It is a term not commonly heard, it is agroforestry. The word means to intentionally combine agriculture and forestry to create integrated and sustainable land-use systems. Agroforestry takes advantage of the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock. It is also defined as:
“Agroforestry is a collective name for land use systems and practices in which woody perennials are deliberately integrated with crops and/or animals on the same land management unit. The integration can be either in a spatial mixture or in a temporal sequence. There are normally both ecological and economic interactions between woody and non-woody components in agroforestry”. -World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) 1993″
How is agroforestry used? In many ways, they include:
1. Alley Cropping – This is a form of cropping applied by farmers to combat soil erosion. This helps increase the diversity of farmland as a means for crop diversification. In this practice, crops are planted in strips in the alleys formed between rows of trees or shrubs. With this type of planting, crops are given shade in hot, dry environments, thus reducing water loss. This also helps retain soil moisture and provides a wildlife habitat. The trees used in this system can produce fruit, fuelwood, fodder or trimmings that can be converted into mulch. Fine hardwoods such as walnut, oak, ash and pecan are favored species in alley cropping systems, which can give a potentially high-value in lumber.
2. Forest Farming – This is also known as ‘shade systems’. This system integrates the cultivation of both timber and non-timber forest products in a forest setting. With forest farming, the farmer cultivates high value specialty crops under the protection of a forest canopy. These crops include ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, decorative ferns that are sold for medicinal, culinary and ornamental use.
3. Riparian Buffer and Integrated Riparian Management – Riparian forest buffers are natural or re-established streamside forests made up of tree, shrub and grass plantings. These plantings are placed along lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands in order to enhance and protect aquatic and riparian resources as well as generate income from timber and non-timber forest products. Plantings also buffer non-point source pollution of waterways from adjacent lands and reduce bank erosion.
4. SilvoPasture – Silvopasture combines trees with forage and livestock production. Trees are managed for high-value sawlogs and shade for livestock and forage. Conifers or hardwoods for timber or Christmas trees are often planted. Some nut and fruit orchards may also be grazed.
5. Windbreaks – Planting trees in a linear fashion helps enhance crop production, protect people and livestock while benefiting soil. Field windbreaks protect wind-sensitive crops and control erosion, and increase bee pollination and pesticide effectiveness. Livestock windbreaks help reduce animal stress and mortality, reduce feed consumption, and help reduce visual impacts and odors. Living snowfences keep roads clean of drifting snow and increase driving safety. They can also spread snow evenly across a field, increasing spring soil moisture.
Agroforesty is also used to keep down dust, odors, reduce noise, provide green space or visual aesthetics, enhance wildlife habitat and offers carbon sequestration.
About the Author: Andrew Johnson is the owner of Central Texas Tree Care, a leading provider of Austin tree services in Central Texas. Certified ISA Austin arborist services including: tree trimming, tree removal, tree care and stump removal. For more information on Austin tree service please visit http://www.centraltexastreecare.com.