Agroforestry

Agroforestry, cultivation and use of trees and shrubs with crops and livestock in agricultural systems.

Agroforestry seeks positive interactions between its components, aiming to achieve a more ecologically diverse and socially productive output from the land than is possible through conventional agriculture.

Agroforestry is a practical and low-cost means of implementing many forms of integrated land management (which seeks to reduce human impacts on land), and it contributes to a green economy by promoting long-term, sustainable, and renewable forest management, especially for small-scale producers.

Although the modern concept of agroforestry emerged in the early 20th century, the use of woody perennials in agricultural systems is ancient, with written descriptions of the practice dating back to Roman times.

Indeed, integrating trees with crops and animals is a long-standing tradition throughout the world. In 2004 the World Bank estimated that agroforestry practices were being used by 1.2 billion people.

Agroforestry systems are intensively managed to maintain their productive and protective functions through cultivation, fertilization, irrigation pruning, and thinning.

– Britannica

Ideally, components are structurally and functionally combined and actively managed to optimize the positive biophysical interactions between them. In some systems, for example, the trees are regularly coppiced (severely cut back), and the cuttings are applied as mulch to the soil. Such management not only encourages new tree growth but also augments the light levels reaching shaded crops, reduces weeds, and helps to maintain soil moisture.

  • Windbreaks: trees or shrubs planted and managed as barriers to reduce wind speed as part of a crop or livestock operation
  • Alley cropping: trees planted in multiple rows combined with crops cultivated in the alleyways between the tree rows.
  • Silvopasture (also known as agrosilvopastoral agroforestry or dehesa): trees combined with forage (pasture) and livestock production
  • Forest farming: cultivation of high-value specialty crops under the protection of a forest overstory that provides an appropriate microclimate.