Live Fence Posts in Costa Rica: A Compilation of the Farmer's Beliefs and Technologies

Gerard? Budow,ski Ricardo 0. Russo

ABSTRACT. Live fence posts are widely used in Costa Rica and other Cenhal American countries as a sustainable agricultural practice. The Costa Rican farmers' empirical knowledge was compiled through a questionnaire, field measurements and literature review. Ninety two species used for live fences were recorded and tabulated. The management practices (preparation of stakes,planting, attaching wire, pruning regimes) and the various uses are discussed. The biomass production of a kilometer of one live fence was measured. It is concluded that this is indeed a very promising sustainable practice which deserves more research and dissemination.

The construction and maintenance of agricultural fencing has the potential to become sustainable through the use of renewable resources. In Costa Rica, as well as in other tropical American countries, many fences or enclosures are constructed by stringing barbed wire on trees serving as fence posts. According to the diversity of climates and the corresponding life zones found in Costa Rica, a great variety of tree species are used for live fence posts (see Photo 1). They are usually propagated from large
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Gerafdo Budowski is affiiated with the University for Peace, Program fm Natural Resources and Quality of Life, San Jos6, Costa Rica Russo is affiliated with Yale University, School of Forestry and Ricardo 0. Environmental Studies, New Haven, CT. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, Vol. 3(2) 1993
O 1993 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.


Additionally. Furthermore.g. These plants also have great value as ornamentals and as a refuge for wild animals. use as wind-breaks. and other experiences by the authors over the last 10 years. Reviews. some field measurements. 1982. medicinal products. crops. ornamental wood). erosion control and better infiltration of water. ranchers and rural laborers are experienced with the use of live-fence posts. The purpose of the present investigation is to overview present technologies and beliefs concerning live fence posts used in Costa Rica and to support obse~atiofl~ with farmer interviews. Beliard. some have well defined criteria concerning planting practices and the advantages and disadvantages of various species.. .g. goats. cultivation requirements. support for orchids and ornamental plants and many other additional uses. but their number may vary from 2 to 5) of barbed wire so as to effectively protect houses. cattle and pastures or differenttypes of gardens. flowers for honey. specially legumes. or poisonous (e.. However. they can also provide an effective barrier to cattle and people. posts. Whether as part of the landscape or from the beauty of their flowers and branching forms. they continually yield new cuttings for more fence posts. even without use of barbed wire.. niches for insecteating buds. leaf forage for cattle and other domestic mimals (e. When cuttings are planted very closely and sometimes associated with smaller plants that may be spiny (e. management practices. handicraft (seeds used for beads. notably birds. Other benefits include nitrogen fixation by some fences provide conspicuous and fm boundaries to separate properties or areas within properties or pastures. Practices ond Tech~tology 67 cuttings or stakes (about 2-2. Each species has its own particular growth characteristics. rabbits. live fence rows provide a pleasant break to the monotony of many grass-dominated landscapes. The leaves shed by live fences serve as mulch and release nutrients to adjacent crops. Euphorbia cotinifolia and Hura crepitans). derived products. their main purpose is to serve as physical support to attach rows (usually 3. and chickens). a literature review. edible fruits and flowers. 1984). such as Gliricidia sepium (Baggio. But their knowledge is empirical and with the exceptionof a few species. leading to small air channels in the soil which favors water infiltration.g. and benefits. pillars. gums and resins. provision of shade. These trees may provide wood for fuel and charcoal or for construction (poles. The periodic pollarding (cutting back the crown of the fence posts) results in starving and death of roots. Many other benefits and services are also provided. A fair statement is that they have considerableaesthetic value. Many farmers. etc.Research.50 m).). dyes as well as various other products. Bromelia pinguin). this has not been quantified.

Burgos (1952) made recommendations as to species and practices in the humid lowland forest areas of eastern Peru. Sumberg (1986) cites 143 references for Gliricidia sepium. 1944. Howes (1946). Moreover. Costa Rica. poeppigiana. notably in South East Asia and lately in Africa where it is commonly planted for various purposes. but it has also other uses (Bond.). Several of the most common species such as Gliricidia sepium. propagation and gardening books. and forestry manuals (Holdridge. Erythrina berteroana. in one of the first reports specifically concerning live fences in the tropics. Gliricidia has been introduced to many countries. 1962). 1946.68 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE TRADITIONAL USES OF LIVE FENCES Live fence posts have been recorded in the literature by many authors and travelers. Allen (1977) recorded 7 species used for live fence posts in . 1959). while at the Tropical Agricultural Center for Research and Training (CATIE) in Tunialba. 1970. Martinez. and the practice may not have been as common as it is today. While barrier and ornamental hedges had been employed traditionally by native people and by the Spaniards after the conquest of America. several species of genera such as Erythrina are native to both the old and the new world where they are sometimes widely planted and the knowledge is often transferable. described and enumerated a variety of trees. Specifically mentioned are Gliricidia sepium. Mintz. 1946. In tropical Africa. for instance in Nigeria. It was not until the 19th Century that the use of living trees as fence posts came to be recognized particularly for use as a support to attach barbed wire. some of them annotated. Logsdon. Standley and Steyermark. Early and continuing mention of some of the various species used is found in some treatises of economic plants. Most references on live fence posts species are found in some national or regional floras on the notes concerning utilization. Bursera simaruba and others used at that time in Cuba. shrubs and cacti used in or as fences for a diversity of purposes in Africa. E. 1978. a bibliography concerning the genus Erythrina. Howes. Crane (1945) reported informal trials to select the most appropriate species for live fence posts. although less frequently than in tropical America. widely used for fences has been compiled with about 500 references (Centro Agron6mico Tropical de hvestigaci6n y Enseiianza. Australia and New Zealand. India. references are scanty. 1972) as well as in other regions of the world (Bond.or as short descriptivenotes inmanuals and books on ornarnental or commercial trees in the tropical American region (Duke. Bursera simaruba and Spondiaspurpurea are now widely planted throughout the tropics. 1944). 1986). it has become very popular as a live support for yams (Dioscorea spp.

Lozano (1962) investigated improved methods for successful rooting of large cuttings from Gliricidia sepim. METHODS An extensive literature review on species used for live fences in Costa Rica was carried out at Orton Memorial Library. poeppigiana. Practices and Technology 69 Southwest Costa Rica making a useful contribution toward elucidating the multiple purposes which live fence posts serve. This author analyzed which species were best suited for different conditions.but also those that have been planted by seed or are allowed to grow from natural regeneration to serve as hedges or fences. Erythrina costaricensis and E. Tumalba. Furthermore. Budowski (1977) included live fence as a promising line of research for an international research program in agroforestry. Emphasis was placed on the number and frequency of species used in each region. Species reported in at least one reference. suggested better planting practices and emphasized seasonal timing for planting the cuttings. Later. These interviews involved visits to the farms and conversationswith the fanners. family. many research theses are related to live fence posts. 1985). Farmers were asked about their experiences. 1987). An informal questionnaire was used to int&view farmers who were particularly knowledgeable and experiencedwith living fences in different regions of the country. CATIE. the author brought forth the various advantages and drawbacks of live fence posts over usual (dead) wooden posts (Budowski. thus some areas received more intensive scrutiny.Sauer made a strong plea to maintain diversity as part of the fence-post hedgerow complex. included several live fence post species in an exploratory study to determine the possibilities of vegetative propagation of small cuttings using hormones. A more specfic paper on live fence posts used in Costa Rica was prepared by Sauer (1979). Costa Rica. trials on rooting stakes were undertaken (Shchez and Russo. At Tunialba. were recorded and tabulated by scientificname. This data was compiled over a three year period. life zone. For instance. Costa Rica.Research. He delineated their climatic boundaries and included various economics and historical notes and observations. Reviews. uses and propagation procedures when possible. practices and observations concerning the live fence species they used As the investigation progressed. a 100 m fence of Eryrhrina . de Vastey (1962). More related to the subject of fences. He listed 43 species including not only those planted by large cuttings. 1982) and emphasized living fences in tropical America as a widespread agroforestry practice (Budowski. common name.

But on-the Atlantic coast. will eventually revert to the natural tree form. for instance. The limits of 600 and 1500 represent approximately the lower and higher ranges adequate for commercial coffee cultivation. 1. its height is reduced to a rather squat hunk of about 2 m in height with a confusion of branches originating from the top. For convenience. is an occasion&atural component of the upper forest story. it is usually a secondary species and may reach 30 m height or more. rarely losing its leaves throughout the year. However. Caesalpinia eriostachys Benth. middle elevation from 600 to 2000 m and highland further above.70 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE berteroana was pollarded and measured at Turrialba (Budowski. the ubiquitous Cliricidia sepium ranges from low elevation in wet habitats to middle elevation with alternating low and high rainfall and to regimes of relatively dry and hot climate where it often forms natural pure the word lowland applies from sea level to about 600m elevation. Bursera simaruba for instance. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The results of the literaturereview. complemented by the interviews are summarized in Table 1. 5-6 months dry season. usually display a quite different form than that of the same species occurring naturally in the forest or in open communities. The crown shape is particularly altered by the effect of periodic pruning. It can be observed that some fence species are quite site specific while others seem to be adapted to broad range of climatic zones. However. I native species on rocky outcrops reaching about 6 to 15 m high. or elsewhere above 1500 m. as part of the climax deciduous forest of the pacific lowlands. with a well marked. This reversion is evident at many abandoned fences throughout the country. when planted as a fence tree. 1985). . with rainfall usuallv over 2500 mm and sometimes above 4000 mm. The general appearance along a maintained fence is changed enough to cause confusion when compared with the same species found in the forest in open fields or in orchards. is planted only in lowland1 regions of relatively low rainfall around 1400-1800mm. most live fences when planted and maintained as fence posts. Russo and Mora. he growth of fen& posts: Most live fence posts species. while Drimys winteri fences are used at higher elevations (between 1500-2800 m) on the slopes of the volcanoes. Bursera simaruba is employed as a fence tree at low and medium elevation in dry and wet n dry habitats it appears to be a climates on good to extremely poor soils.. if not pruned and allowed to grow. Moreover.

When in healthy conditions the trees show considerablelongevity.5-2. Cuttings are easy to prepare and require no special skill in planting. Reviews. Cuttings are derived from branches arising from live fences that are pollarded after one or two years of growth. vigor and period since the last pollarding. Many of the unused branches and leaves form a mulch around the fence. sprouting vigor apparently does not decrease for a relatively long time (over 20 years. usually around 4-12 cm diameter at the base.and Spondias purpurea are reported by local farmers to have a shorter life expectancy than species with denser wood. Some fence trees have been estimated to be 90 years old. mostly when the weather is relatively dry. the trees are pruned to obtain cuttings for planting as well as to remove excess or undesirable growth from the parent tree. Practices and Technology 71 The harvesting of stakes for more posts always takes place from the top of the trunk (originally a cutting itself). The number of shoots produced by each established live fence tree varies according to age. The top gradually assumes a swollen bulb or headlike appearance (callus). From early February through early April. This impression may be increased by the abundant growth of epiphytes that find suitable niches between the branches or the stubs of past pruned branches. A living post can normally produce from 2 to about 8 cuttings for planting every two years. The time-lag between the planting of a cutting and when it begins to produce shoots for new cuttings of plantable size varies among species but it is generally six months to two years. Sometimes it is even less as in the case of the fast growing Erythrina spp. A typical fence post of Erythrina costaricensis. depending on the purpose of the fence and the preferences of the farmer. at least. and 1.Research. The annually repeated pollarding seems to enhance juvenility. and Gliricidia sepium. Once this production is initiated. the upper part of the stake may be much larger than the diameter of the stake itself. Preparation ofposts: The majority of the important fence forming trees in Costa Rica are propagated by planting large stakes (cuttings). Cutting back repeatedly promotes extensive callus and woody tissue that progressively build up from wound healing. such as Gliricidia sepium or Diphysa robinioides. However. The . for example has a trunk top diameter between one and a half and two times that of the t r u n k . Older trees of Gliricidia sepium can display deformationwhere the barbed wire has been attached. species with relatively soft wood such as Bursera sirnaruba. has been recorded for some well known species with no apparent decline). Owing to the propensity of fence mee species to sprout vigorously with many new shoots after pollarding. although handling with care between cutting and planting is necessary. However. cutting has also taken place at other periods during the year.5 m in length.

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From the last week of January. a possible indication that the same clonal material had been used. hormonal factors and bud dormancy. Accordine to some farmers. throughout February. many cuttings are leafless or have few leaves.Research. leafy material on the ground. Even in locations with adequate soil moisture it is said that lower percentage rooting success is obtained when cuttings are derived from flowering branches. Both are found along fences. The practices which are followed are predicated upon the fact that planting should precede the onset of the heavy rains so that root and bud initiation will already have begun when the season starts. making for less even fences. But it is also common to F i d entire rows of straight vertical branches. lack of time for adequate healing of cuttings and subsequent susceptibility to fungal infections due to excessive water and poor soil drainage which limit the production of roots. vertical branches are preferred over crooked or lateral branches. Erect. Both these beliefs need to be confiied. straight. However replicated tests are needed to c o n f i i these differences. Practices and Technology 75 woody shoot regrowth of live fence trees generally appears to have more leaves in proportion to the amount of woody tissue than shoots of naturally growing trees of similar age. sometimes side by side. as shown by abundant evidence: pollarded pruned fence rows. The seasonal changes in rooting effectiveness may involve carbohydrate mobility. Even in the wetter areas. Lateral branches reputedly have lower rooting effectiveness than more vertical branches. The reasons given for no planting in the rainy season are the interruption of active vegetative growth. The cuttings are prepared before the appearance of buds that precede the vegetative growth flush associated with the rainy season. cuttings placed under some shade. but many exceptions exist. Reviews.Many farmers . The major factors in the efficacy of this timing seems to be related to the effect of the approaching rains and morpho-physiologic periodicity of the species. with lateral branchlets and leaves neatly removed to produce "clean" poles and of course newly set live fence posts. Flowering cuttings are reputedly not good propagation material. considerable activity along the fence lines takes place. It is usually considered unadvisable to plant the cuttings during the rainy season itself. The coincidence of this seasonal silviculturalpractice with the major dry season h u g h o u t Costa Rica is considered quite important. stacks of smaller branches piled for fuelwood. March and into mid-April. In the dryer areas. there seem to be less leaves at that time. the progeny of crooked cuttings manifests the curving teidencies. They are also said to show higher rooting success than shoots from non pollarded trees. all of which need to be investigated.

Pruning techniques: The pollarding or pruning of the parent tree is a fairly simple task. oxen. The importance of allowing specific time to elapse between cutting and planting is given high priority by some farmers. farmers often stack the cuttings vertically in the shade of a tree for two weeks before planting. often contributes to water retention. since the period of growth prior to harvest would be two or even more years for the uncut branches. (waning moon) to ensure successful rooting. It is said that the latter practice reduces stress and shock. leaving as small a stub as possible. or vehicle to the planting site. horses. whose c o ~ e c t i o n be lessened with the build-up of wound tissue. Commerce of live fence cuttings is profitable. Many landowners practice drastic pollarding by eliminating all shoots while others leave a shoot or two. The poles are transported by hand. The woody sprouts are lopped off with a single clean cut using a sharp "machete" or a bush-hook.10 in a pioneer farm and cattle . This practice results in less wound covering tissue. This is particularly true for Erythrina berteroana in wet areas. the cuttings are topped and cleaned of branchlets. always handling them with great care so as not to cause injuries or impair the rooting ability. The heavy population of epiphytes growing upon the trunk top. The longest storage period is observed in dry areas. Variation occurs according to the species and the environmental conditions. The clean poles are then stacked or set vertically under shade and can be planted the same day or later. Sprouting may also be inhibited by excessive amounts of healing tissues. The shoot growth arises from with the cambium may dormant and adventitious buds. the excess build-up of which is said to negatively influence the vigor and form of the shoots and the health of the parent tree.76 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE consider. allows reasonable root growth to continue. promotes rapid healing of wounds and provides better conditions for new shoot growth. when using Spondias purpurea in some drier zones in the Guanacaste province. particularly in moister zones on regularly pollarded trees of advanced age. Stacking up to one month has been observed. There does not seem to be a minimal or maximal time for storage with most species.creating favorable conditions for the entry of heartrot fungi. but not by others. For example. taking care to minimize injury from gashing or tearing off the bark. with prices per goodsized cutting ranging in 1991 from US$O. Larger cuttings also result. Planting: After important that planting is made at the time of the decreasing moon phase. while excessive storage in humid conditionsis generally avoided because it may result in lateral rooting or fungal growth. Eventually water will penetrate the trunk.

A very common practice is to "flicken" or increase the density of a fence by systematically planting cuttings from the nearby older live fence posts. Reviews. The thicker the live post. As compensation. it is common practice to provide the posts free. to other farmers wishing to establish new living fences. These fences with different age posts often look rather heterogeneousin architecture and vigor. the sooner it is possible to attach the wire. the poles. Usually he had a contract to establish a new fence. the . he got free access to the material pruned and was given the right to sell the usable products of his pruning. Movement or disturbance of the posts during the Fist month or so is carefully avoided. a period that usually lasts 3-6 months. widely spaced dead wooden posts are often initially used. After a year or less. One alternativeis to keep the pastures with new fences free of livestock while the cuttings take firm root. In one area it was observed that one "pruner" charged nothing for tending the fence. it is expected that the person who needs them does all the pruning of the fence where the new cuttings are obtained. it is considered desirable to protect the poles from their reach. Among parents and close friends.Research. Once planted. that is. If a fence must be immediately wired. It is also common to see living fence posts planted without the provisional use of dead posts. Where cattle are present. is allowed to elapse before the wire is attached. All round contact of the soil with the cutting and absence of voids is considered essential for good rooting. and made as F i as possible at their base by treading with the heels using full body-weight. barbed wire can then be attached to these well rooted living posts now. When living fence posts are planted for cattle enclosure. Praclices and Technology 77 region to up to US$0. The weight of cattle can also uproot recently planted stakes.They will rot in a short period." They are then placed in the holes. serving only long enough to allow living posts to become established. The holes for planting are dug to a depth of 30-50 cm with a width of 7-15 cm. depending on natural durability. Dead posts allow for immediate fencing with barbed wires. Planting of cuttings between these dead fence posts is done at a 2-3 m spacing immediately after but without attaching the barbed wire. but allowance must be made for good rooting before barbed wires can be attached. The poles usually are shaped with a "clean" diagonal cut on the lower end so to expose more cambial tissue.20 in an intensive coffee growing area. Sometimes the cutting at the bottom has 2 or 3 diagonal "faces. usually less than one or more years. a reasonable time period from two months up to one year. held vertically. However. Damage from cattle disturbance can be a problem with some species because shoots may appear below the top and thus can be reached for browsing.

Another problem is that of the tree "swallowing" or engulfing the wire. Severalstrategies are used to avoid engulfment. For most species. often up to one and a half years. since the growth of new sprouts at the top is out of the reach for cattle. and (3) minor but sometimes important issues of questionable property lines between small. various Erythrina spp. Here the planting of longer cuttings with greater diameter is favored.78 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE planting of species especially sensitive to disturbance is avoided. Live posts are then planted in between and when they take root firmly the wires are attached. generally 3-6 months after planting. Attaching barbed wire: A basic function of living fence posts is for the attachment of barbed wire to contain livestock. it is common to plant dead fence posts at relatively wide spacings and attach the wire to them. As already mentioned. The barbed wire is not attached until after the live post has rooted solidly and has produced normal branches. If the staples that hold the wire are nailed too early. six to twelve months are considered adequate. is carefully avoided by systematic pruning. The interaction of the living trees and barbed wire merits discussion. occasionally exhibit h i s tendency. This helps to keep the wire on the bark surface. such as in the case of Bombacopsis quinata and Tabebuia spp.. and particularly Bursera simaruba. One of them consists of not nailing deeply into the tree. or heavy sap exudation. caused by movement of the wire as the trees grow. Development time. After attachment. is usually allowed before proceeding with nailing. A third practice is to nail the staple through a small piece of wood . This serves two purposes: the fence staple is not embedded in the heartwood and a space is left between the tree and the staple. (2) loss of marketable value of the wood. Cattle relish the leaves from the sprouts of some species and can cause considerable damage to the cambium by pulling on these shoots and tearing off considerableportions of the bark. which becomes progressively embedded in the trunk rather than remaining on the surface of the bark.. Spondias purpurea. several species show poor wire holding properties owing to the low density or softness of the wood. intensively cropped vegetable farms in the highlands. the formation of sprouts and branches originatingbelow the top section of the planted cutting. both of which provide a margin for wire movement with increase in tree girth. Another practice is to place a small strip of metal sheet between the wire and the tree. cambial damage can result in necrotic zones. The consequences of engulfment are: (1) accelarated corrosion of the wire in some species. Posts of small diameter show a higher mortality from nailing than thicker ones. Moreover. protect crops from human and animal intruders and to demarcate property boundaries. Gliricidia sepium.

or for construction posts and occasionally lumber and cabinet wood This practice allows a gradual replacement and harvesting without depleting the area of support for barbed wire. The cuttings are sometimes tied to the barbed wire to train them during the period preceding the planting of new cuttings to fill in an nailing of the barbed wire. as well as other trees found in nearby fields. including management practices. with living posts planted in between. other welldeveloped fence trees are sometimes harvested for firewood. The authors found that 95% of the interviewedfarmers use the species as live fence posts. Cuttings for reinforcement usually are of smaller diameter than those used for the establishment of the original fence. Shchez and Payne (1987) communicated results of another survey done by the NFTP on Gliricidia sepium. any undesirable lateral. A self-sufficient supply of fuelwood is much more than just an economic benefit. Other management practices: During the first year. well-rooted posts 4-5 m apart. Uses: For most species both the main stem and the cuttings produced by branches provide a much needed supply of firewood. leafy side branches from the trunk are carefully pruned off. Shchez and Russo (1985) reported preliminary results of a survey by questionnaires carried out in Costa Rica by the Nitrogen Fixing Trees Project (NFTP). Tunialba on uses of Erythrina spp. This practice serves to direct growth to the top shoots and to train the tree by promoting corollary inhibition of lateral shoot initiation from the trunk. The latter may or may not be attached with barbed wire. The gaps between the living fence posts are gradually filled with new cuttings to reach the desired density. Later. At the same time. those with the highest density are considered better quality for firewood or charcoal. The quality varies by species. Another variation is the planting of widely spaced. thus enabling the wire to move above the bark and not to penetrate into it. A nearby supply also relieves the pressure and thus provides a margin of protection for the existent. natural primary or secondary forest nearby. Densities range from 1to 3 posts per meter up to 6 posts per meter in very dense fences around coffee and vegetable fields and gardens to prevent animal entry as well as to protect against strong winds. weak. Resiews. or excessive top branches are removed. W~th older fence. Table 2 details the findings in relation to fence posts. Practices and Technology 79 as a backing. a . In dry areas the spiny Bromeliapinguin (which has edible fruits) is a common candidate to fill in the lower portion of the fence.although the latter is considered of lesser quality since insufficient time is allowed to produce heartwood. CATIE. Most common is a density of 2-3 trees per meter.Research.

GIiricidia sepium. EXQUENCY 50 % 5 % 45 % FOW1 OF PROPAGATION EL4TERIAL 96 % Large c u t t i n g s Direct planting by seed 4 % SRAPE OF THE SilAPS OF THE BAS?& CUT Diagonal Tvo f a c e s Three faces Conical Flat 10 % APICAL CUT 10 % 10 % 19 % 51 % Diagonal ConicaI Flat 82 % 4 4 14 % PERIOD OF ?. is highly valued for its dense and very resistant wood It is in great demand for piling foundations. f o r f e n c e p o s t s I n C o s t a R l c a (Sanchez a n d Russo. 8 9 % - 6 % 12 % 23 % N O Yes 6 % 90 -100 % 53 % .1 m 1.79 '1 8 0 -. Even though the trunk is usually not straight.dead comer fence posts and railroad ties.0 rn 3. 1 9 8 5 ) . This tree. SFECIES E.1 . .EST BEFORZ PLANTING 7 days Up 8 t o 15 days Without r e s t MOON ?SASE CUTTING -SEASON Dry p e r i o d S t a r t of rainy season During t h e rainy season Throughout t h e y e a r 18 % 41 % 41 % 35 % 22 % 22 % 17 % Rising Wanin? 0 .0 m Variable SURVIVAL RATE XPLANTING < 49 % 50 69 % 1 0 .2 . a handsome tree with numerous yellow flowers during the dry season.3. Diphysa robinioides. 0 m 2 . will grow from a cutting of 6-7 cm diameter to a tree with a diameter of 20 cm in 5-6 years. 1 .4. It thrives in dry and wet soils. fences have been observed with a sizeable percentage of trees with good form characters. probably the most extensively used live fence tree in . fUSCd Other Erythrinas. Ample possibilities for genetic improvement exist for this species.1 .80 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE T a b l e 2. b e r t e r o a n a 2. Hanagement p r a c t i c e s o f E r y t h r i n a s p p . similar in appearance to the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) of North America.

3"C and annual rainfall 2700 mm). The tree shows surprising variation in appearance and growth form.Costa Rica (Withington et al. whitecreamish. Little research on this subject has been done. mean annual temperature 22. Some varieties. 1946). yields a wood of similar qualities but its diameter growth is slower. Yucca elephantipes Regel. The leaves. both propagated by seed. Cupressus Iusitanica and Alnus acuminata. Erythrina berteroana responds to regular pollardiig with a great volume of large leafed shoots in only 3 weeks to 1 month.6 m and the lopped branches were 4. bears red or yellow plum-like edible fruits appreciated by livestock as well as humans. The posts had an average spacing of 0. although it produces cuttings at a faster rate.6. are most common. The leaves are also eaten when young. Practices and Technology 81 the American tropics. for artisanal work and for poles in contact with the ground. A workshop on management and improvement of this species was recently held in the Tropical Agricultural Center for Research and Training (CATIE). berteroana after pruning and carefully measurements showed the following production (Table 3). Tabebuia rosea and Tectona grandis stand out in the lowlands. are edible when cooked. a cosmopolitan tree. Goats are particularly eager to eat these shoots. It has durable wood which is used for cabinets. There is great variation in the quantity and quality of fruit. Spondias purpurea. a 100 m fence of E.These are sought out as a delicious vegetable which is . The names of some particularly productive varieties have been reported from Guatemala (Standley and Steyermark. flowers and fruits of several live fence trees are an important source of fodder for domestic animals and food for humans.. Reviews. The leaves of Gliricidia sepium are commonly fed to cattle. the rose apple and is grown from polyembryonic seeds which produce multiple fast growing shrub-like stems. In the highlands. and 8 months old after being pollarded. but the highest yields and the best quality come from rather dry areas. Turrialba. 1987). particularly with large fruits are often seen in markets. few other fence trees are often allowed to grow into adult trees because of the value of their wood. Production: At CATIE (elevation 610 m. A member of the Liliaceae. bell-shaped flowers. These shoots are often used for rabbit feed and are also palatable to livestock. Among those Bombacopsis quinata. however. especially in the lowland humid tropics. The flowers. but are said to be semi-toxic to horses. The tree is often planted for windbreaks to protect coffee plantations and other crops at middle elevations. with long stiff dagger shaped leaves is notable for its large paniculate. Eugenia jumbos bears a crisp fruit.Research.

. printers. This tree also does well on poor and compacted soils. the local markets and the cultural backgrounds. /prunning) Leaves Branches Total . They are also more durable. inks and in some ointments where stimulant and antiseptic qualities were required. although usually the latter is infested with larvae when ripe. the ecological conditions. It is rapidly propagated from cuttings in most types of soil under dry and wet climatic conditions from sea level to about 1500 m altitude. is used for jellies. . cooked with eggs.and other domestic animals and in fact the seeds are spread through excrement. Average distance between posts: 0. the well known guava fruit. . Living fence posts are of relatively low cost. the cashew. are relished by cattle . will grow on very degraded soils in relatively dry climates. This aromatic essential oil played a role in commerce in the past and provided a sticky base for varnishes. Every 4 months Every 6 months (kg d. particularly when live fences from which cuttings can be obtained are found nearby. JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLEAGRICULTURE - . The wood is frequently used for fuel. Table 3: Biomass production (dry weight) of one kilometer of fence of Erythrina berteroana pruned every 4. Flowers are sold at US$0.. The stigma is usually removed to avoid a bitter taste.00 her cluster in Costa Rican markets. . canned for juice or eaten raw. - Every 8 months 700 500 1200 - 780 1050 1830 - 750 2440 3190 -. - . -.-. . and rows of live fence posts well over 50 years have been recorded. in comparison with normal wooden "dead" posts. 6 and 8 months. The thick colored sap exuded from wounds in Spondias purpurea is used in medicine.50-1. Home use is made of the gum as a cement for mending crockery and as a crude varnish. . Anacardium occidentale. CONCLUSIONS The maintenance and other management practices of living fences vary with the species. The plant is also used to stabilize terrain along roads. Each stem produces one cluster per year. Psidium guajava. Bursera simaruba exudes on oleo-resin called elemis.82 . The fruits like those of various Ficus spp.. w.. particularly when there are landslides.6 m. .

such as careful handling of the large cuttingsprior to planting. And once planted live fences are difficult to move or to eradicate because of their rooting systems. they compete for water. drying requirements or their pelleting capability is needed. can be toxic if ingested by livestock. Local people speak of varieties and races. and their possible replacement if they do not take root. to serve as windbreaks or to supply sources of animal feed or forage. nutrients. the living fence is indeed a very promising practice to be . additional data about their protein content. much less quantified. but these are tittle known since the information has not yet been validated. and even the fofiage of some species. such as with electric fences or even dead fence posts. although over limited surfaces. Some of the fruits. Live fences may become weeds and grow tall when they are not maintained. The same may be said about the ability of living fence posts to contribute to soil stabilization.Research. Reviews. They are not easily relocated. information is scarce. as can be witnessed by many abandoned live fences. They require much more care for their establishment and maintenance. vigor. They may also be considered as obstacles to the use of machinery and even for small airplanes that spray pesticides. Despite the important role of live fence posts in the rural landscape and the vast amount of empirical knowledge accumulated. For the latter. quality of edible fruits and flowers produced. Finally. There is no doubt that a great potential exists for the development of improved strains through the application of known selection and varietal improvement techniques. Periodic pruning is required and often constitutes a main management problem. and light with adjacent crops. desirable architecture. Practices and Technology 83 But there are also drawbacks when using live fence posts in comparison with non-living wooden. digestibility. in terms of growth habits. 1982). Much potential exists for commercialization of some of the multitude of derived products obtained from live fences and the subsequent generation of additional income. Some of the advantages and drawbacks concerning live fences were previously presented (Budowski. metallic or cement fence posts. protein content of foliage and resistance against drought or swampy conditions. More needs to be known about the cultural. Under certain conditions. harbor pests. and sometimes do. edaphic and climatic requirements of the many species used and the anatomical and physiological basis of propagation from large cuttings and the various factors affecting their regenerationand rooting. particularly for the small farmers. absence of spines ( i what would be normally spiny varieties). Certain superior varieties among fence post species seem to exist. They can. sprouting behavior.

G. no. Baggio. where the practice is most widespread.A. 91 p. California. una tdcnica silvopastoril). Departamento de Ciencias Forestales. 1982. Martinus NijhoR Publishers. Russo. The socio-economic effects of forest management on lives of people Living in the area: the case of Central American and some Caribbean countries.Sc. Mexico. Universidad Aut6noma de Chapingo. Edited by J. 117) Beliard. Costa Rica. 1983. Kass and R. A first step in this direction would be the retrieval of all the empirical information accumulated. In Agoforeshy: realities.6 y 9 meses).L. 1987. Budowski.Chapingo. 1977. pp. 1982. en Costa Rica. The rain forest of Golfo Dulce.Sc. S. D.) Steud. 1987. Thesis. 1984. C. en cercas v i v a bajo tres frecuencias de podas (3. UCRCARIE. Turrialba. Ago-forestry in the humid tropics. Colombia.169-178. G. the Caribbean. 12 p. Costa Rica Trabajo presentado en el curso Corto sobre Metodologias de Investigaci6n Agoforestal en el Tr6pico Hiunedo UNU/CATIE-IICA TROPICOS-CONIF. Producci6n de biomasa de Gliricidia Sepium (Jacq) Stend. 417 p. H. CATIE. Establecimiento. 1983. a program of work. CATIE. Costa Rica (Inf. Fassbender and J. BIBLIOGRAPHY Alavez Lopez. New York. A. Tabasco. Edited by H. manejo y utilizacidn del sistema agroforestal cercos vivos de Gliricidia sepiurn (Jacq. Experiences with fence lime fodder trees in Costa Rica and Nicarag u a In Advances in Agroforeshy Research Proceedings. Tunialba.C. M. Bond W. Tunialba. J. Resultados preliminares de la producci6n de biomasa en cercos vivos de Gliricidia sepium bajo dos frecuencias de poda en la regi6n de La Palmera. Gholz. Tec.O.G. Beliard. Dordrecht. 1944.H. pp.84 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE considered in sustainable agriculture. 97 p.. Hallsworth. The Netherlands. 1977. Allen. 87-102. Budowski. and northern South America. Beer. . Costa Rica.T. Tesis Mag. Costa Rica. John Wiley. Heuveldop. Stanford. Living fences in tropical America: a widespread agroforesby practice. CATIE.A. 77 p. G. possibilities and potentials. Tesis 1ng.A~. (report mimeo). much of the value remains to be found. Tunialba. Pesquisa Agropecuaria Brasileira 19(s/n):205-222.. not only in Costa Rica but also in the rest of Central America. For that reason it deserves more research and dissemination of knowledge. In Socio-economic effects and constraints in tropical forest management Edited by E. Costa Rica. Beer. Budowski G.W. C.E. Tunialba. Budowski. Leguminous trees for shade. 24 p. Stanford University Press. (manejo de Arboles en 10s potreros.L. 1982. CATIE-UCR. P. Undoubtedly. Cali. 1984. Estudio p r e l i i a r de 10s c ~ c o vivos s en la ganaderia de Teapa. San Carlos.J. Hedge plants in Northern Nigeria Tropical Agriculture (Trinidad) 21(12):228-230. 26 de noviembre a 7 de diciembre de 1983.

Hardwood.T.L. Westview Press.. 1966. 1939. de las Salas e d Taller de Sistemas Agoforestales en Am6rica Latina. Costa Rica. 90 p. J. CATIE. D. Emaizamiento de estacas de seis especies forestales con tres niveles de 6cido indol-butirico. 1982. 1984. Productividadde una cerca viva de Erythrina berteroana Urban en Turrialba. NiffAL Project. B. Costa Rica. Combe. The symbiotic affities of woody species under consideration as nitrogen-fixing trees. Halliday.E 1901. CATIE. Renewable Natural Resources Department. J. Holdridge.R. San Jose. Turrialba. 160 p. Department of Agriculture. Roma.L. Cook. Boulder. Costa Rica IICA 41 p.L. Postes vivos para cercos. Colorado. Jr. Duke. Common fuelwood crops: A handbook for their identification. Reviews. M. Howes. FAO.T. y G.A. Russo y E.Sc. Brittonia 3:205-337. Espinoza. The life zone system. Thesis CATLE-UCR W a l b a .d. Fulton.1. Bibliography on the genus Erythrina. 79 p. Prentice-Hall. Kew Bull of Miscellaneous Inf. kboles de Costa Rica v.C.R. 546 p. M. Budowski.C. and D.A. .Tesis Mag.A. L. J. Estaci6n Experimental Agrkola 6 p. Practices and Technology 85 Budowski. Panarni 325 p.. Washington. G. J.727 p.Holdridge. 1970. Clasificacidnde las tknicas agroforestales: una revisidn de litexatura. Garcia W J . Manual dentrol6gico para 1000 species arb6reas en la Repdblica de Panam4 Rograma de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo y FAO. 1972. El por6. 96 p. Centro Agronornico Tropical de Investigaci6ny Enseiianza 1986.E. University of Hawaii. Twilaba. Krukoff. 4ed Englewood Cliffs. Plant Propagation: principles and practices. pp. Centro Cientffico Tropical. Morgantown. 182 p. In G. Shade in coffee culture. Holdridge. y L. Kester. 1946.Sc. 39). Fence and barrier plants in waxm climates. E. 1979. The American species of Erythn'na. T i g o Marla. H. 85 p. Turrialba 35(1):83-86. Understanding and improving farming systems in the humid tropics. 1975.R. Living fence posts in Cuba Agriculture in the Americas 5(2):34-38. Hartmann. P d . J. Poveda. 1968. New Jersey..R. Rdcticas de plantaci6n forestal en Adrica Latina. Flinta. Fonseca. Maryland. w.. Adansonia 6(2): 199-203. Mora. 1983. Isthmian ethnobotanical dictionary. Small fann development. 251-87. Division of Botany. CM. W a l b a . R. Burgos. Duke. U. L. Costa Rica. 1979. Revista de Agriculma (Costa Rica) 40(6-7): 102-112.S. 354 p. Costa Rica.E. 0. J. (Circular no. Caracterizaci6n nubitiva de la fracci6n nitrogaadit del fomaje de madero negro Gliricidia xepium y por6 Erythrina poeppigiana. R. and P. Nakao. 1960. Crane. F. . 1985. 1748.O.N. Costa Rica. 449 p. 1974.Research. West Viginia. 1952. 1945. Little.

1980.0 Group S1.S. 2).L. Russo. N. 1979.R.F. Paper presented in Second Meeting of I. Denmark. Org. Nobhan. Glover and J. Ensayo sobre plantas usuales de Costa Rica.F. G.A. Sauer. Living fence rows of the Rio San Miguel. Mintz. Turrialba. y R. a multipqose tree in Costa Rican farms. D. Firewood crops. Living hedge fences. shrub and trees varieties. Department of Agriculture. N. Human Ecology S(2): 97-111.86 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE AGRlCULTURE Logsdon. U.F.. 1978. Turrialba (Costa Rica) 29(4):255-26 1. Living fence posts in Central America. Studies on Erythrina poeppigiana (Walpers) O.D. Econoniic Botany 16:lOl-105. Dissertation Southeastern UNversity. 1976. Waimanalo. Tesis Mag. y Martinez H. Ph. Los Angeles. E.S. D.. Shrub and tree species for energy production. Biomass production of Etythrina spp. G. . Living fences in the Fond des-Neges region. N. 1420 p. 148 p. Postes vivos para cercos. Russo.C.07-Agroforestry. C.&. Washington. Produccidn de biomasa y leiia en cercas vivas de Gliricidia sepium (Jacg. A. O. HI. Washington. 8-13. R. y R.A.F. Tumalba.D. Plantas dtiles de la flora mexicana. Illinois. (Serie Ciencias Naturales no.W. and L. Tropical legumes: resource for the future. V.07. 1979. Payne. Costa Rica. F. D. U. Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association. 1985.. Withington. V.. and 89 p. Sanchez. Costa Rica. National Academy of Sciences. Sonma. Cook.S. Zed rev.. Ruberte. Morton. Louisiana.2. and R. M. planting and pruning.) Walp.: Management and Improvement. Pittier.W. J. 1984. H.A.) Steud de dos aiios de edad en Costa Rica.R.A. CATIE. Silvoenergia (Costa Rica) 1:l-4. Sheridan. 77 p. S.. 1980. Gard Farming 25(5):78-84. J. Techniques and plants for the tropical subsistence fann.. 1987. IICA. Lozano J. 1984. June 24-28. W. 1985. 1978.P. 1962.A.1985. 1959. (Papilionaceae) in the humid tropics. Plantas medicinales de Costa Rica y su folclore. Thomas. Otarola T. and T.A. 326 p. Edited by D. Haiti. October 28-November 1.U. 186 p. 1957. 1981. National Academy of Sciences. Atlas of medicinal plants of Middle America. Salazar. 237 p. Botas 621 p. Brewbaker.A. Picado. Editorial Universitaria.O. Paper presented to the Conference "Research in Foreshy for Energy.M. Mayaguez.. Sanchez. San Jose.. H.l.O. Costa Rica.S. G. 1984. Puerto Rico. 1977. Martin.E. pp. Living fences in Costa Rican agriculture." Copenhague. Martinez. 318 p.1985. Mexico. 1983. Schroeder. 56 p. Nuiiez MelBndez. Manejo y producci6n de cercas v i v a de Gliricidia sepium en el Nordeste de Honduras. M6xico: traditional technology for floodplain management. 1962. New Orleans. Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica. G. Survey of the cultural practices and uses of Gliricidia sepium by farmers in Costa Rica In Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.C.

E. Addis Ababa. 1987. DE. N. Withington. (manuscript). Estudios sobre propagaci6n de especies forestales por estacas. Agr. 3 1P. Gliricidia sepium (Jacq. Turrialba. L. Costa Rick UNU/ CATIE. 1962. 1986.: Management and Improvement Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association.. J. Devrripci6n y evaluaci6n de las prkticas agroforestales en la cuenca piloto de La Suiza. Practices and Technology 87 California. Gliricidia sepium (Jacq. Fieldha Botany 24(5): 1-502. Costa Rica. Waimanalo. Steyermark. RECEIVED: 5/14/91 REVISED: 6/5/92 ACCEPTED: 6119/92 .A. Glover and J. Tunialba. 11 p.) Walp. Brewbaker (eds). 1946. 1979. Sumberg. P. University of California.Reseatch. D. and J. J.A. Ugalde. Flora of Guatemala.L. Tesis Mag. 255 p. InternationalLivestock Centre for Africa 12 p. Standley. HI. Vastey. Department of Biology. 67 p. Ethiopia. Reviews.) S t e u e a selected bibliography.C. IICA. Cant6n de Tunialba.

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