Köppen Climate Classification - Af - Tropical Rainforest Climate
Af - Tropical Rainforest Climate
Latitudes: Usually within 10° of equator.
Temperatures: All 12 months of the year have average temps of 18 °C (64.4 °F) or higher.
Precipitation: Every month has an average precipitation of at least 60 mm (2.4 in.) High cloud cover and humidity.
Relevant geography: At equator, or very close.
USDA equivalent zones: 12-13
Soil: Often very poor, mostly due to rain. The ecosystems nutrients are usually stored in the trees and canopy.
Dominant plant life of the region: Rainforest vegetation. Jungle where light penetrates.
Strengths/challenges for plant life: Plants that require frost hours will not do well here, if they can survive at all. Most cool-season vegetables don't grow well here such as peas, onions, most lettuces, Irish potatoes, and garlic.
Most verities of tomatoes do not grow well here, but some types of cherry tomatoes can work.
Peppers and eggplants are perennials in this region and will grow and produce for many years.
Plants grow quickly, with no dormant periods or seasonal changes. Plants that love high heat and humidity are ideal for this region. Frequently overcast skies and heavy light competition from other plants could be challenging for plants requiring full sun.
Plants that are a good fit for this region: Bananas, Açaí, cinnamon, black pepper, chocolate, palm (palm oil), kratam, lychee, guava, papaya, starfruit, and pineapple. See below for many more resources.
Animal life: Highly diverse. Numerous insect species.
Challenges for animal raising: Grazing animals require deforestation to create grazing areas. Cattle are popular, but are susceptible to parasite and diseases requiring antibiotics. Cattle are not not sustainable by the current method. Predation can also be a challenge.
Animals that are a good fit for this region: Chickens are native to these regions and do very well (almost too well in some places). Chickens thrive on the abundance of insects and plants. Malay chickens are a breed especially well adapted.
Pigs also thrive in this climate.
Insects, either for human consumption or as livestock feed are a viable means for producing protein and fat.
Notes: No natural seasons in terms of temperature or moisture change. Animal farming and slash and burn practices are threatening the rainforests. Please pursue ecologically sound farming practices.
The tropical rainforest climate is noted for its heat and frequent precipitation. It’s right there in the name. If you live here, that means you’re probably within 10° of the equator.
Residents won’t experience any significant seasonal changes throughout the year. Every month’s average temperature is at or above 18 °C (64.4 °F). And every month has an average precipitation level of 60 mm (2.4 in.) with high humidity and cloud cover.
By USDA plant hardiness zone measurements, you reside in a zone 12 or 13.
But this high heat, high humidity, and lack of seasonal variety comes with the benefit of a year-around growing season. Plants grow quickly in your zone, with access to plenty of water and sunlight, as long as competing plants don’t shade them out.
You also get to grow a number of wonderful foods and popular spices that are not accessible to other regions. Palms can be grown here for their oil. And kratam can be grown for medicine (where legal). You can even grow your own chocolate.
Unfortunately, the soil quality in your zone is often very poor. This is mostly due to the frequent rainfall washing away fertility. However, dramatic soil improvements are possible. Look into “terra preta” for an example of amazing soil fertility within the tropical rainforest climate.
Other challenges can include pressure from the diverse animal and insect life in your region. The high heat and humidity also make an ideal environment for fungal attacks. Plants that are vulnerable to mold usually do not fair well here. Likewise, plants that require frost hours will have extreme challenges, if they survive at all.
The dominant plant life around you will be rainforest vegetation, or jungle where sunlight can get through to the ground. The popular method of agriculture here is slash and burn. While effective in the short-term, this practice is not sustainable. It does not protect soil fertility and must be repeated, gradually deforesting large areas of rainforest.
Like the plant life, the animal life here is highly diverse. The rainforest houses an amazing number of species (especially insects). Non-native species may be compatible for agriculture, if care is taken to select heat-tolerant varieties and to avoid predation by native animals. Seeds from local dealers are a great place to start. These will have come from parent plants that are already adapted to your region. If you want to save your own seeds, take care to store them correctly. Tropical humidity will quickly invite mold.
Where possible, select short day or day neutral plants. Day length in the tropics does not vary enough to support long-day plants.
You will need to amend your soil with a large amount of organic matter, to compensate for its lack of fertility. Crop rotation is also important. Tropical soils can easily harbor plant pathogens and pests.
Plant Selection Ideas
An excellent reference for all kinds of useful tropical plants is located at
Here is a podcast with Marjory Wildcraft and David the Good discussing all kinds of unusual tropical plants that are great to eat.
Beans: French bean (vulnerable to insects), long bean, four-angled bean, sword bean, lima, velvet bean (vigorous), dolichos bean (long-lived), cluster bean.
Bushy Vegetables: Okra, maize, eggplant, tomatoes (highly susceptible to bacterial attack - grow in containers with sterilized soil).
Gourds: Bottle gourd, angled loofah, smooth loofah, bitter gourd, snake gourd, wax gourd, pumpkin, watermelon, chayote
Root Vegetables: Radish (may not produce seeds), Chinese radish, carrot (will not grow to full size). True onions will likely not grow to maturity. However, they can be grown from seed with tops being harvested in its immature state. tive value. Other starchy tubers for your region include taro, yautia (Xanthosoma violaceuma, X. sagittifolium), yam (Dioscorea alata, D. esculenta, and D. bulbifera), and yam bean (Pachyrhizus tuberosus). Jerusalem artichoke can also be grown here, but it requires a light soil with good drainage. Soggy wet conditions can make it vulnerable to fungal growth.
Leaf Vegetables: Some varieties of lettuce may be possible, but will not have full flavor or produce good hearts. The same is true with cabbage. Indian spinach and climbing spinach can be grown. Neither is a true spinach. Roselle hibiscus produces sour, edible leaves. Its flower calyxes are used to make a delicious tea.
Spices: Chilies can be grown as a perennial. They are vulnerable to disease. Grow them in a container and shield them from excess moisture. The flavor may be less intense than those grown in drier climates. Basil grows easily here. Mint is also easy. Ginger and tumeric are native to this climate and will grow quite happily for you here.
Fruit: Jackfruit, banana, starfruit, breadfruit, avocado, chiku, durian, papaya, pineapple, rambutan, and Brazil nut. Citruses are more suited to drier, more seasonal tropics. However, limes may be possible to grow.
A Note on Animals
Cattle are popular in some tropical rainforest locations. However, the current methods are not sustainable. An emphasis on preserving soil fertility is needed, rather than using up one section of land and moving on to the next.
If you are interested in a different animal, consider the Malay chicken. It is native to the tropical rainforest and well suited to the climate.
Guinea fowl are less well-known than chickens, but excellent birds for this region. Like chickens, they can be raised for meat and eggs, but they are better adapted to this climate than most chicken breeds and are naturally wary of predators.
Pigs breeds, especially those adapted to heat and humidity, are possible, though their growth rate may be slowed. Heat stress may be an issue as well. Ponds, showers or sprinklers can help to cool the pigs down.
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