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Cycle 9 (2020 Deadline)

Improving sustainability and resilience of Peruvian Amazon systems through silvopastoralism

PI: Carlos Gomez (, Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM)
U.S. Partner: Heathcliffe Riday, U.S. Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS), U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center
Project Dates: April 2021 - March 2024

Project Overview:
9-124 Cattle
Cattle in Cuñumbuque in San Martin Region. Photo Credit: PI Gomez
Peru recently included the establishment of silvopastoral systems (SPS) with improved pastures in its national determined contributions (NDCs) with the goal to reduce direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by livestock production and to increase sustainability and resilience of pastoral systems. Sustainability and resilience of SPS compared with other pasture-based systems have been studied by a few authors in Peru, but none has looked at various sustainability measures and resilience within a single study. This project will evaluate sustainability and resilience in a holistic assessment. It will compare SPS with conventional pasture-based systems (CPS) through Life Cycle Assessment, economic assessment, socioeconomic assessment, resilience assessment, and carbon storage. The Life Cycle Assessment will estimate the effect of each farm system on land use, GHG emission, acidification, and eutrophication. The economic assessment will use cost reductions and a profit gain analysis to estimate the costs and benefits of the implementation of SPS. The socioeconomic assessment will be based on a qualitative assessment using structured interviews to determine barriers to the adoption of SPS. The resilience assessment will consider the dry season as a “disturbance” and will evaluate resilience of SPS and CPS as a ratio of key performance indicators in the dry season over the wet season. Carbon storage in soil and vegetation will be measured in the same farms.

The U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center plays a crucial role in this work. The U.S. partner and other scientists from the Center will share their expertise in the agroecosystem carbon storage potential of agricultural lands and provide training in additional measurement techniques and data analysis. Those techniques include the use of Landsat and MODIS satellite data to estimate productivity and ecosystem respiration of pastoral systems. Neither of these techniques have been used previously in Peruvian livestock research. Data generated in this project will be made available to regional databases on carbon storage to inform soil carbon models. In addition, the data will be made available for the development of monitoring, reporting, and verification mechanisms for SPS with the aim to access carbon markets to help finance the implementation of SPS.

Livestock is among the main drivers of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. Silvopastoral systems with improved pastures can avoid pasture degradation and recover degraded pastures in the region. They can also lead to increased pasture quality and yield, which reduces the land area needed for livestock production. Thus, well managed SPS not only reduce deforestation but also increase livestock production efficiency. The team will work together with the Peruvian Institute of Agricultural Innovation, which has a long-term relationship with farmers, to ensure that farmers are directly involved and that the research is put into practice.

Summary of Recent Activities:

In June 2022, PhD student Dante Pizarro presented at a seminar in San Martín. He discussed the Tool for Agroecology Performance Evaluation (TAPE) used to assess the first component of the project, holistic assessment of the sustainability and resilience of silvopastoral systems compared to conventional pastoral systems. From August 6-16, U.S. partner Dr. Michel Wattiaux visited Peru and led a workshop on innovative methodologies to improve the teaching of animal science emphasizing sustainability issues. Professors and students from the Faculty of Animal Science at the National Agrarian University—La Molina (UNALM) participated. Dr. Wattiaux also visited livestock producers included in the research study in San Martín to advise them on field work and met with officers of the Peruvian Department of Agriculture to assess the status of the topic in Peru.

Regarding field activities, the project team analyzed the results of their surveys of 20 cattle producers (10 using a silvopastoral system and 10 with the traditional system). They sampled pastures and milk during the rainy season for the same 20 selected producers. A laboratory at UNALM is analyzing pasture grass samples for fiber, protein, and dry matter digestibility and testing milk samples for protein, fat, and lactose content. Likewise, the team has carried out weight estimations on at least two animals per category (largest and smallest of each category). They have initiated the introduction of available field data using the rapid environmental assessment tool CLEANED (Comprehensive Livestock Environmental Assessment for Improved Nutrition, a Secured Environment and Sustainable Development along Livestock Value Chains), which was developed by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. They also collected soil samples from the farms of the 20 producers in the study to determine chemical, physical, and biological characteristics.

Looking ahead, in October 2022, project team members will present the results of the soil analysis to cattle producers in two workshops in San Martín. In addition,Dante Pizarro will present the main results regarding the use of the TAPE tool at a Sustainability Symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In December 2022, the team will complete the analyses of samples collected in the field and will organize a second workshop to present those results. They will also execute a webinar in collaboration with the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Wisconsin to review the results of the soil-cattle interaction. Meanwhile, Dr. Gomez and his colleagues are also happy to report that two of their recent grant proposals have been approved in recent months. In addition to their PEER-funded work, they will be carrying out projects on (1) Improving pasture production through best soil nutrient management to promote sustainable livestock production and (2) Integrated crop-ruminant livestock systems as a strategy to increase nutrient circularity and promote sustainability in the context of climate change.

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