Agroforestry in the spotlight
Posted: November 27, 2011
Agroforestry is everywhere. Trees are ubiquitous across our landscape and agroforetsry is defined as the integration of trees and crops and/or livestock. However, the windbreaks, or trees on farms or pastures are more a remnant than and intentional practice. For it to be 'agroforestry' it needs to be intentional and interactive. But why should a farmer or forest landowner bother? The point is the interaction between between trees and crops or livestock has benefits which out weigh the costs. Many of the benefits from trees are environmentally related such as carbon sequestration, water quality improvements, reduced soil erosion, and biodiversity. These environmental benefits provide indirect values that are often difficult to measure in the market place so for agroforestry to work it also needs to have direct economic benefits. These include income diversification and niche markets from specialty crops, extended forage growing seasons, nitrogen fixing capabilities of trees, etc.
Concerns about current farming systems, problems with forest sustainability, and growing movements in organic farming and local foods have given agroforestry some new found life. The New York Times recently discussed this in a article and the USDA is talking about an 'all lands' management approach and came out with a strategic framework for agroforestry. Its the first time all USDA land agencies are trying to work together that I can remember.
We are also seeing more interest from farmers and forest landowners to diversify and develop alternative income opportunities in these trying economic times. Good news for the science of agroforestry.