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Trail Maintenance


agroventuresperu

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A couple months ago my wife and I decided to start a new trail on our property in a secondary forest that we had never explored before. I was intrigued by the Euterpe precatoria sticking its head out of the canopy, so we decided to start the trail there. Today we returned for some follow-up maintenance and to continue the trail further. Our goal is to maintain a few kilometers of trails throughout the property. It is a lot of fun building a trail. There are so many surprises. We never know what we might find.

In this forest, there is an extremely high quantity of palms that are in various stages of germination and development all over the forest floor. This is due primarily to the presence of an all-star palm propagator known as Steatornis caripensis, known locally as the Huacharo. In English apparently it is called the oilbird. One day my father-in-law found one in the morning on the way to the house, just laying/sleeping in the middle of the path. He brought it to the house and no one knew what it was. We all thought it was some sort of small hawk species, so we decided to try giving it pieces of raw meat, to which it rejected each of our attempts. We didn't know what the bird was, and the fact that it is nocturnal and frugivorous. They are not extremely common, because they are restricted primarily to key areas along the eastern foothills of the Andes to certain roosting caves. They fly around at night searching for fruit, and prefer many palm fruits. They eat the pulp and then regurgitate the seeds. There is a cave only about 2 miles from this forest as the crow flies (or as the Oilbird flies in this case).  A fairly large population roosts in that cave. Not sure why they prefer spending so much time in our forest though.

Oilbird: https://www.peruaves.org/steatornithidae/oilbird-steatornis-caripensis/

Euterpe precatoria sticking it's head above the canopy in the background. The foreground shows a small portion of our reforestation project:

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An Oenocarpus bataua seedling that we direct-seeded a few months ago in our reforestation area.

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A Majambo tree (Theobroma bicolor) that we planted near the beginning of our trail

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An aroid climbing up a tree fern

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At the base of the Euterpe precatoria

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Some photos of the E. precatoria in the canopy. Euterpe precatoria might be my favorite palm species. This is the only one I know of on our entire property.

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A small Pona tree. The name Pona here refers to at least a couple different walking palm species. Socratea exhorriza and another one I forget the scientific name of. There may be more than two species here.

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This is the most common species of palm encountered in this forest. I'm not sure if all specimens have this bronze-colored new leaf. It looks like some of them don't even though they're probably the same species as the ones with bronze-colored new leaves:

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This forest is loaded with palm sprouts

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Another Pona

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The most common species again:

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Looking up the trail:

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A tree fern

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Another specimen of the most common palm

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This shrub/small tree is flowering all over the place

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A couple palms that look similar to Euterpe precatoria, but are much more dainty:

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Almost every step you take there are more palm seedlings to be encountered

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This looks like the same dainty palm as earlier

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We are in a coffee-producing region and it looks like the birds are propagating lots of bushes

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Another Pona

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This might be a very young version of that dainty palm

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Same as earlier

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Here's a young Pona that is sending out a new "leg"

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A tree fern

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A feral Caimito tree. Past the fruiting season, but the old rotten fruits were all over the ground

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Stay at our farm: Alto Mayo Food Forest

You can find our listing on airbnb by searching for stays in Rioja, Peru. We are located south of Rioja on the map.

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Incredible variety. It's funny how difficult it is to identify wild palms like those. What was the land use prior to your laudable efforts at reforestation?

Woodville, FL

zone 8b

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Posted (edited)

Most of the properties in this area followed this trajectory: deforestation--> selling the valuable timber and burning the rest ---> short-term cash crops (corn, plaintains, cassava, etc.) --> Perennial shrub crops such as coca and coffee-->African pasture grasses for cattle grazing.  The changes in crops reflect yield declines due to decreasing fertility. Few people ever added anything back to the soil, except when they produced a lot of coca back in the day and used lots of Nitrogen fertilizers that caused secondary acidity. Also, in-between each stage people like to burn. The short-term boost in pH and soluble nutrients from the ash makes people believe that burning somehow adds fertility to the equation, so by the time Brachiaria grasses are planted the soil is pretty well degraded. There seems to be a cultural memory of those initial forest slash burnings that produced great crop yields; as folks cling to this practice, even after decades of pasture degradation, with an annual pasture burn during the dry season. Brachiaria is about the last step on the degradation trajectory. Brachiaria spp. are one of the only things people know to plant when aluminum saturation gets too high, pH too low, base saturation too low, and overall fertility too low (SOM depletion,  and all the other key plant nutrients). So, in come the cows along with the grazing mismanagement, which causes even more decline. 

I haven't seen anyone in this area plant tree crops. There are a few fruit trees here and there, but trees are never the focus. Most people don't even do shade-grown coffee. 

Keep in mind that these are tropical Ultisols, which aren't known to have high native fertility in the first place. Some of our neighbors only supplement their cows regular table salt, which is fluoridated in Peru. The area where most of the pictures were taken I believe had a pineapple stage, and might have skipped the grass stage, and was instead left to go fallow at that point in time. It was abandoned about 20 years ago. The rest of the land had a grass stage for about 20 years, which encompasses the areas we started reforesting 4 years ago.

One interesting thing about the area is that many of the Pona palms were preserved simply because they cause too much wear and tear on the chainsaws. So, you get these iconic Pona palms punctuating monotonous pastures, like the ones you can see in the background of the photo below. Apparently, they do OK without an accompanying forest. However, a few were lost this past year, because it was one of the driest and hottest years on record here.

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Edited by agroventuresperu
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Stay at our farm: Alto Mayo Food Forest

You can find our listing on airbnb by searching for stays in Rioja, Peru. We are located south of Rioja on the map.

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Fascinating. I watched your youtube video on the productive area being managed as a fruit forest. Have you also planted timber species? Are there many orchids on your land?

The Pona palm seems to be Irartea, which is considered desirable by collectors on this forum.

Woodville, FL

zone 8b

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Beautiful piece of land good one for doing your bit for conservation of such a beautiful area the planet needs more people such as yourself and your wife 🌱

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Posted (edited)
On 3/25/2024 at 9:24 AM, redbeard917 said:

Fascinating. I watched your youtube video on the productive area being managed as a fruit forest. Have you also planted timber species? Are there many orchids on your land?

The Pona palm seems to be Irartea, which is considered desirable by collectors on this forum.

We planted a few timber species here and there, including some endangered Mahogany, but fruit-producingm species were the main focus. We also planted 3000 Schizolobium (Brazilian Fern Tree), which is considered as poor-quality timber, but we did it to have a quick, emergent canopy of a nitrogen-fixing species for soil improvement. Plus, the birds really like to use them as perches.

I think you're right. I think a lot of them are Iriartea deltoidea, but I believe there's also Socratea exorrhiza. I don't know what's what, and there's probably some other species of walking palm too. If you look at some of the photos, you can see that some have green crown shafts and others have blue crown shafts.

Yes, there are a lot of orchids here. My wife even found an endangered species laying on the ground last year, Cattleya rex, so she picked it up and brought it to the garden near the house.

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Edited by agroventuresperu
  • Like 1
  • Upvote 1

Stay at our farm: Alto Mayo Food Forest

You can find our listing on airbnb by searching for stays in Rioja, Peru. We are located south of Rioja on the map.

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On 3/28/2024 at 8:37 PM, happypalms said:

Beautiful piece of land good one for doing your bit for conservation of such a beautiful area the planet needs more people such as yourself and your wife 🌱

Thanks.

Stay at our farm: Alto Mayo Food Forest

You can find our listing on airbnb by searching for stays in Rioja, Peru. We are located south of Rioja on the map.

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