Cultivation is practiced by primitive tribes in the forested highlands of the Amazon
Basin, Congo Basin, Papua New Guinea, etc. While cultivated using shifting cultivation,
tropical/equatorial rainforest nutrient is mainly locked up in the biomass with little nutrient in the soil. Also, the
cycling of nutrients is rapid.
Characteristics of Shifting Cultivation
The shifting agricultural system is an ecosystem modified by man's activities at a relatively low level in comparison with other forms of agricultural activities.The chief cultural practices include the following:
Making a Clearing.The tribe first selects a small patch of rainforest. To create a clearing on the forest, the tribe selectively slashes the natural vegetation by simple tools and burns the logs, so the nutrients are released as ash which dissolves and is washed by rain into the soil as natural fertilizers.
Growing Crops. A variety of food crops are grown on the land such as rice, maize, cassava . The crops grow very quickly, some are ready to harvest after four to six months. After 2 or 3 years, due to decline in soil fertility, the yield of successive crops declines and weeds grows extensively.
Abandoning the Clearing. The site is abandoned and cultivation moves to
another site, where another patch of the rainforest will be cleared for a new swidden.
They will try not to return to the former clearings for at least 50 years.
Other Features include:
Yanomami Indians of the Amazon practises this type of farming.
In the traditional practice, the follow period between croppings of the same patch of land is at least 20 years or longer. The soil of the tropical rainforest is inherently infertile. Most of the nutrients are kept in the bulk biomass of trees. A long period of abandonment allows the rainforest to regenerate and the fertility of the land to be restored. The nutrient content of both vegetation and soils is replenished. Regeneration protects the soil from erosion and controls of the spread of weeds and pests.
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