Province, PRC. 22-25 April 1991. ACIAR Proceedings No. 38, 142 p.

Hubbell, D.S.(1965). Tropical agriculture an abridged field guide. Published by World Farming-Agricultura de las Americas-Farm
Science Library. Copyright by Howard W. Sams International Corporation. Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

International Institute of Rural Reconstruction. (1989). Agroforestry technology information kit. IIRR, Silang, Cavite.

Kumar, Sri. S.V., I.F.S. and Bhanja, Sri. M., I.F.S. (1992). Forestry seed manual of Andhra Pradesh. Research and Development
Circle, Andhra Pradesh Forest Department, Hyderabad.

MacDicken, K.G. (1988). Nitrogen fixing trees for wastelands. Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA), Food and Agriculture
Organization of the UN, Bangkok, Thailand.

McIlroy. (1972). An introduction to tropical grassland husbandry, Second Edition. Oxford University Press.

National Research Council. (1984). Leucaena: promising forage and tree crop for the tropics. Second Edition. National Academy
Press, Washington, D.C.

National Research Council. (1983). Calliandra: a versatile small tree for the humid tropics. National Academy Press, Washington,

NFTA. (1987). Proceedings of a workshop on biological and genetic control strategies for the leucaena psyllid. A special edition of
“Leucaena Research Reports.” Volume 7(2). Honolulu, HI.

Nitrogen fixing trees - a training guide. (1987). RAPA, FAO of the UN, Bangkok, Thailand.

Ochse, J.J., Soule, M.J., Jr., Dijkman, M.J., and Wehlburg, C. (1961). Tropical and subtropical agriculture, Vol. 1. The Macmillan
Company, New York.

Patnaik, L.K., Egneus, H., and Das, S.S., eds. (1989). Social forestry handbook for Orissa. Vol 2 (Annexes). Bhubaneshwar.

Resource book on sustainable agriculture for the uplands. (1990). MBRLC, Mag-uugmad Foundation, Inc./World Neighbors, IIRR.

Turnbull, J.W. (1986). Multipurpose Australian trees and shrubs: lesser-known species for fuelwood and agroforestry. ACIAR
Monograph No. 1, 316 p. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, GPO Box 1571, Canberra, A.C.T.

Tropical legumes: resources for the future. Report of the Ad Hoc Panel of the Advisory Committee on Technology Inbnovation,
Board on Science and Technology for International Development, Commission on International Relations, National Research
Council. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. 1979.

Appendix 2 - Leguminous and Nitrogen Fixing Species Tested and Used by MBRLC.
Acacia angustissima Leucaena lanceolata (k393)
Acacia auriculiformis Leucaena leucocephalla
Acacia confusa Leucaena leucocephalla hybrid kx1
Acacia mangium Leucaena leucocephalla (k584)
Aeschynomene villosa Leucaena macrophylla
Aeschynomene americana Leucaena pallida (k376)
Albizia saman (formerly Samania) Leucaena pallida (k817)
Albizia chinensis Leucaena pulverulenta
Albizia lebbeck Leucaena retusa
Albizia procera Leucaena shannonii
Alnus nepalensis Parkia roxburghii
Arachis pintoi Peleostigma malabaricum
Arhidendron scutiferum Pettrophorum pterocarpum
Caesalpinia sappan Phacelya
Calliandra calothyrsus Saga adennanthera
Calliandra haematocephalla Sambacus nigra
Calliandra tetragona Sesbania aculeata
Cassia fistula Sesbania formosa
Cassia nodusa Sesbania grandiflora
Cassia pilusa Sesbania sesban (812)
Cassia ratondafolia Stylosantes guianensis
Cassia siamea Stylosantes lamata
Cassia spectabilis Stylosantes scabra
Centrosema acutifolium Tephrosia candida
Clitoria ternatea Tephrosia vosella
Crotalaria juncae
Dalberia spruciana
Dendrolobium umbellatum
Desmanthus virgatus
Desmodium heterocarpon
Desmodium heterophyllum
Desmodium intortum
Desmodium ovalifolium
Desmodium prenglie
Desmodium salicifolium
Enterolobium cyclocarpum
Erythrina poepiggiana
Flemingia macrophylla
Flemingia (local-Philippines)
Flemingia (local-Thailand)
Gliricidia sepium
Indigofera anil (tyesmani)
Leucaena diversifolia
Leucaena hybrid kx2 composite
Leucaena hybrid kx3 composite
Leucaena kx3a mix composite

Appendix 3 - MBRLC Rainfall Records, 1992 - 1995.


MBRLC, in mm
(Monthly Summary)

Date 1992 1993 1994 1995 Total Average

JAN 12.70 93.98 104.14 111.76 322.58 80.65
FEB 0.00 22.86 0.00 180.34 203.20 50.80
MAR 0.00 144.78 157.48 71.12 373.38 93.35
APR 55.88 68.58 248.92 137.16 510.54 127.64
MAY 107.95 71.12 297.18 259.08 735.33 183.83
JUN 165.10 233.68 502.92 327.66 1,229.36 307.34
JUL 297.18 256.54 124.46 414.02 1,092.20 273.05
AUG 248.92 330.20 607.06 365.76 1,551.94 387.99
SEP 99.06 439.42 73.66 342.90 955.04 238.76
OCT 369.57 365.76 12.70 414.02 1,162.05 290.51
NOV 104.14 106.68 177.80 114.30 502.92 125.73
DEC 69.85 193.04 154.94 63.50 481.33 120.33
TOTAL 1,530.35 2,326.64 2,461.26 2,801.62 2,279.98
AVERAGE 127.53 193.89 205.11 233.47 190.00