The intensive feed garden (IFG)
This is a relatively new concept which is currently receiving a lot of research attention at ILCA. The IFG aims at intensive cultivation of fodder trees and grasses on a small plot of land, usually close to the farmer’s animal holding area. It is especially suitable for situations where alley farming may be inappropriate for one reason or the other, and can also be used, in some cases, to supplement feed resources from alley farms.
The prototype IFG contains the legumes leucaena and gliricidia on one half and the grasses Panicum maximum and Pennisetum purpureum on the other. The gardens are 200 m and predicated on intensive nutrient cycling through the application of manure or fertilizer to maximise feed production from a limited area. The goal is to have gardens which will provide the major feed requirements for 4-6 animals.
Current research aims at further intensifying the gardens through modifications in spacing and design (spatial arrangement of trees and grasses), as well as quantification of their productivities and carrying capacities.
Derived From the book Native Plants of the Northeast by Donald J. Leopold 2005
Hardiness Zone: 6
Tree Possibilities: (Nitrogen Fixing)
- Cercis canadensis ; Eastern Redbud ; Zone 4-9 ; moist well drained soil ; sun to shade (Fabaceae)
- Cladrastis kentukea ; Yellowwood ; Zone 4-8 ; Dry to moist well drained ; sun to partial sun (Fabaceae)
- Gleditsia triacanthos ; Honeylocust ; Zone 4-9 ; dry to wet soil ; sun (fabaceae)
- 4. Gymnocladus dioicus ; Kentuckey coffeetree ; 3 – 8 ; dry to moist, well drained ; (Fabaceae)
- 5. Robinia pseudoacacia ; Black Locust ; 4-8 ; dry to moist, well drained ; (Fabaceae)
Shrub possibilities: (Nitrogen Fixing)
- Amorpha fruiticosa ; Indigobush ; 4-9 ; dry to moist, well adaptable ; sun (Fabaceae)
- Robinia hispida ; Bristly Locust ; 5-8 ; dry infertile ; sun ; (Fabaceae)
Wildflower possibilities: (Nitrogen Fixing)
- Baptisia australis ; Blue false indigo ; 4-9 ; moist to dry ; sun to partial sun (Fabaceae)
- Lupinus perennis ; Blue Lupine ; 3-9 ; well drained ; sun to partial sun (Fabaceae)
Vine Possibilities: (Nitrogen Fixing)
- Wisteria frutescens ; American Wisteria ; 5-9 ; moist to wet ; sun to partial sun (Fabaceae)
For Inga alley cropping the trees are planted in rows (hedges) close together, with a gap, the alley, of about 4m between the rows. An initial application of rock phosphate has kept the system going for many years.
When the trees have grown, usually in about two years, the canopies close over the alley and cut off the light and so smother the weeds.
The trees are then carefully pruned. The larger branches are used for firewood. The smaller branches and leaves are left on the ground in the alleys. These rot down into a good mulch (compost). If any weeds haven’t been killed off by lack of light the mulch smothers them.
The farmer then pokes holes into the mulch and plants his crops into the holes.
The crops grow, fed by the mulch. The crops feed on the lower layers while the latest prunings form a protective layer over the soil and roots, shielding them from both the hot sun and heavy rain. This makes it possible for the roots of both the crops and the trees to stay to a considerable extent in the top layer of soil and the mulch, thus benefiting from the food in the mulch, and escaping soil pests and toxic minerals lower down. Pruning the Inga also makes its roots die back, thus reducing competition with the crops.
During the first growing season the extent of weed suppression from the bark mulch was less than anticipated, so it was necessary to add a secondary barrier in the form of “sheet” mulch.
For farmers and other land owners with limited forest acreage (such as the 7 acre MNG), harvesting a sufficient number of live trees for mushroom production of appropriate species (hardwoods) and diameter (4-6” diameter) is unsustainable, given that 100 to 200 trees per year would be require d for a modest sized mushroom operation. In Japan where shiitake mushrooms have been grown for centuries, a sustainable production system is practiced that involves coppice management of oak trees for continuous production of mushroom logs. Coppicing is a pole production system that involves cutting back the main stem of a young tree, which stimulates growth of multiple new stems at the base of the orig inal trunk. When these poles are harvested several years later, new stems arise, and this cycle can be continued indefinitely.
· a rapid growth rate,
· ability to withstand frequent cutting,
· good coppicing ability (regrowth after cutting),
· ease of establishment from seeds or cuttings,
· nitrogen fixing capacity,
· deep-rooted with a different root distribution to the crop,
· multiple uses such as forage and firewood,
· ability to withstand environmental stresses such as drought, waterlogging, and extremes of pH,
· high leaf to stem ratio,
· small leaves or leaflets,
· dry season leaf retention and
· freedom from pests and diseases.
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