In 2010 we discovered the incredible work being done by Ariel Hernandez , his wife Maritelma and sons, Victor and Ariel Jr. Ticul, Yucatan, Mexico. Ariel had established a small (1ha) parcel of Maya Nut trees to determine how many animals he could raise using Maya Nut fodder. The results were astounding and when we visited, he was raising 15 cow-calf pairs, 30 sheep and 6 goats just on Maya Nut fodder supplemented with mineral salts.
Ariel has found that the ideal spacing for Maya Nut fodder plantations is between 3m-5m between trees. This gives enough room for the branches to develop fully and allows sufficient light penetration during the leaf growth stage. Ariel and Gelio strongly recommend that in preparation for planting the seedlings, you ensure that NO WEEDS ARE PRESENT, ideally hand cultivating the soil and mulching to prevent weeds from germinating. For the first 3 years of growth, for best results you must keep the competition down by removing all weeds growing near the trees. The trees in these plantations were started in tree nurseries with 50-65% light and at 6 months (or 4mm stem diameter) they were planted in the field in full sun. This is a stressful time for the seedlings, and we recommend watering them with a backpack sprayer as often as possible as they adjust to their planting site. The transition from the nursery to full sun can be traumatic, so be prepared for high mortality. If you can plant your seedlings in the shade of a midsize crop (yuca, chaya, pigeon pea, corn) that might ease the transition.
Ariel recommends trees be “severely pruned” at 2 years old (when they are approx 5cm DAP). This pruning consists of chopping the tree off at 1.3m DAP at the start of the dry season. It is drastic, but Ariel claims it is the best way to maximize ramification and keep the young tree healthy.
Maya Nut Pruning Videos
The results and recommendations of Ariel and his sons’ research will be published by the end of 2014 and made available online.
Learning from Ariel’s groundbreaking work, Gelio Cuellar and Maya Nut Institute have collaborated to establish experimental Maya Nut plantations in Peten, Guatemala. We invite visitors to participate in our “Maya Nut Experimental Farm Tour”