The modern concept of agroforestry emerged early in the 20th century but planting trees and shrubs amongst fields and furrows is very ancient indeed.
The Romans were the first to write about it. But integrating trees with crops and animals is an ancient practice, likely dating back over 10,000 years ago when our ancestors first became agriculturists.
Agroforestry is based on the concept that the presence of trees in a farming ecosystem makes them more stable and resistant to climatic vagaries than a field without them.
The goal of agroforestry is to achieve balance and meet our needs as humans. We can create a sustainable food supply while protecting the environment, and the trees can give us wood and fiber.
Agroforestry can be considered a part of permaculture farming. Permaculture has three core principles. The first principle is taking care of the people, the second is taking care of our earth, and the third is limiting our consumption.
What are the benefits of Agroforestry?
- We can grow our food more sustainably.
Agroforestry is a highly sustainable way to farm and produce food. An agroforestry system allows many biological ecosystems to work together and thrive. Conditions are improved for livestock, wildlife, and plants; the system is built to closely represent a natural ecosystem.
Organic farmers must employ integrated management strategies to control pests in an environmentally friendly way. One way to achieve this is to integrate trees and shrubs with other crops or livestock into what would otherwise be a monocropped system. By doing this, organic farmers can increase biodiversity in the entire ecosystem around their farm- another requirement in the organic regulations.
Research highlighted by the Organic Center finds that Agroforestry can also help large-scale, conventional farmers reduce their dependence on synthetic inputs, by harnessing natural ecosystem functions through ecological intensification.
The study interviewed California farmers to determine the benefits of using agroforestry systems. Farmers mentioned increases in soil health, fertility and nutrient cycling, which also improved water retention and reduced soil erosion.
- It’s Wildlife-friendly
Conventional farming methods often involve clearing forests and destroying natural habitats. Agroforestry allows space for both wildlife and farming. In many cases, wildlife can support pest control, getting rid of certain pests who might eat the crops! The agroforestry system is the only farming system which serves to protect our wildlife and our forests.
- It can help protect the planet and reduce greenhouse gasses.
Trees are the lungs of our planet. Our great forests help the planet breathe by turning carbon dioxide into clean, pure oxygen. Trees can help us to reduce greenhouse gases, removing carbon from our atmosphere.
Trees and forests around the world also act like the planet’s air conditioning system and keep the planet cool.
They cycle nutrients that provide food sources for fungi, animals, and plants. When the soil is healthy, it removes the need to use chemical-based fertilizers. As the trees decompose, the nutrients released can be utilized by the surrounding crops.
Agroforestry systems can also effectively utilize solar energy, resulting in a diverse range of plants, fruits, and fungi.
Trees restore water bodies and natural flora and fauna. They lower the temperature of tropical areas and bring up nutrients from deeper layers of soil and deposit them on the surface in the form of fallen leaves. Trees act as wind shields, prevent soil erosion and improve organic matter in soil.
- It can improve yields.
Many studies indicate that agroforestry produces significantly improved crop yields for farmers. With an improved yield, farmers end up with a more cost-efficient and sustainable farming practice. When it comes to farming methods, it’s vital to have the right agricultural machines for the job. For more information about agricultural farming, machines, take a look at Pomi Industri APs at pomi.dk/en.
- It can be a future for family farming.
Many farmers in India and the rest of the world have shifted to the concept of food forest or predominantly diverse tree-based cultivations instead of long stretches of land used for farming of single or multiple seasonal crops—something akin to permaculture.
This article in LEISA INDIA by Dipankar Dasgupta contains some great examples of people who have practically adopted agroforestry as their farming model and are thriving as a family.
The practice of agroforestry is about farming in the most natural way possible, protecting the earth, and not deforesting our planet.
Agroforestry is a path to produce food sustainably, protect our planet and keep the lungs of our planet breathing.
Let me know how you’ve experienced Agroforestry at home and around the world.
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