Better Ground

Agroforesty

Planting trees to grow better food.

Agroforestry is the best of both worlds. This sustainable land practice combines forest plants with crops and livestock, either simultaneously or sequentially, on the same plot of land to increase the harvest and environmental benefits.

Practices and Benefits of Agroforestry

Practices in agroforestry include:

  • Forest Farming
  • Alley Cropping
  • Silvopasture
  • Riparian Buffers (Working Buffers)
  • Windbreaks

Benefits of agroforestry include:

  • Combination of economic production with environmental protection
  • Increased potential to increase production and profitability
  • Builds resilience to extreme weather events such as floods and drought 
  • Providing diversity and flexibility into a production system
  • Increases in wildlife and beneficial insect habitat
  • Creates a more sustainable system
  • Carbon sequestration

Types of Working Buffers

Where trees are grown in rows that are wide enough to also allow for crops. Stacking these two production systems will help you better cope with market fluctuations or crop failures. This can be a long-term management strategy or a short-term approach to increasing your harvest while growing a forest canopy.

Silvopasture is the practice of grazing livestock under trees with the goal of integrating the management of three components: tree crops, livestock, and forage. Trees are selected for their crop value (such as fruit, timber and/or nut trees) or for additional forage benefits. By combining the three components of silvopasture, a synergistic system is created that allows for all components to be more productive together than they would otherwise be.

This method is the closest to a traditional forest. You have the opportunity to diversify your harvest with both a tree crop and an understory crop. From the trees, you can get timber or fruit and nuts, while the  understory is planted with shade-tolerant medicinal herbs, mushrooms, or greens for the floral market.

You can use alley cropping or silvopasture working buffer techniques to control weeds and bring in an income until trees mature.

Fast-growing woody shrub or tree species can be grown densely and harvested in this technique. For best results, you can use species that can re-sprout from stumps or roots. On the landscape, these dense shrubs can absorb nutrients and filter out pollutants. A great partner to traditional riparian buffers!

Intrigued?

Contact your District to learn more about how agroforestry may work for you. Technical documents are also available in the Resource Planner Toolkit.