Effects of Jatropha curcas intercrop on disease-prone indigenous tree seedling survival and growth
E. G. Foli & S. E. Akpalu
The rate of environmental degradation in the drier forest (savannah) zones of Ghana is of great concern because it is contributing to climate change and its deleterious effects such as torrential rains and floods. Such catastrophic events eventually affect the livelihoods and property of many poor rural folks whose existence is intricately linked with the environment in which they live. Rural communities in these areas depend heavily on the few indigenous trees available, not only for their effects in mitigating the harsh weather conditions, but also in sustaining water availability, provision of food, fodder for animals and as fuel wood for cooking and other household needs. The overdependence on these indigenous tree species over the years has resulted in their near depletion, resulting in harsher and extreme weather conditions and prolonged drought. Torrential rains during the dry season have also brought about untold suffering from famine and poverty. However, attempts at establishing plantations of indigenous trees in the savannah zones have always been frustrated by some diseases and termite infestations especially in the dry season. Jatropha curcas, one of the few plant species that retain their green foliage during the dry season, is known to have some insecticidal and antibacterial properties. Coupled with its potential of becoming a source of income for households if properly exploited, it would be appropriate to find out if it is capable of enhancing the survival of other tree species when grown in association.
By virtue of its special properties, Jatropha curcas has been combined with a wide range of plants comprising agricultural, horticultural, herbs, pastoral and/or silvicultural components to produce an ecologically viable, economically profitable and socially acceptable agroforestry system. A number of intercropping models have been tried, applied and developed for both wastelands and cultivable lands. These include hedgerows of Jatropha with Glyricidia and Subabul; Jatropha intercropped with grasses, tubers and vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, water melon etc; Jatropha mixed with fruit trees; and Jatropha in mixed plantation with Teak, Neem etc.
The overall objective of the project is to assist in the mitigation of the effects of climate change stemming from environmental degradation in order to improve upon the quality of people in the savannah zone of Ghana.
To study the effect of Jatropha curcas on young plantations of six selected termite and disease-prone indigenous savannah tree species (i.e. Parkia biglobosa, Vitellaria paradoxa, Tamarindus indica, Diospyrus mespiliformis and Balanites aegypteaca), when grown in association
- The project will show whether Jatropha curcas can be used as a substitute and/or supplement inorganic agrochemicals which have some adverse effects on the environment.
- It will also enhance the cultivation of Jatropha curcas in the area; which comes along with numerous environmental and economic benefits.
- Jatropha curcas, being one of the few tree species that retain their green foliage during the dry season, would improve upon the vegetation especially in the dry season.
- The project will further popularize Jetropha, a very versatile plant in domestic biofuel production.
- Local people can also be trained to produce soap from the seeds to serve as a source of income for households.