Sustainable upland farming is difficult with annual crops alone. In most cases, perennial crops such as fruit trees are needed to help achieve system stability. Fruit are a high-value crop, and potentially offer systems of production which can provide slopeland farmers with a good income, in a way which conserves the environment. However, many problems remain to be solved, related not only to production but also marketing and conservation of resources.
Rather than dealing with single items of technology individually, the integrated approach deals with the whole orchard as a total system, combining various types of technology to make an effective package suited to the particular locality. An integrated approach is important for all farming systems, but is particularly vital in slopeland farming, which must combine profitability with soil and water conservation.
Slopeland orchards in Asia and the Pacific can be classified into two systems: monoculture production systems, and multiple cropping systems which combine several species. Monocropping tends to be found in industrialized countries, where commercial farming is usually highly specialized. Multiple cropping, on the other hand, is closer to the traditional farming system. Although some products are produced for sale, the farm must also supply most of the subsistence needs of the farm family. The main purpose of multiple cropping is to reduce the level of risk. Usually this type of farming makes little use of outside inputs such as chemical pesticides. By planting a range of crops, farmers can still be assured of a livelihood if any one crop becomes infested with diseases or insect pests.
Mixed cropping is usally carried out by smallholders with relatively low incomes. Programs for improved production in mixed cropping areas, including fruit production, depend mainly on using renewable biological resources, rather than purchased inputs, in a way that gives the farm family enough food and a reasonable income while restoring and maintaining soil fertility. The traditional mixture of crops is retained, with annual crops being grown between contour plantings of leguminous shrubs, fruit trees or grasses.
The SALT (Sloping Land Agricultural Technology) system developed in Mindanao, southern Philippines, is one such system. Contour lines are laid out across slopes using a simple A-frame, and the contour lines are marked and harrowed at a spacing of one meter. Leguminous shrubs and trees are planted along the contour lines, while annual and perennial crops are planted in the alleys between. The soil is periodically fertilized with cuttings from the leguminous trees, and by crop residues. One of the four SALT models recommends the planting of fruit trees in the upper two thirds of the farm (other SALT models include agroforestry and livestock).
Another improved system from the Philippines, the Naalad, uses bundles of cut branches of ipil-ipil (
Leucaena leucocephala) placed along contour lines to hold soil and form a terrace. A number of slopeland development programs based on improved cultural practices are now under way in different Asian countries. Most of them combine contour planting and/or terracing with mixtures of plant species that give the farm family its daily food and an income, while maintaining soil fertility without purchased inputs.
Poor condition of slopelands, and the need for rehabilitation
Most slopelands in Asia which are being used for mixed cropping are now in rather poor condition. In some countries, more than half the total arable slopeland is eroded to some degree, and parts of it are severely eroded. This means that most programs of sustainable orchard production are placed under a handicap right at the beginning. They must first rehabilitate slopeland soils, and restore soil fertility.
Indonesia has had success with slopeland rehabilitation programs which provide farmers with subsidized fertilizer and planting materials. The extra nutrient inputs mean that the soil can produce a higher biomass, which in turn provides more organic matter for nutrient recycling.
Transport and marketing difficulties
A major constraint to orchard production in mixed cropping systems is the difficulty of marketing the fruit. Fruit is a bulky, heavy crop, and many slopeland farms lie some distance from roads. Such farms have no access to motor transport, whether private or public. Farmers are forced to use draft animals or human labor to carry fruit to market or to a road transport link.
Once the fruit arrives at the marketplace, prices are generally low. Fruit of any one kind tends to ripen all at once within a short harvest period, which means a market surplus. Furthermore, prices are often set by groups of dealers who control the local marketing system and fix price levels to meet their own interests. It is dealers rather than farmers who sell the fruit in city wholesale markets, where prices are higher. Infrastructure and marketing are a major problem for small-scale fruit producers, and a major constraint to improved production.
Monoculture is the only type of commercial fruit production found in high-income countries such as Korea and Japan, where fruit production is intensive and commercialized. In other countries such as Malaysia, monoculture may coexist with a smallholder system of mixed cropping.
Monoculture fruit orchards are generally more capital intensive than mixed ones, with a higher initial investment. In Korea, Japan and Taiwan, expensive construction such as concrete farm roads and ditches is a routine part of orchard layouts on steeper slopes. Machinery is often used to reform sloping land into terraces, with well-planned management of run-off by ditches and canals. Cover crops, generally grasses, are often used to protect soil from rainfall splash and prevent erosion. There is widespread use of cut grasses as a mulch, often supplemented by organic fertilizer, while mulches made of non-woven fabric are also coming into use. Deep placement of fertilizer in shallow ditches and aeration of deep soil layers are common cultural practices.
Monoculture systems also have severe marketing problems, but their main constraint is not poor infrastructure, but lack of market demand. This is likely to grow worse under the World Trade Organization, as Asian countries become part of a global free trade system. Already, imported fruit are taking a large and expanding share of local markets, not only for fresh fruit but for processed fruit products such as orange juice.
In this situation, the main need is to reduce labor costs, which are generally at least half of total production costs, by various types of farm mechanization. In Shikoku, Japan, a mechanized farm system for citrus orchards has been developed which reduces the number of working hours by 35%. Small-scale farm machinery is used for routine farm maintenance operations such as pest control, harvesting and weeding.
Good planning and layout of the orchard is of vital importance if mechanized systems are to be used. The trees must be planted far enough apart to allow the passage of farm machinery, and service roads must be built which follow a safe gradient while giving good access to all trees in the orchard. Ditches and collection tanks must also be built for run-off. The mechanized system of citrus production in Shikoku has raised profits considerably, not only because of reduced labor costs but because of improved fruit quality from better exposure to sunlight.
Although mechanization was efficient in this case, it is not necessarily as profitable in other areas. Whether machinery is cost effective depends on the relative cost of machinery and labor, and on the prices farmers get for their fruit. It might also depend on whether machinery can increase farm income in other ways, by e.g. improving production levels or the quality of fruit.
The integrated management of orchards seems to be equally successful in both mixed and monocropping types of fruit production. In development programs for slopelands, where successful farming systems must combine profitability with soil and water conservation, integrating these aspects of farming in an integrated technology package is of obvious benefit.
In Taiwan, a multi-disciplinary approach to extension for a number of crops is being followed for citrus production. Demonstration farms have been established, and farmers within the project area are advised by extension teams made up of a number of specialists (in planning, soils and fertilizer, machinery, plant protection, marketing etc.) After only a few years of this program, relative production costs for citrus have fallen and fruit quality has improved. As a result, farmers' net incomes have risen considerably. Before the program, citrus farmers operated at a slight loss after all costs were met. After the program had been operating a few years, profits had risen to US$4000-5000 per hectare. An integrated approach is also being followed in mango orchards.
Integrated pest management is also of growing importance in both mixed and monocropped orchards, combining various pest control strategies into a single integrated system which gives effective control for lower inputs of chemical pesticides. Increasing use is being made of natural enemies of pests, and pest control systems are being designed to protect these.
A better understanding of the epidemiology of pests is enabling farmers to time their chemical applications more efficiently, and adapt their cultural practices to give the fruit better protection from pests. For example, fruit bagging has been common for some years, but new materials are being used which allow more light to penetrate, giving better fruit color. In Taiwan, mango fruit are being bagged much earlier, when the fruit are still very small. This protects the fruit from anthracnose, as well as making a more efficient allocation of manual labor.
In programs of orchard production in slopelands, the aim is to find ways of increasing production on a piece of land which is in a very fragile environment. Under these circumstances, any improvement in technology needs to take careful account of the environmental impact of increased production, including off-site pollution of soil and water resources downstream. It is clear that orchards have great potential in providing slopeland farmers with a profitable and sustainable livelihood. The success of the many orchard development programs described at the meeting make this potential clear.
However, some serious problems remain if slopeland fruit production is to remain profitable as well as environmentally friendly. In countries where fruit is grown in a mixed cropping system, the main need is for improved transport and other infrastructure, and a marketing system which gives farmers a higher share of the price paid by consumers.
In monocropping systems, the main problem is to make orchard production competitive with imported fruit produced on large farms overseas. Farmers must also receive an income comparable to an industrial wage, if fruit producing areas are to retain their farm labor force. Here, the focus must be on raising farm incomes by reducing labor costs and improving fruit quality
Location: Pingtung, Taiwan ROC
Date: November 17-22 1997
No. participating countries: 7 (Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of China, Vietnam)
No. papers: 11
No. participants: 20 plus observers
National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Taiwan ROC
Council of Agriculture, Taiwan ROC
1. A mechanized farming system for sloping orchards in Japan
- Masahiro Miyazaki
2. Integrated management of soil in sloping land orchards in Korea
- Byung-Keun Hyun
3. Fruit production system on sloping land in Malaysia
- Kassim Bin Buhiran, Izham Bin Ahmad
4. Potential of fruit crop development in sloping areas of northern midland and highland provinces in Vietnam
- Tran The Tuc
5. Soil conservation on sloping orchards in Japan
- Seiji Nakao
6. Technology for integrated management of sloping land orchards in Korea
- Myong-dong Cho
7. Integrated management of mango sloping orchards in Taiwan
- Tzong-Shyan Lin
8. Demonstration and extension for reducing production and marketing costs of citrus in Taiwan
- Ming-Hsiung Lu, Hsin-Chi Hsu
9. Promotion strategies for lowering costs and improving performance for citrus farms in Taiwan
- Chao-Lin Tuan
10. Current status of control of citrus diseases in Taiwan
- Pao-Jen Ann11. Integrated insect pest control of citrus in Taiwan
- Kang-Chen Lo
Figure 1 Small Machine Used for Transport in Slopeland Orchards, Taiwan
Figure 2 Air-Blast Sprayer Used in Slopeland Orchards, Shikoku, Japan
Figure 3 Lowland Pear Trees in Taiwan Grafted with Buds of Highland Pears (Prunings from Highland Trees)
Figure 4 Young Fruit of Grafted Pears
Figure 5 Ripe Fruit of Grafted Upland Pear, Grown on Lowland Pear Tree. Upland Pears Have a Better Flavor Than Lowland Ones, and Sell at a Higher Price.
Figure 6 Lowland Pear from the Same Tree.