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Broussonetia papyrifera (paper mulberry): its growth, yield and potential as a fallow crop in slash-and-burn upland rice system of northern Laos


In northern Laos, shortened fallows in the slash-and-burn upland rice system are not sustainable either from a production or economic standpoint. This paper evaluates the potential for using the indigenous fast-growing tree, Broussonetia papyrifera L. Vent. (paper mulberry) as an economic fallow crop. The objectives of this study are to assess the inner bark yield of paper mulberry, and to evaluate rice productivity following paper mulberry cultivation. In addition, allometric models for estimating the inner bark yield of paper mulberry are developed. Inner bark yield of paper mulberry stands ranging in age from 9 to 48 months ranged from 10 to 208 g m−2, and increased with age. The models using diameter at breast height and stem height, or diameter at breast height only as independent variables explained well the variation in inner bark yield. When paper mulberry was completely removed during the rice growing season, rice yields in these areas were similar to those following weedy bush fallow. When paper mulberry was allowed to grow, rice yields were negatively correlated to paper mulberry stem density. When paper mulberry lateral branches were pruned back, rice yields could be maintained if the paper mulberry stem density was <0.22 stems m−2, suggesting that if paper mulberry is managed properly, rice yields can be maintained at current levels. The paper mulberry-upland rice rotation system improves the productivity of a traditional slash-and-burn system through harvesting paper mulberry inner bark; however the long-term sustainability of such a system remains unclear and warrants further investigation.

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