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Alley-cropping system increases vegetation heterogeneity and moderates extreme microclimates in oil palm plantations

Alley-cropping system increases vegetation heterogeneity and moderates extreme microclimates in oil palm plantations
Alley-cropping system increases vegetation heterogeneity and moderates extreme microclimates in oil palm plantations

Forest conversion to oil palm plantation is causing a major loss of biodiversity in Southeast Asia and other tropical regions. Oil palm plantations have less biodiversity because of their simplified vegetation, human disturbances, and extreme microclimate conditions. Alley-cropping system incorporates a secondary crop in the alleys between the main crops. In some cases alley-cropping can result in a greater vegetation structural complexity, thus potentially providing agricultural and ecological benefits, including: buffering against weather extremes, reduction in soil erosion, increased biodiversity, and increased nutrient and water-use efficiency. In this study, we compared vegetation structure (height and cover of vegetation), microclimate (air temperature, relative humidity, light intensity and wind speed), and soil conditions (soil surface temperature, soil pH and soil moisture) across a range of alley-cropping systems and two ages of monoculture oil palm. We found that alley- cropping system had varied structural complexity across different crops when compared to oil palm monoculture system. Careful selection of crops was essential, with black pepper and cacao having the largest impact on improving vegetation heterogeneity and microclimate regulation when incorporated into an alley-cropping system. In particular, we found that systems intercropped with black pepper had air and soil surface temperatures up to 1.3 °C and 2.1 °C cooler than those in oil palm monoculture. In contrast, systems intercropped with bactris and bamboo had increased air temperatures. Our findings show that some alley-cropping systems have great potential as a climate-smart practice in sustainable oil palm agriculture. This study also shows that careful selection of crops is important in the planning and management of future alley-cropping system to optimise the ecosystem benefits that can be gained from this management system.

Agriculture, Biodiversity, Crop, Ecosystem, Monoculture, Sustainable
0168-1923
Ashraf, Mohamad
efc4a1c7-ed57-4570-acc4-6bc6247acd04
Sanusi, Ruzana
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Zulkifli, Raja
dfe2be42-09c5-4210-9a32-0149014c800f
Tohiran, Kamil A.
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Moslim, R.
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Ashton-Butt, A.
327a148f-4a26-45f2-9611-6b4378134e04
Azhar, Badrul
1b729d4a-a1a3-4a11-beab-9cf3a9cbaf4c
Ashraf, Mohamad
efc4a1c7-ed57-4570-acc4-6bc6247acd04
Sanusi, Ruzana
0e78fd89-5d41-4df3-9d51-b98a080b7e42
Zulkifli, Raja
dfe2be42-09c5-4210-9a32-0149014c800f
Tohiran, Kamil A.
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Moslim, R.
2bcb9834-89d1-4c55-bac3-ca7ef8ef1017
Ashton-Butt, A.
327a148f-4a26-45f2-9611-6b4378134e04
Azhar, Badrul
1b729d4a-a1a3-4a11-beab-9cf3a9cbaf4c

Ashraf, Mohamad, Sanusi, Ruzana, Zulkifli, Raja, Tohiran, Kamil A., Moslim, R., Ashton-Butt, A. and Azhar, Badrul (2019) Alley-cropping system increases vegetation heterogeneity and moderates extreme microclimates in oil palm plantations. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 276-277, [107632]. (doi:10.1016/j.agrformet.2019.107632).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Forest conversion to oil palm plantation is causing a major loss of biodiversity in Southeast Asia and other tropical regions. Oil palm plantations have less biodiversity because of their simplified vegetation, human disturbances, and extreme microclimate conditions. Alley-cropping system incorporates a secondary crop in the alleys between the main crops. In some cases alley-cropping can result in a greater vegetation structural complexity, thus potentially providing agricultural and ecological benefits, including: buffering against weather extremes, reduction in soil erosion, increased biodiversity, and increased nutrient and water-use efficiency. In this study, we compared vegetation structure (height and cover of vegetation), microclimate (air temperature, relative humidity, light intensity and wind speed), and soil conditions (soil surface temperature, soil pH and soil moisture) across a range of alley-cropping systems and two ages of monoculture oil palm. We found that alley- cropping system had varied structural complexity across different crops when compared to oil palm monoculture system. Careful selection of crops was essential, with black pepper and cacao having the largest impact on improving vegetation heterogeneity and microclimate regulation when incorporated into an alley-cropping system. In particular, we found that systems intercropped with black pepper had air and soil surface temperatures up to 1.3 °C and 2.1 °C cooler than those in oil palm monoculture. In contrast, systems intercropped with bactris and bamboo had increased air temperatures. Our findings show that some alley-cropping systems have great potential as a climate-smart practice in sustainable oil palm agriculture. This study also shows that careful selection of crops is important in the planning and management of future alley-cropping system to optimise the ecosystem benefits that can be gained from this management system.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 20 June 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 4 July 2019
Published date: 15 October 2019
Keywords: Agriculture, Biodiversity, Crop, Ecosystem, Monoculture, Sustainable

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 437140
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/437140
ISSN: 0168-1923
PURE UUID: 78298983-d04f-4457-bc16-ac4df04c2eb4

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 17 Jan 2020 17:36
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 00:17

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Contributors

Author: Mohamad Ashraf
Author: Ruzana Sanusi
Author: Raja Zulkifli
Author: Kamil A. Tohiran
Author: R. Moslim
Author: A. Ashton-Butt
Author: Badrul Azhar

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