[permaculture] Masting Questions

Michael Pilarski friendsofthetrees at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 4 00:21:59 EST 2012

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MASTING  “A mast year is a year in which vegetation produces a
significant abundance of mast (fruit). The term originally applied solely to
trees, like oak trees, that produce fruit useful for feeding farm animals. The
term "mast" comes from the Old English word "mæst", meaning
the nuts of forest trees that have accumulated on the ground, especially those
used as food for fattening domestic pigs.” Wikipedia definition. 

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Hello Chris,


Masting is a very valuable lesson for all of us. Many mast crops have been and are used for human food.  I am not an expert, but I do know from
my tree research that it is very common for tree species to have on years and
off years.  Or as it may be said
fat years and lean years (for the critters that eat the mast). In some fruit
trees such as apples, this manifests as alternate bearing.  Too heavy a crop can exhaust the plant
and it takes a year a year to recover. 
This has something to do with resources allocated to next year's buds versus
this year's crop. 


Forest masting is of a different sort.  Mast years are when a series of events
leads to an especially good growing season in that locality for one or more
mast tree species.  The mast area
can be geographically widespread or more local. In an era of climate change we could
expect to have fewer years where things line up right.  One of the biggest problems, of course,
is how much fewer mature forests there are to produce mast. 


It was common among hunter gatherer cultures that used mast
as food to store bumper crops for lean years.  Acorns and pine nuts being two examples.


All this being said, If we are growing mast trees (that is
food trees) in a permaculture system we can take measures to help give them the
proper growing conditions for good harvests in more years then would be
achieved naturally. 


Has anyone written a book on the topic of masting yet from
an international perspective? Probably needs to be done. 


Michael Pilarski

--- On Tue, 1/3/12, wenshidi at yahoo.co.uk <wenshidi at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:

From: wenshidi at yahoo.co.uk <wenshidi at yahoo.co.uk>
Subject: [permaculture] Masting Questions
To: "permaculture" <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
Date: Tuesday, January 3, 2012, 6:09 PM

I have lately been reading as much as I can about masting but I still have a lot of questions, and I wondered whether there were any knowledgeable folks on this list that could help me out of my ignorance.
Masting usually refers to beech and oaks but I have read that it is also a strategy that is used by tropical species.  Does it also apply to legumes?
How can I tell whether it is a masting year or not?  Do I have have to observe the trees for many years or is there another way.  What I am asking is if there is a masting event in one species in one location, is it the same everywhere, or is it climate and geographically related.

This year I am seeing what look like masting event in numerous locations.  Here in Thailand all of the leucaenas and cordias seem to be absolutely dripping with crop.  Up on the lower Himalayas, the oak nut fall was massive, seemingly much more than usual.  Can these two events really be related?  I have been reading in many separate areas that El Nino is going to have a big impact in 2012, with lots of cold and then drought, especially here in Asia.  The weather has already been unseasonably cold and unpredictable in the above mentioned locations.  Could this be having some effect?


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