Slash/mulch system question

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Slash/mulch system question:

I am attempting to compile information and write a book on the little known
slash/mulch systems of the tropics.  Some such systems are still being used
by indigenous peoples; these and some of more recent green manure/cover
crop systems are being studied and adapted as an alternative to slash and
burn. Although the literature on the various slash and burn systems used
throughout the tropics is extensive, few references can be found regarding
slash/mulch systems, which are probably far more important in the hot,
humid tropics than most authorities realize. I believe that slash/mulch
systems have often been overlooked or perhaps mistaken as a slash and burn

Slash/mulch systems are those in which vegetation is slashed or cut in situ
to produce a mulch that is subsequently used for an agricultural crop.
There are innumerable variations of slash/mulch systems and practices
ranging from the slash/mulch systems in tropical forests, where it is too
wet to burn, to the frijol tapado systems, coppicing and pruning trees to
produce a mulch, the alley cropping systems, the popal system, the
riverbank sajal system, and the velvet bean/maize (abonera) system.

There are numerous references to the frijol tapado or "covered bean" system
used in Central America, but I have found little literature on other
slash/mulch systems as used in the tropics.  Victor Manuel Patiņo lists
numerous early Spanish chroniclers who described the use of the slash/mulch
system for various crops soon after their arrival in the Americas. More
recently, several authors (R.C. West, Hiraoka and Yamamoto) have described
slash/mulch systems used in Columbia and Ecuador.  Schiefflin and others
describes the use of a slash/mulch system in Papua New Guinea.  I have
described a few of the various slash/mulch practices in my recent book
(Thurston, H. D.  1992.  Sustainable Practices for Plant Disease Management
in Traditional Farming Systems.  Westview Press, Boulder, CO.  279 pp.). It
is through the initial investigations for this book that I began to realize
the potential of slash/mulch practices to increase the sustainability of
small-scale agriculture, especially the destructive slash and burn systems
that are practiced by many resource-poor farmers in the tropics.

In 1992 we organized a multidisciplinary workshop on Slash/Mulch Practices
which included  90 Latin American and North American researchers.  It was
held from October 12-16, 1992 in Costa Rica.  The proceedings of the
workshop have been published in both English and Spanish.  If you are
interested in the proceedings (Thurston, H. D., M. Smith, G. Abawi, and S.
Kearl  (eds.)  1994.  Slash/Mulch: How Farmers Use It, and What Researchers
Know About It..  CIIFAD and CATIE, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY.  329 pp.)   I
would be pleased to send you a copy.

If you have references to such systems or can suggest colleagues that might
have information on slash/mulch systems as used in the tropics, I would
appreciate hearing from you.  Your help in this matter will be most

H. David Thurston
Dept. of Plant Pathology
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
607-255-7835 (FAX-4471)

"Sustainable agriculture with a sense of humus."