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Revista mexicana de ciencias agrícolas

versión impresa ISSN 2007-0934

Rev. Mex. Cienc. Agríc vol.8 no.1 Texcoco ene./feb. 2017 

Investigation note

Diagnosis and economic estimation of Macadamia spp. in an agroforestry system, Tlalnelhuayocan, Veracruz

Gabina Sol Quintas1  § 

Odilón Sánchez Sánchez2 

Miguel Escalona Aguilar2 

Maite Lascurain Rangel3 

Isabel Quintas Pereira4 

1Colegio de Veracruz. Carrillo Puerto núm. 26. Colonia Centro, Xalapa, Veracruz, México. CP. 91000. Tel. 2288264650.

2Universidad Veracruzana- Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales y Facultad de Ciencias Agrícolas. Ex. Had. Lucas Martín, Xalapa, Veracruz, México. CP. 91019. Tel: 228264650. (;

3Instituto Nacional de Ecología, A. C. Carretera antigua a Coatepec núm. 351. El Haya, Xalapa, Veracruz, México. CP. 91070. Tel. 2288421800. (

4Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Unidad Xochimilco. Calzada del Hueso núm. 1100. Colonia Villa Quietud, Delegación Coyoacán, Ciudad de México. CP. 04960. Tel. 5554837100. (


Currently, 70% of the mesophilic mountain forest in the municipality of Tlalnelhuayocan, Veracruz, which borders the east with the city of Xalapa, has been transformed into pasture. The objective of the present work was to promote communal lands holder of this municipality to identify agroecological alternatives with which to integrate in their plots the cultivation of Macadamia spp. The research was carried out from april 2012 to april 2014. The methodology used was participatory action research. The tools used were interviews, participant observation and discussion groups. The results of the first stage show that with agroecological management these orchards reach yields with highly competitive values. The agroecological system designed was an agrosilvopastoril module. The economic estimate indicates that from the sixth year the communal lands holder will start receiving income and in the eleven, will recover the accumulated costs. The implementation of the agrosilvopastoril module is a possibility for the communal lands holder to be incorporated as a producer of Macadamia spp. and continue with the livestock activity. This productive system could be an option with environmental, economic and social benefits.

Keywords: Macadamia spp.; agroecology; participatory action research (IAP)


Actualmente, 70% del bosque mesófilo de montaña del municipio de Tlalnelhuayocan, Veracruz que colinda al este con la ciudad de Xalapa se ha transformado a pastizal. El objetivo del presente trabajo fue promover que ejidatarios de dicho municipio identificaran alternativas agroecológicas con las cuales integraran en sus parcelas el cultivo de Macadamia spp. La investigación se llevó a cabo de abril 2012 a abril 2014. La metodología empleada fue la investigación acción participativa. Las herramientas utilizadas fueron las entrevistas, la observación participante y los grupos de dis-cusión. Los resultados de la primera etapa evidencian que con un manejo agroecológico estas huertas alcanzan rendimientos con valores altamente competitivos. El sistema agroecológico dise-ñado fue un módulo agrosilvopastoril. La estimación económica indica que a partir del sexto año el ejidatario comenzará a recibir ingresos y en el once, recuperará los costos acumulados. La im-plementación del módulo agrosilvopastoril es una posibilidad para que el ejidatario se incorpore como productor de Macadamia spp. y continúe con la actividad ganadera. Este sistema productivo podría ser una opción con beneficios ambientales, económicos y sociales.

Palabras clave: Macadamia spp.; agroecología; investigación acción participativa (IAP)

The municipality of Tlalnelhuayocan, Veracruz with prehispanic nahuas roots and originally mesophilic mountain forest area (BMM) today preserves only 10% of the native forest since it surrounds the city of Xalapa and extensive livestock for milk production. In addition, it is classified as an area of high marginalization.

Parallel to this complex problem, there are five producers of Macadamia spp. (pioneer producers, PP) not native of the area, who have a level of study and economic well above the average of the inhabitants of the area. These producers settled in this region 30 years ago to look for a way of life closer to nature. Introduced Macadamia spp. To the municipality about 25 years ago, as a productive alternative to reforest degraded areas of their land. Currently, these five orchards are managed in a sustainable way. The PP have innovated systems for their processing, as well as fostered and developed a local market which demands more product.

Although this crop entered Mexico more than 30 years ago and in 2014 the Ministry of Livestock Rural Development and fishing (SAGARPA) included it in the wet tropic program as a crop susceptible to receive economic support from the secretariat, there are no systematic studies of the management and potential of this crop in our country, hence, this study represents an indispensable foundation to be able to develop this crop.

The hypothesis of this study is that through participatory strategies and local knowledge, the communal lands holders of the municipality of Tlalnelhuayocan can integrate in their plots the cultivation of Macadamia spp. Through an agro-ecological system that represents a viable economic alternative.

The present study uses the participatory action research methodology (IAP) to know the perception about the crop and the possibilities that have the local actors: PP, possible new producers (called emerging producers, PE) and the civil association trails and meetings for a development Autonomous community (SENDAS). All these actors sought to jointly find an agroecological alternative so that communal lands holders of the municipality will be incorporated as producers of Macadamia spp. diversifying their plots.

Considering the pedagogy of praxis, the agroecological alternative that was designed: an agrosilvopastoril module was established in an ejidal plot. In order to offer the farmer a future scenario of the agroforestry module, the economic estimate was carried out at 20 years. The results evidenced that the cultivation of Macadamia spp. can become an extra and relevant economic income in the productive system of communal lands holder and, given that the local market demands organic walnut and the production of the municipality is related to the organic market, it is feasible to route the communal lands holder in a safe and congruent way so that transform its current model of conventional production by an agro-ecological model. In addition, macadamia has a nutritional value; with commercial productions of at least 30 years, which give the project the character of long term, characteristic very treasured in a sustainable project.

The general objective of this study was focused on two moments. The first one consisted in elaborating a diagnosis that allowed to know the current state of the cultivation of Macadamia spp. in the municipality of Tlalnelhuayocan. The second one started with the implementation of a participatory strategy to identify an agroecological alternative in order to improve current land use trends and incorporate productive opportunities for Macadamia spp. in the zone.

The particular objectives were: 1) to make a diagnosis of the experience of Macadamia spp. culture in the study area; 2) to identify an agroecological system that integrates Macadamia spp. through a participatory strategy; and 3) to make an economic estimate of the agroecological system chosen by the participants.

Study area

The municipality of Tlalnelhuayocan is located in the central part of the state of Veracruz; coordinates 19° 30’ and 19° 35’ north latitude and 96° 56’ and 97° 01’ longitude west. Its altitude varies between 1 300 and 2 000 m and its surface is 36.61 km2. The 98% of the soil is humic Andosol type (Th) and 2% in the southeast part is associated with the orthic Acrisol (Th+Ao). The climate corresponds to C (fm) W’b (i’) g. This is characterized by being temperate humid with rains evenly distributed throughout the year and little oscillation of annual temperature. The annual average temperature is 18 °C and the total annual rainfall is 1 490.5 mm. In the municipality there are three types of vegetation: fog forest or mountain mesophile (BMM), riparian vegetation and secondary vegetation (acahuales).

The plot where the module was established is located in the town of Tejocotal. Its geographical location is N 140709314, WO 2157722 (UTM) at 1 600 masl. The orography is uneven and has four clearly visible productive elements of approximately 1ha each: 1) an ecological restoration area of BMM, with three water births; 2) a paddock area in which the module was established; 3) an area of temporal milpa-potato crop; and 4) a grazing area with small clumps.

The plot has been pasture for 40 years. Currently it has seven heads of cattle, the milk obtained from this one is sold to the company Nestle, which pays $5.00 per liter (price 2014). It should be clarified that cattle graze in 1ha of this plot and in 2.7 ha of the neighboring plot, which makes a total of 3.7 ha. The livestock management is rotational in eight grazing areas and is fed daily with food supplements.

This research was carried out in the period april 2012 to april 2014. It is structured in three stages that are developed sequentially: the diagnosis of Macadamia spp. In the area of study, the design of the module chosen by the actors involved and their economic estimate.


The 100% of the PP (five orchards) were interviewed, in addition a first return workshop was carried out in which, through the technique of discussion groups. It was debated around two questions: can it be Macadamia spp. an economic, ecological and social option, to promote sustainable development in the municipality of Tlalnelhuayocan and contribute to the solution of these problems? What are the individual and collective challenges or challenges in this process?

Design of the module

The design started from the first workshop with the PP in which the problems and possibilities of the area were identified, in addition to four field trips of the motor group, in which different agroecological systems were integrated that integrate the cultivation of Macadamia spp. and finally with the second workshop, in which the motor group participated, considering the characteristics of the PE plot and its needs, the module design was completed.

Economic estimate of the module

Macadamia spp. requires at least six years to start producing. Therefore, although the IAP establishes the evaluation as the third stage of the methodology, only an economic estimate was made in this research.

The economic estimate of the module was made with a projection to 20 years based on several sources of information: world production data of Macadamia spp. according to MacNut MacNut (2014) and Queensland (2013), local market prices, production costs, processing costs (obtained from the interviews during the diagnosis with PP) and data obtained from monitoring (for ten months) of the module that included liters of milk per grazing area, hours of work dedicated to livestock, and expenditures for external inputs such as medicines and improved grass seeds.

Production of Macadamia spp. in Tlalnelhuayocan. In the municipality of Tlalnelhuayocan, the orchards of Macadamia spp. have at least 20 years of establishment, cover an area of 20 ha, which represents 0.7% of the total area. They are at 1 463 m, on average. They have an average density of 250 tree ha-1. The varieties of Macadamia spp. most cultivated in the area are A-527 and Huatusco, which are Mexican.

The production of Macadamia spp. in shell is 11.4 kg tree-1, on average. The maximum production is 5 800 kg ha-1 and the minimum, 1 200 kg ha-1. During the period august 2012 to february 2013, 81 500 kg of Macadamia spp. in total (NIS) were harvested, which is equivalent to approximately 20 000 kg of Macadamia spp. in almond (Table 1).

Table 1 General data of the five orchards of Macadamia spp. of the pioneer producers. 

Currently, there is no organization among the PP to market their product. They are selling almost 100% of their crop in processed form. The average price in almond is $163.00 kg and varies from $130.00 kg to $225.00 kg. Despite the low cultivated area of Macadamia spp. and the poor management practices of PP, obtain at least 30% of their total income, which represents a significant economic activity.

Phenology of Macadamia spp. in Tlalnelhuayocan

In the study area, the flowering of the Macadamia spp. occurs from late february to may, this last month is the most blooming and pollination. The harvest period begins in the month of august and extends until january or february. This raises the costs of harvesting as the harvest occurs over seven months. In the region, the wind is the environmental factor that most damages the trees due to the shallow depth of their roots.

Agrosilvopastoril module

The components that integrate this system agrosilvopastoril are: seven heads of cattle race Holstein, 80 trees of walnut of Macadamia spp. varieties A-527 and Huatusco. The 60 kg of seed of three improved grasses Orchard 45%, 45% and clover 10% were introduced.

In an area of approximately 1 ha (10 328 m2) in an arrangement of seven alleys 110 m long by 11 m wide (with a corridor to the west for cattle passage) the Macadamia spp. trees were sown. For the protection of the trees was installed electric fence with movable poles. The electric fence was installed one meter away from each tree, in two lines on each side, which reduced the grazing area by only 7.5%, which formed seven alleys limited by their corresponding electric fence lines.

An average grazing time was established in each of the three-day alleys, and a rest period, rotation time similar to that reported by Ortiz et al. (2006). The pastures were planted only in the alleys from one to five, leaving the six and seven as witnesses. Rotation monitoring was done during the summer, when Ortiz et al. (2006) indicate that the optimal rest, i.e. four to five weeks, which coincides with our record. The experience of the communal lands holder in the rotation of his cattle allowed him to maintain stable milk production per day.

Economic estimate of the agroforestry module. The PE provided the cattle with a package of food supplements per day of $220.00 and had on average monthly expenses of $500.00 in medicines. On average, he dedicated five hours of work a day to the livestock. The initial investment, financed by SENDAS, to establish the agrosilvopastoril module per hectare equivalent to 251 minimum wages (price 2014). Currently, in the agroforestry module 70% of the income comes from livestock. From the projections made, during the first twenty years (Figure 1), you can see how revenues for Macadamia spp. are being added gradually.

Figure 1 Distribution of accumulated utilities of livestock and orchard of Macadamia spp. 

For example, at eight years, total system revenue, assuming other economic activities remain constant, will increase by 9%, 26% by 12 years and 33% by 16 years. This happens if one devotes as is this case, one hectare to macadamia and four to cattle. In these same years the expected income from the cultivation of Macadamia spp. would represent 8% of the total income, doubling to the year 16, in which they will represent 24%, while the contribution of livestock activity decreases to 53%.

In the Figure 1 compares the 20 year projection of the agrosilvopastoral system with conventional livestock activity. It can be seen, clearly, how the economic behavior of both activities is very different; the livestock investment is higher than that of Macadamia spp., as well as the year of return on investment. However, from the seventh or eighth year, the utility of Macadamia spp. begins to surpass that of cattle until doubling it by the twentieth. It should be noted that these data were analyzed in 1 h of Macadamia spp. against four for the grazing of the seven heads of cattle, such is the case that concerns us.

The cost of the first year of establishment of the agrosilvopastoril module in Tlalnelhuayocan was 256 minimum wages in 2014 with 35 wages, close to that determined by Roldan (2008) of 42 wages for the beginning of experimental plots of similar starting and dimension.

Finally, on the economic side, it can be said that, up to the sixth year, the producer begins to receive income, and between 10 and 11 he recovers his investment, just as in conventional monocultures in New Zealand (MacNut, 2014).

The varieties of Macadamia spp. recommended by the PP for planting in the region present high percentage of oil, a characteristic that allows them to be located within the high international quality standards determined for this fruit (De Viliers et al., 2003).

The varieties cultivated by the PP in the study area, still cultivated at a lower density of trees and with an expenditure of inputs also well below the conventional plantations (Queensland, 2013), produce up to 5 800 kg ha-1. This is in line with the excellent results observed in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, which are known for their high production, with records ranging from four to six tonnes of NIS per hectare (MacNut, 2014). The production per hectare of Tlalnelhuayocan clearly shows the potential of the area as a producer of Macadamia spp.

Giraldo et al. (1995) call complementary to the interaction established in an agrosilvopastoral system between livestock and the tree, when the latter generates only shade for cattle without damaging the growth of the pasture. Shade reduces the animal’s caloric stress, which is reflected in increased milk production (Muhammad et al., 2014). In addition, Macadamia spp. which is obtained as residue of the squeezed almond, when extracting its oil, can be used as a food supplement for cattle. Also the cattle contribute nutrients to the soil through the excrement that later the tree of Macadamia spp. will avail. It can be said that these two components, Macadamia spp. and livestock, are functionally complementary.

If the conventional pasture areas in Tlalnelhuayocan were transformed into an agroforestry system, given the permanence of macadamia as an arboreal element, this would contribute significantly to the increase of forest cover and would play an important role in the conservation and restoration of deteriorated habitats.


The experience on the cultivation of Macadamia spp. in Tlalnelhuayocan, generated by the PP over more than twenty years, is extremely valuable due to the excellent harvests that exist in the region, the high demand for this fruit and the high price it has in the market. It should be noted that pioneers apply strategies in the orchards that protect and care for the environment, thereby covering most of the basic requirements that a sustainable agroecosystem requires.

The agrosilvopastoril module emerged from the participatory strategy represents an alternative for the future of small ranchers of the municipality who can diversify and intensify their plot, with the incorporation of Macadamia spp. through a relatively low initial investment and without affecting the other activities it carries out. Since the highest production peaks of Macadamia spp. and livestock will be given at different times of the year, these two activities of the module are complemented economically and the agrosilvopastoril module is highly profitable and attractive. It is also important to mention that technical training and the participative organization of this new productive model will be indispensable for success.

Literatura citada

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Received: January 2017; Accepted: February 2017

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