Healthy Quality and Higher Yields
“I cooperate with nature. All those different plants and animals play an important role and keep the ecosystem in balance. That’s why the plants are healthy and I don’t need to use any agricultural poison or externally produced fertilizer.” Even the infamous ‘witch’s broom fungus’, that has devastated cocoa cultivation throughout Bahía, is under control at Ernst’s farm. “Healthy trees carry healthy cocoa beans”, he smiles. “And of excellent quality!”
As if Ernst can read our thoughts, he continues to talk about the yield of his farm. “If you add up the harvests of all the different crops, my method provides more nutritional value per square meter than monoculture farming does. Moreover, I don’t have to spend money on agricultural poisons and synthetic fertilizer because I only use pruned branches and leaves as fertilizer. Nature does the rest!”
Pruning to Fertilize the Soil
In addition to maximizing biodiversity, pruning is another important key factor for the success of the food forest. “Pruning is crucial to fertilize soils”, Ernst explains. He takes a chainsaw and cuts an impressive amount of branches from a tree. “After pruning, I leave the branches with leaves on the ground. That way, the soil is enriched with nutrients. The pruned trees grow quickly again, making the whole forest much more productive.” As an additional benefit the trees extract additional CO2 from the air, convert it into carbon and store it in their biomass and in the soil. A healthy, carbon-rich soil can retain much more moisture. And that is crucial to stimulate plant growth and prevent erosion.
“Pruning is a lot of work, but I can still handle it on my own. And if you take the local circumstances into account, my method can be used anywhere,” Ernst says. He even finds the time to travel around the world to explain his method.