Tropical Trees: Propagation and Planting Manuals

Volume 1



Written by K A Longman

Illustrated by R H F Wilson

February 1993

Commonwealth Science Council

Tropical trees provide a great range of important resources, including fuel, foods and medicines as well as construction materials and paper. Trees are also vital for the creation and maintenance of soil fertility, and in helping to check soil erosion. Their presence is thus essential for many rural communities.

That trees influence the local environment, regional climate and global atmosphere is increasingly being recognised. Tropical trees are also important for the biodiversity they represent, and the multitude of life they support.

Despite this, tropical trees continue to disappear much faster than they are being replaced. There are many reasons for this, including:

This new series of Tropical Trees: Propagation and Planting Manuals aims to promote the growing and planting of trees. The series covers all stages from genetic selection and setting up a forest nursery to planting and successful establishment in the field (see inside back cover). It provides examples of check-lists, record sheets and sources of supply.

Each Manual will give clear, illustrated step-by-step instructions. They are spiral bound so that pages can easily be photocopied for use in the field. We hope that these Manuals will stimulate the production of sheets specifically for local use.

© 1993

This Manual may be reproduced in part for the purposes of education and to facilitate fieldwork.

Published by
Commonwealth Science Council

May be purchased from
Commonwealth Secretariat Publications
Marlborough House, Pall Mall
London SW1Y 5HX

CSC (93) AGR-19
Technical Paper 298

ISBN 0 85092 394 8

Price £ 2.50


One of the most challenging tasks facing the tropical world, now and into the 21st century, is to halt and reverse the loss of its trees. People in many countries are realising just how important it is that tropical trees are being cut down so much faster than they are being replaced. They recognise that, to a far greater extent than in the temperate zones, tropical trees are integral to the activities of local communities, governments and whole regions.

It once seemed there would always be plenty of trees growing naturally, but most tropical regions are now suffering from serious shortages and increasing problems. The loss of so many tropical trees arises for many reasons, which include increasing human populations, dubious advice and short-term planning. However, it is clear that there is now a widespread movement towards protecting and replanting trees.

Scientists and growers have been so preoccupied with research on a few tropical food plants that they have tended to neglect the trees which are so important in maintaining soil fertility. Similarly, the range of materials, implements, medicines, foodstuffs and fuel which trees produce were also overlooked. In addition, the important roles that trees play in modifying the human environment and in stabilising the local and global climates are also now more widely recognised.

To encourage everyone to plant trees is perhaps the single most useful step that we can take for the drier as well as the humid tropics. Although this sounds simple, there are in fact many potential pitfalls involved in choosing and growing good trees, planting them well and achieving successful establishment. In addition, because the focus has been on a few species, the very large number of useful indigenous trees found in tropical forests and savannas are mostly undomesticated and little-known.

The aim of this series, Tropical Trees: Propagation and Planting Manuals, is to try and meet the urgent need for practical help for small- and large-scale growers. Volume 1 deals with the Rooting of Cuttings of Tropical Trees, describing techniques that offer two important advantages over relying only upon planting seedlings. First, vegetative propagation allows new trees to be raised at any time, so that seed problems need not affect the choice of suitable planting stock. Second, as has been the case with several common farm crops, vegetative propagation can speed up domestication to allow urgently needed tree planting to be carried out with mixtures of superior selections.

Manual 1 describes general methods and approaches that apply to the great majority of the more than one hundred tropical tree species that have so far been tested. Much of this research formed components of tropical projects associated with the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, near Edinburgh, Scotland. Translation of the Manual into Spanish and French is in progress, and it is clearly desirable that other languages be included. We hope that the Manuals will stimulate users to write further sheets, for instance about a particular tree species or specific local conditions. The author will also be happy to receive suggestions as to additions and improvements for future editions.

An informative Video programme, to be filmed largely in the tropics, is also being prepared on the same subject as Manual 1. Consisting of five interlinked sections, it complements the written sheets, and is intended both for specific training and for general educational purposes. Further details can be obtained from the Edinburgh Centre for Tropical Forests, Darwin Building, Kings Buildings, University of Edinburgh, EH9 3JU, Scotland, U.K.

I would like to thank my colleagues at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, and at many other tropical projects and organisations throughout the world for their help and advice while I was preparing this manual.

Alan Longman
24 Orchardhead Road
Edinburgh EH16 6HN

January 1993


Rooting Cuttings of Tropical Trees

 why grow tropical trees?A 1
 overcoming the problems of growing good plantsA 2
 vegetative propagationA 3
 leafless and leafy cuttingsA 4
 micropropagationA 5
 what makes a good cutting?A 6
Genetic selection
 introductionA 10
 clonesA 11
 choosing good treesA 12
 tests for small treesA 13
Stockplant management
 introduction to vegetative multiplicationA 20
 managing coppice stumpsA 21
 planting stockplantsA 22
 potted stockplantsA 23
 shade for stockplantsA 24
 stockplant pruningA 25
 watering stockplantsA 26
 stockplant nutritionA 27
Propagating conditions
 introductionA 30
 building a poly-propagatorA 31
 mist propagationA 32
 shading for propagationA 33
 maintaining high air humidityA 34
 the rooting mediumA 35
 rooting in containersA 36
Taking the cuttings
 auxins and rootingA 40
 trimming the leavesA 41
 taking leafy shootsA 42
 preparing leafy cuttingsA 43
 setting leafy cuttingsA 44
 rooting experimentsA 45
Care of cuttings
 checking the conditionsA 50
 watering cuttingsA 51
 diseases and pestsA 52
 potting upA 53
 weaning and hardeningA 54
Check-lists, sources and records
 some key requirements for tree-planting projectsA 60
 check-list of problems in growing good treesA 61
 information on vegetative propagationA 62
 sources of chemicals and materialsA 63
 record-keeping and labellingA 64
 assessment by scoringA 65
 record sheet for clone numbersA 66
 record sheet for cuttings setA 67
 record sheet for propagation checksA 68