Pic 1: Student group in Mollesnejta (Florencio, 2024)
In the week from February 5th to February 9th, students from the forestry faculty (ESFOR) of the Universidad Mayor de San Simón (UMSS)visited the agroforestry institute Mollesnejta to gain practical experience in agroforestry techniques. Over the course of the first two days, 350 young plants from three different tree species (Polylepis spp., Pinus patula and Eucalyptus citriodora) were planted with the help of the students. Only in last August all plots had been ravaged by fire, so a reconstruction of the systems was necessary. The planting was part of the reestablishment of the plots.
Pic 2: Maintenance work on the Nils plot (Albert, 2024)
On Wednesday, we did maintenance work on the Niels plot. It was crucial to remove the remaining dead trees and prune those still alive. Also, weeding was done and biomass for mulch was extracted from the surroundings to use as mulch and to cover the soil. Further, fertile soil was collected that had accumulated on the swale due to heavy rain and brought to the plot to improve the soil quality, facilitating optimal growth for the young plants. In the afternoon, in preparation for the charcoal production, dried wood from former pruning was cut and stacked according to size.
Pic 3: Mulching the plants on the plot (Albert, 2024)
On Thursday, we received instruction on chainsaw tree cutting techniques. Afterwards, we engaged in pruning and mulching trees on a plot.
Pic 4: Preparation for the pyrolysis (Albert, 2024)
On the final day, we learned the whole process of charcoal production. The conversion of plant biomass into charcoal or biochar is called pyrolysis, occurring under low oxygen conditions. This is achieved by placing wood, sticks or other plant material into a cone-shaped pit in the ground and lighting a fire on top, minimizing airflow. The process takes place at temperatures around 450°C that leads to the combustion of the gases emitted from the plant material. At the end, approximately 50% of the CO2 in the plant biomass is sequestered in the charcoal, which can last for more than thousand years. Therefore, charcoal serves as an important carbon sink. Further, when applied to soil, it functions as a reservoir for plant nutrients, retains moisture and enhances soil aeration, among other benefits.
Pic 5: Piece of charcoal (Albert, 2024)