Initial spacing of teak (Tectona grandis) in northern Lao PDR: Impacts on the growth of teak and companion crops
Publication date: 1 March 2019
Source: Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 435
Author(s): A. Nahuel A. Pachas, Somphanh Sakanphet, Outhai Soukkhy, Maichor Lao, Sianouvong Savathvong, Jonathan C. Newby, Bounkieng Souliyasack, Bounthanh Keoboualapha, Mark J. Dieters
Teak (Tectona grandis) has been planted extensively by smallholder farmers in Luang Prabang province of northern Laos, primarily in small woodlots established at high initial stocking rates with little/no management until the largest trees are harvested selectively, commencing at 15–20 years after planting. This study used a Nelder wheel experiment planted in 2008, and measured annually after the end of the first 10 growing seasons, to evaluate the effects of the initial planting density on the growth of teak. The potential for intercropping established teak was also evaluated using this Nelder wheel, when the trees were 5–6 years of age, to emulate what might be achievable from companion cropping under an agroforestry system with teak. Individual tree diameter was maximised at the lowest initial stocking, but tree height showed optimum development between 637 and 1020 trees ha−1. While standing volume (m3 ha−1) was maximised at the highest initial stocking (2424 trees ha−1), merchantable volume maximised at initial stocking rates between 423 and 637 trees ha−1. Companion cropping demonstrated that modest yields of maize, cassava and pigeon pea are possible under established teak, where the spacing between trees exceeds 8 m. Both maize and cassava achieved yields of over 2 t ha−1 with a spacing of 8 m between trees, while pigeon pea achieved 3 t ha−1 at 10 m spacing between trees. These results demonstrate that the adoption of reduced initial stocking rates for teak (i.e. below 1000 trees ha−1) can significantly increase the growth rates of teak, improving individual tree volumes, and potentially reducing time to commercial harvest. Further, where row spacing is at least 8–10 m, these results suggest that extended periods of companion cropping (2–6 years after planting) may be possible. Finally, given that Lao farmers are reluctant to adopt pre-commercial thinning, serious consideration should be given to the promotion of simple, regimes for teak woodlots using an initial stocking rate of around 600 trees ha−1. Alleys widths of 10 m are recommended for farmers wishing to establish grow teak in an agroforestry system and extend the period for companion cropping. Nevertheless, revision of Government of Lao policy frameworks are required to support the adoption of more appropriate initial spacing in teak woodlots and agroforestry systems by smallholders.
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