Agroforestry is agricultural with trees. Agroforestry is the tree planning that is deliberately combined with agriculture on the same piece of land. It is an essential connection between agriculture and forestry that could provide with two sources of income:
● Agricultural products (crops, vegetables and livestock) and
● Forestry-generated products (sawlogs, fuelwood, fruits, flowers and nuts).
Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees or shrubs with crop and animal production to create environmental, economic and social benefits.
The agroforestry concept was rooted in the 1900s but coined in 1978 by the International Council for Agroforestry. Agroforestry is diverse from the traditional forestry and agriculture as it integrates both in one single approach. The selection of crops and tree blends are central to having worthwhile agroforestry. The core notion in agroforestry is putting the right tree in the right place for the right purpose along with agriculture. More and more United Kingdom farmers are beginning to experiment with agroforestry and started observing improvements in soil-health, resilience and biodiversity. More than 1.2 billion people around the world practice agroforestry on around 1 billion hectares of land as per the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). 15.4 million hectares of agriculture land in Europe is under the agroforestry.
Common Agroforestry practices:
● Alley cropping: Agricultural crops grown simultaneously with long-term tree crops.
● Forest farming: Cultivation of high-value crops under the protection of a managed forest canopy.
● Riparian forest buffers: Natural or re-established streamside forests made up of tree, shrub and grass plantings.
● Silvopasture: Combines trees with forage and livestock production.
● Windbreaks: Liner plantings of trees and shrubs to enhance, protect and benefit people, livestock and soil and water conservation.
● Additional applications: Planting trees and shrubs to solve specific issues.
Agroforestry supports farmers to integrate productivity and profitability with environmental stewardships which would contribute to healthy and sustainable landscapes. The standard planting density for trees per acre. The trees are arranged as single stems, in rows or in groups and remaining land is for agriculture.
Why is agroforestry important for climate change?
Agroforestry has a good possibility to build carbon in each tree’s woody components and sequester carbon in soil. Agricultural and tree integration benefits to enhance soil quality, reduce runoff and water flows management and for wildlife and biodiversity. It reduces emissions and increases carbon storage. Farming releases large amounts of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission now. Farming is responsible for 30% of GHG and root cause of 80% of tropical deforestation. Agroforestry regulates temperature locally and generates rainfall that is useful for farming. At the same time, it is not a quick fix as trees take a long time to mature and cost before they can provide productivity with profitability. It takes CO2 from the atmosphere and reduces global warming. Climate change is adversely affecting the yields and food security for smallholder farmers across the globe unless taken proper mitigation steps. British agricultural experts informed the United Kingdom Government’s Tree-Planting Campaign to meet the Government climate target of Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050. The agroforestry remains productive for the farmers and generates continuous revenue, which is not the case when arable land is exclusively reforested. Agroforestry then allows for the diversification of farm activity and makes better use of environmental resources resulting in poverty alleviation. In addition, over time, agroforestry farms can become less dependent on crop subsidies and less susceptible to crop price variations, as timber generates a significant part of their income.
The roots reach deep into ground to cycle nutrients and store carbon and above land, the trees protect crops and animals from harsh weather. It enhances farm productivity, manages waterflow, improves soil health, increases wildlife, boosts livestock welfare and contributes to climate change mitigation. It also reduces loss of fertile soil, water conservation, organic matter and nutrients. It reduces pests and related diseases and supports reclaiming waste and degraded farming lands and deforestation. Agroforestry produces employment and income, improves pollinator habitat, mitigates odour, traps snow that reduces snow pileup on the roads and develops natural corridors for safe travel or movement for wildlife. It reduces the wind speed and improves air quality. Agroforestry provides a more varied farm economy and stimulates the rural economy that leads to stable farming and communities.
Agroforestry contributes to sustainable development which is recognised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Agroforestry is supporting the European Union’s first and second pillars of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) three objectives: viable food production, sustainable management of natural resources and climate action and balanced territorial development. Agroforestry is a movement towards sustainability.