ShadeMotion software improves crop yields in Latin America
For over 13 years, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry’s partner, the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), has developed and improved ShadeMotion, an open-source software application that models tree shade. The year 2020 marks a significant milestone in the scaling of the application.
ShadeMotion informs tree-planting practices to improve crop quality and yields and supports climate adaptation of both farm and agro-ecosystems.
The application is intended for use by researchers, farmers and practitioners and has been integrated into post-secondary curricula and training programs. It has been applied on demonstration farms throughout Latin America to support capacity development and more sustainable agroforestry practices. Shademotion has had wide uptake, with the website attracting 3,544 users running 5,496 sessions, indicating returning usership.
Agroforestry management requires understanding how to optimize the benefits of light and shade for crops. Sophisticated modelling systems for light and tree growth dynamics are available (for example, through plant-geometry physiology models), yet these systems require complex field data for calibration, which in many instances act as a barrier to their use.
ShadeMotion informs tree-planting practices to improve crop quality and yields, enhances agroforest sustainability, improves livelihoods, and supports climate adaptation of both farm and agro-ecosystems.
ShadeMotion offers an alternative shade-modelling system that is more accessible to end-users, with simpler data inputs and open-access Internet-based software that enables interactive and customizable simulations. When combined with knowledge of a crop’s shade tolerance, ShadeMotion can guide the design and management of an agroforestry system’s biological and financial productivity.
In Honduras, as part of the Chocolate4All project (implemented by Heifer International and CATIE), over 450 farmers learned to use ShadeMotion to improve shade canopy design for enhanced cocoa management and yields. ShadeMotion was also applied in Honduras to optimize farm layout and management in 150 livestock farms in the International Climate Initiative Trees on Farms project.
Since 2016, the Korean-Latin American Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative has trained 44 extension staff and tested ShadeMotion and other agronomic-agroforestry technologies in 32 demonstration coffee farms across eight countries. In 2020, 125 extension staff across Latin America were trained as part of the Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas project.
ShadeMotion is taught as part of capacity building activities across several projects in Latin America.
As part of CATIE’s postgraduate program, ShadeMotion features in its Master of Agroforestry and Sustainable Agriculture. In Colombia, approximately 240 Universidad de Nariño and 40 Universidad del Tolima students build skills in ShadeMotion each year.