Improving agroforestry and silvopastoral systems in Latin America by maximising species and genetic diversity of the multipurpose legume Inga

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Tropical forest soils in the Amazon and many other parts of Latin America are generally nutrient-poor and unsuited to long-term agricultural use. Land converted to agriculture by cutting and burning natural vegetation tends to remain productive for only a few years, necessitating continual advance of the agricultural frontier, with accompanying deforestation, and generating situations of food insecurity and poverty.

Agroforestry and silvopastoral systems, which incorporate trees into crop and livestock systems, have been shown to make a dramatic impact on the maintenance and restoration of long-term productivity in agricultural landscapes, including degraded and abandoned land, and are well suited to use by poor rural smallholders. They can provide major benefits through enhanced livelihoods and food security, as well as to local economies.

Inga is a diverse genus of trees from the legume family, found across the humid tropics of Latin America. These fast-growing trees are able to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and fertilise the soil around them. They can be grown in poor, degraded soils, out-competing weeds and invasive species.

The value of native trees, including Inga, within agroforestry systems, where they are planted to provide a nurturing environment for crops, has been amply demonstrated by a number of projects, and is gaining momentum. However, this has been insufficiently explored. Most such systems have been developed around a limited genetic stock of a single species, Inga edulis, yet it performs best under a limited range of conditions and other Inga species are likely to provide equal if not greater benefits outside of this range, which would expand the geographic and ecological scope within which these systems can be applied.

Emerging techniques in genetics offer the potential for rapid identification of species and genotypes of Inga with similar ecological characteristics, thus facilitating fast-tracking of appropriate candidates into field trials and ultimately into more productive landscapes. The project will apply state-of-the-art genetic approaches to complete a thorough analysis of the genus, focusing primarily on species in the Brazilian Amazon, identifying the most suitable species for agroforestry and silvo-pastoral systems. Critically, this selection of species will be done in consultation with stakeholders and smallholders, to ensure uptake and use of the selected species.

Targeted field collection of tissue specimens and seeds from these species will support ongoing genetic research, and will be used to establish early-stage field trials in Mato Grosso (southern Amazon), both in controlled contexts and in agroforest systems. These will be monitored to assess a range of characters including growth rate, biomass and tree form, all of which are important indicators of their suitability. Longer-term monitoring, using protocols developed by the project, will provide further indication of their potential value within these systems.

The project will be delivered in Brazil through collaborative partnerships between UK and Brazilian scientists. It aims to develop and demonstrate the effectiveness of a methodological approach that can form the basis for improved agroforestry and silvopastoral systems across Latin America. In the course of the project, the team will build a network of scientists and practitioners within Brazil and across other Latin American countries, facilitating the development of further research in this field and communicating its findings to a range of academics, practitioners of agroforestry and silvo-pastoral systems and the lay public, in both Latin America and the UK.

Technical Summary

Existing agroforestry and silvo-pastoral systems (AF/SPS) in Latin America rely on few tree species that may be poorly adapted to specific edaphic environments and stakeholder needs. The proposed research will expand greatly the suite of tree species available for use in AF/SPS systems in moist tropical environments in Latin America, via a comprehensive research programme spanning from field trials to cutting-edge, next-generation sequencing approaches. We will focus on the hyperdiverse (~300 species) and ecologically dominant tree genus Inga (Leguminosae), for which we have already developed hybrid-capture protocols to efficiently sequence ~1400 genes, and for which field trials for AF/SPS have already been developed and implemented. In addition, the fact that Inga belongs to the economically important legume family allows us to leverage deep functional genetic, ecophysiological and agronomic knowledge to accomplish our key objectives.

We will increase our phylogenetic sampling of Inga (currently 135 species, mostly outside Brazil) to include multiple populations of all 93 Inga species present in the Brazilian Amazon. We will use this phylogenetic knowledge to determine which species are close relatives of the very few Inga species that are currently extensively used in AF/SPS systems. In consultation with stakeholders, we will implement field trials to determine which of these previously unused Inga species have the most desirable functional properties in terms of performance in AF/SPS systems. We will hold a workshop at the project's end, to diffuse this knowledge to key players in AF/SPS systems in Brazil, and elsewhere in Latin America, to expand the network and increase the efficiency of AF/SPS systems in Latin America. Lastly, we will leverage generated sequence data and existing transcriptomic data for 15 Inga species to determine which genetic loci underlie performance in field trials, which can improve future breeding improvement of Inga species.

Planned Impact

The principal short- to medium-term impact of this project will be establishment of the scientific framework and collaborative partnerships necessary for the development of agroforest and silvopastoral systems for crop and livestock production that will contribute to more sustainable and productive agricultural landscapes in the humid Neotropics. The project will leave a lasting legacy including: (i) increased awareness, knowledge and uptake among scientists, practitioners and policy-makers of Inga systems; (ii) greatly improved knowledge of appropriate species and varieties of Inga for application within this context, achieved through the application of advanced molecular techniques and field trials supporting site-appropriate selection and breeding; (iii) new partnerships, alliances and technical approaches for further research and development in the region; and (iv) enhanced capacity for applied genomic research in Brazil applicable to agroforestry development and improvement more broadly.

In the longer term, in addition to future research built on the foundations of the project, the ultimate beneficiaries of our work will be rural communities in lower-middle income countries in Latin America. Via the greater resilience of agroforest and silvopastoral systems in times of climatic change and population growth, these communities can benefit from reduced poverty, improved food security, and reduced pressure on natural vegetation and biodiversity through conversion to agriculture. The outcomes from the project will therefore directly support Brazil in delivery of its commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity and to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description University of Exeter GCRF Global Research Translation Award: Sustainable Solutions to Food Security Challenges
Amount £621,951 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/T015268/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 03/2021
 
Description Agroforestry workshop from EMBRAPA 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Practitioners,students and other representatives of the third sector and environmental agencies from the region met in Sinop to discuss opportunities and pratice of agroforestry in the region. I made a lecture on sustainable indicators systems adapted to local socioecological systems. A network of practitioners and researchers has been created to increase the impact of agroforestry regionally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description BBC news on the Inga project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I colaborated with an interview by e-mail, which was then part of an article published in the Science and Environment section of the BBC website. It generated interest of the general public and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50200142
 
Description Herramientas Genómicas Para el estudio de Árboles del Amazonas y la Selva Tropical Africana. Lecture at the M.Sc. in Biodiversity and Conservation of Tropical areas, UIMP-CSIC, Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Sixty students attended a guest lecture of the M.Sc. in Biodiversity and Conservation of Tropical areas, a joint M.Sc. programmed coordinated between the Universidad Internacional Melendez Pelayo (UIMP) and the Research Council of Spain (CSIC). The program is especially directed towards university graduates in the fields of Biological Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Pharmacy, Veterinary Studies, Agricultural, Agronomic or Forest Engineering, and other degrees related to the environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.uimp.es/postgrado/estudios/fichaestudio.php?plan=P03O&any=2018-19&verasi=N&lan=en
 
Description Interview for the Christian Science Monitor (Canada) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed by a journalist from the Christian Science Monitor, Canada, who visited us and some of the areas I have been working. The article is still being prepared.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Invited Presentation, International Legume Conference, Japan, "Inga: using a next-generation hybrid capture phylogenomics method in a case study of evolutionary radiation in tropical rain forest trees" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited conference presentation to a highly diverse international group of legume scientists. Raised awareness of the potential of legume tree species in agroforesty systems in developing countries
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited conference talk, International Biogeography Society Meeting, Malaga, Spain, Jan 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Postdoc Rosalia Pineiro gave an invited talk "Tropical Tree Genomics: the African rainforest during the Ice Ages". This contained a section where she outlined the hybrid-capture sequencing element of our project as a means of identifying Inga species with potential in agroforestry. GIven the wide audience for this talk, this was a good way to raise awareness of our new project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited lecture, University of Exeter Global Challenges Symposium, "Addressing global challenges from the University of Exeter" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited lecture by Toby Pennington that shared experiences of best practice around global challenges related research. Broad themes related to building partnerships across different geographies and sectors, coupled with personal reflections on the GCRF agenda and what it has meant for your research (e.g., promoting interdisciplinarity and engagement with the humanities and social sciences). This stimulated diverse questions, especially around building sustainable partnerships and what constitutes effective capacity building in the global south.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Invited seminar, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: "Neotropical dry forests and savannas: diversity, biogeography and conservation" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited research seminar at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in which I was able to present outcomes from three NERC funded projects that have increased ecosystem monitoring and understanding of dry biomes in Latin America
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Invited seminar, Universidade do Estado do Mato Grosso, Alta Floresta, Brazil "Inga: a model for Amazonian evolution, ecology and agroforestry" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Toby Pennington gave a seminar about the biology and uses of the genus Inga to a general audience at the State University of Mato Grosso. Questions focused on the uses of Inga species in agroforestry systems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Kew Outreach (Science): Improving agroforestry and silvopastoral systems in the Amazon 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Making the research project more available. The impacts are not known.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.kew.org/science/our-science/projects/amazon-agroforestry-silvopastoral
 
Description Meeting in University of Mato Grosso 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Mr. Pennington, Alexandre Olivval and I presented current research and extension activities carried out, which generated debate with students about the multipurpose legume Inga and agrosilvopastoral systems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Newton-Paulet funded workshop "Integrating omic-based technologies for the valorization of Peruvian crop biodiversity", Universidad Catolica Santa Mari´a, Arequipa-Peru´ 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A three-say workshop funded by the Newton Paulet Fund (Brithish Council) "Integrating omic-based technologies for the valorization of Peruvian crop biodiversity" that was held in Arequipa-Perú (Universidad Catolica Santa María) from September 10th to 12th 2019, led by Dr. Lena Gálvez. A group of 36 scientist from Peru and UK evaluated the potential integrations of -omic tools to valorise the large genetic resources of the large diversity of endemic crops in Peru. I contributed translating my experience in developing genomic methods to assess the crop wild relative species.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://twitter.com/FondecytPeru/status/1183837150367944709?s=08
 
Description Participation in the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Alexandre Olival and I participated in the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry, held in Montpellier, France. I presented a poster and wrote an abstract for the annals of the event, while Alexandre presented the work with silvipastoral systems in an oral presentation session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://agroforestry2019.cirad.fr/
 
Description Plenary speaker at the 9th International Biogeography Society Meeting, Málaga, Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In January last year I took part as a plenary speaker at the International Biogeography Meeting (IBS, https://www.xcdsystem.com/ibs/program/fzNIpeL/index.cfm?pgid=368). This is the most important international meeting in Biogeography and takes place every second year all over the world. The meeting has c.a. 500 participants but in the main symposia there are not concurrent sessions, which means that they accept 10 talks only.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.biogeography.org/event/spain2019/?
 
Description Population Genomics for Biogeography and Species Delimitation Workshop Conservation Genetics in the Tropics, Doñana Biological Station, CSIC, Sevilla, Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact At the International Biogeography Meeting I met Jennifer Leonard, a principal investigator at the Estación Biológica de Doñana-CSIC, expert in animal population genetics and modern DNA technology to sequence DNA from historical and archaeological collections. She invited me to be an instructor of the Tropical Conservation Course she organises at the facilities of the National Park, where students from all over the world get training on Tropical Research (http://consevol.org/consgentropicscourse.html).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://www.ebd.csic.es/en/biologia-de-la-conservacion
 
Description Population Genomics of Paleo- and Neotropical Trees. Plenary speaker at the 1st Annual Symposium of Botany in Spain, Sevilla, Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Spanish Society of Botany (SEBOT) did not exist until only 6 months ago. It was created as a federation of five botanical associations in Spain and has c.a. 700 members. I was invited as one of the 8 main speakers to give a talk that is linked to a publication at a special issue of the open Access Journal Frontiers in Plant Sciences "Phylogenomic Approaches to Deal with Particularly Challenging Plant Lineages", which I signed as my first publication as a senior author (under minor revision). The symposium was a success, with 160 attendees (https://simposioanualbotanicaespanola.weebly.com/). After the success of the first Annual Symposium of the Spanish Society of Botany, I will become a member of the organising committee from 2021 onwards. Next year, it will be held at the Jardín Botánico de Madrid.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://simposioanualbotanicaespanola.weebly.com/
 
Description Presentation in Kew Gardens, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Alexandre Olival and I presented research and extension activities and findings with and audience mainly represented by researchers, who engaged in a discussion about sustainable socioecological systems in the southern Amazon forest frontier, in the north of Mato Grosso, Brazil.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation in the University of Exeter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I presented the first findings and the monitoring protocol used in the silvicultural trials of seven Inga species in Brazil for a group of students of the University of Exeter. Alexandre Olival presented the context in wich this study has been taken place, with especial emphasis on the Agroforestry Research Center, led by Instituto Ouro verde, in Alta Floresta, Mato Grosso, Brazil.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Programa de Pesquisa em Resiliencia (Workshop) UFSCar: use of Inga in agroforestry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Wider knowledge of the use of Inga in agroforestry and silvopastoral projects among relevant scientists
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Rural extension workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I talked about the technical challenges to implement diverse estratified agrosilvopastoral systems in a meeting of extensionists debating local challenges of rural extension. It raised questions about family farming. This event was organized by Instituto Centro de Vida, a NGO from Alta floresta, MT, Brazil.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Talk "The rainforest during the Ice Ages" at the III UK Plant Evolution Meeting, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The third UK Plant Evolution Meeting is becoming one of the main meetings for plant researchers based in the UK. In 2019 it was organised by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London and involved four sessions. I presented a talk in session 3.
SESSION 1: PLANT DEVELOPMENT AND EVOLUTION
SESSION 2: PLANT TRAITS INVOLVED IN ADAPTATION AND DOMESTICATION
SESSION 3: EVOLUTIONARY DRIVERS OF PLANT DIVERSITY
SESSION 4: RECENT APPROACHES TO UNDERSTANDING MACROEVOLUTION
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.kew.org/sites/default/files/2019-03/UKPEM-2019-PROGRAMME.pdf