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Agro-Ecosystems of Yunnan, China
Ammomum plantation inside rain forest
Famous agricultural crops
Rare forest crops
Life style and health
TianZi Health Food Restaurant, tea garden, and food store
While most rural communities prefer to till fertile alluvial lands in river valleys, competition over land and population pressure force farmers to grow crops at hill sides. However, there are also advantages tilling land at higher altitudes, specifically in tropical areas. Advantages include that at certain altitude, the mosquitoes which are vectors of Malaria, do no longer occur. Also, when temperatures cool down at night, the crops are loosing less energy during night due to reduces metabolism, and finally the gradual surface erosion on hill sides allows plants to root in "fresh" soil after every rainy season.
While the last argument has been disputed widely because it leads to serious siltation of rivers and coral reefs, there is no doubt that also shifting cultivation (or swidden cultivation) has its place in culture and has contributed much to the dynamics of forest ecosystems when the human population was smaller and not confined by industrial scale agriculture and forestry as nowadays.
Shifting cultivation usually starts with cutting trees and a fire which clears a spot for crop production.
In the ideal case, shifting cultivation is a cycle where farmers come back to the original place after a couple of years. The picture shows a newly prepared land in the center. In the background is untouched forest, in the foreground the piece of land which has been left idle to re-growth of a secondary forest from the previous cropping cycle, and on the right the secondary growth awaiting cultivation during the next cropping cycle.
Nature protection which respects traditional culture of ethnic communities tends to replace the shifting farming systems by permanent, often tree-based agro-forestry schemes. It has by all means be prevented that the swidden fields extend to the upper ridges of the hills as their the forest cover is vital to retain ecosystem functions and services.
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ecologically friendly crop production:
Agriculture in Yunnan is largely designed by ethnic minority people from more than 20 distinctly different ethnic communities. Wherever possible, and mainly in the fertile lowlands, rice fields are forming the landscape.
In the mountains, shifting cultivation is predominant, although it is now gradually given up and replaced by more permanent forms of agriculture.
Of course, also agricultural industry has taken its toll and large mountain areas are under sever environmental stress by destructive ways of growing crops like sugar cane, corn, rubber, pine apple, and even the famous Puer tea.
This page depicts some of the unique land-use forms of Yunnan.
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