Energy efficiency of large cardamom grown under Himalayan alder and natural forest
Energy efficiency of agroforestry systems of large cardamom grown under N2-fixing Himalayan alder (alder-cardamom) and natural forest (forest-cardamom) was studied in the Sikkim Himalaya. Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum), the most important perennial cash crop of the region, is widely cultivated with Himalayan alder (Alnus nepalensis) as shade tree. Energy fixation, storage, net allocation in agronomic yield, and heat release and exit from the system were respectively 1.57, 1.44, 2.24 and 2.22 times higher in the alder-cardamom compared to the forest-cardamom system. Energy conversion efficiency and net ecosystem energy increment were also higher in the alder-cardamom than the forest-cardamom system. Energy fixation efficiency and energy conversion efficiency of large cardamom increased under the influence of Himalayan alder. Energy efficiency in N2-fixation of Himalayan alder was also high (67.5 g N2 fixed 104 kJ-1 energy). Quantum and flux of energy increased in the alder-cardamom compared to the forest-cardamom system that optimized the production potential of the cash crop under the influence of the Himalayan alder. Climatic sympatry of the large cardamom and Himalayan alder, and their synergetic energy efficiency makes this association ecologically and economically viable for the mountain regions.