Alder (Utis) Pollarding

Pollarding is especially useful for managing trees as part of an agricultural landscape, where harm to crops should be minimised while optimising benefits. The practice of pollarding alders (Alnus nepalensis) has been developed and

perfected by various indigenous peoples in Northeast India (most notably the Nagas), Northern Myanmar, and Southwest China, and is an important innovation in the shifting cultivation farming system. It is demonstrated at the Centre to show that indigenous practices in shifting cultivation can provide new options to improve agricultural systems across the Himalayas. Himalayan alders are found across the region at elevations between 900 masl and 2700 masl from Pakistan and Northwest India, to Bhutan, Northeast India, northern Myanmar, southern China, and into Indo-China. This pioneer species grows naturally or can be planted, even on highly degraded, unstable soils like landslide areas. It provides poles, firewood, and numerous secondary products such as wood for furniture and leaf-litter for composting. It is a non-leguminous species that fixes nitrogen in symbiosis with Frankia, and this makes it ideal for enhancing soil fertility even in very acidic soils; its extensive lateral root system helps prevent soil erosion. It is fast growing and harvestable for fi rewood within 5-7 years. Pollarding starts at eight to nine years at a height of 10m and diameter of 70-80 cm, when the previously smooth bark becomes rough and fissured. The trees are pollarded at 210 cm (7 ft) above the ground – which ensures continued vigorous growth of the tree and strong coppice growth. Pollarding reduces yield reduction of crops because of shading, and provides fuelwood and leaf-litter. The species is long lived, particularly when pollarded systematically; some individual trees have been managed for one to two hundred years.