Laos farmers benefit from new teak agroforestry system

broom grass DFAT1

A farmer beats the seeds off broom grass. Photo: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

An innovative teak-based agroforestry system is being developed in northern Laos to suit farmers’ needs and yield higher returns than current approaches to teak planting.

Tony Bartlett, Forestry Research Program Manager with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) acknowledges that “agroforestry research is inherently a long term proposition,” but believes the work of his organization is already starting to show promise.

Under the new agroforestry system, teak trees are planted at a lower density than the current approach yet Bartlett says they should be able to reach the smallest commercial size for teak logs by age 10-12 year. The wider spacing allows farmers to continue to grow other crops between rows of teak, whereas previously they could only do this for the first few years.

The system has been developed through research trials over the past 8 years involving 68 farmer households from 21 villages. These farmers are also benefiting from the use of improved quality teak seedlings generated through the ACIAR-led teak tree breeding program.

ACIAR has also been investigating the potential for incorporating broom grass into the agroforestry system which “has great potential to enhance the outcomes for women,” says Bartlett.

Women and children in northern Laos spend 3 months of the year collecting broom grass heads from forested areas which are then dried and sold into markets in Viet Nam, China and Laos.

Through planting trials, researchers have found significant variation in the length and weight of the inflorescences, and this affects the price women receive for the broom grass. Bartlett is optimistic about the potential to improve the quality (and hence value) of broom grass material that could be grown in teak agroforestry systems.

Read the full story on ACIAR’s blog: Agroforestry systems offer benefits to Lao farmers'

Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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