Agroforestry and Forest gardens

Agroforestry refers to land management systems that integrate agricultural crops with forest crops. It is a collective term for all land use systems and practices, in which woody perennials are deliberately grown on the same land management unit as crops or animals, either in some form of a spatial arrangement or in a time sequence and in which there is a significant interaction between the woody perennials and the crops or animals.

Research over the past 20 years has confirmed that agroforestry can be more biologically productive, more profitable, and be more sustainable than forestry or agricultural monocultures. Many other benefits have been shown. Temperate agroforestry systems are already widespread in many parts of the world and are central to production in some regions.

Success of agroforestry is largely determined by the extent to which individual forest and agricultural components can be integrated to help rather than hinder each other. The choice of tree and crop species combinations is critically important when setting up systems.

Types of Agroforestry

The major classes of agroforestry include, agrisilviculture, silvopastoral, agrosilvopastoral and other (miscellaneous) systems.

Agrisilviculture refers to systems in which agricultural crops are integrated with trees on the same land management unit either in time or space. Examples include taungya, alley cropping, multipurpose trees either as woodlots or as scattered trees on farmlands or on farm boundaries, crop combinations involving woody perennial plantation crops, growing commercial crops in association with planted shade trees or trees in natural forests, shelterbelts, energy plantations, enriched fallow and so on.

Silvopastoralism represents land management systems in which forests including forest plantations are managed for the concurrent production of wood and livestock. They also refer to situations in which trees are scattered in pasture/grasslands, protein banks/cut and carry fodder production system involving woody perennials and the like.

Agrosilvopastoral systems, the most intensive form of land management, are systems in which the land is managed concurrently for the production of agricultural and forest crops and for rearing of domesticated animals.

In addition, there are many agricultural practices associated with forest that strictly do not fall under the above categories. These include, collection of non-timber forest products from forests, growing trees around wetlands and other water bodies in which fish culture is practised, apiculture with trees and multipurpose woodlots etc.


Trees in Agroforestry

Many tree species (woody perennials) are encountered in agroforestry. These include common timber species such as ailanthus (matti), teak, wild jack and multipurpose tree species such as mango, jack, tamarind, erythrina, gliricidia etc. Species-specific recommendations for some important timber (softwood and hardwood) trees are given below.

Popular Agrisilvicultural systems

Multi-purpose tree based systems

Shade loving crops like ginger perform better in the inter-spaces of tree species like ailnathus (at four years of age, planted at 2 m x 2 m spacing; with 60% of open light)

Multi-purpose tree species like ailanthus, teak, vellapine, silver oak and green manure yielding trees can be successfully interplanted in the older coconut plantation (preferably above 30 years of age), in association with other field crops and medicinal plants like kacholam. 1 or 2 rows of multi-purpose trees can be grown in the middle (spacing 1-2 m between plants), depending on the space available (between coconut palms). Tree management such as lopping/pollarding etc., is important to prevent any possible inter-species competition between the multi-purpose tree component and the coconut palms.

Black pepper production

Agroforestry is the growing of both trees and agricultural / horticultural crops
on the same piece of land.

“Forest gardening offers the potential for all gardeners to grow an important element of their health-creating food; it combines positive gardening and positive health… The wealth, abundance and diversity of the forest garden provides for all human needs – physical needs through foods, materials and exercise, as well as medicines and spiritual needs through beauty and the connection with the whole.”

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Commercially important plant species

Growing trees for conservation and profit

Forest Gardening
Forest GardeningA Forest Garden is a designed agronomic system based on trees, shrubs and perennial plants. These are mixed in such a way as to mimic the structure of a natural forest – the most stable and sustainable type of ecosystem in this climate.
The crops which are produced will often include fruits, nuts, edible leaves, spices, medicinal plant products, poles, fibres for tying, basketry materials, honey, fuelwood, fodder, mulches, game, sap products.
Forest Farming
Forest FarmingHigh-value speciality crops are cultivated under the protection of a forest canopy that has been modified and managed to provide the appropriate conditions. It is a way of utilising forests for short-term income while high-quality trees are being grown for wood products.
The amount of light in the stands is altered by thinning, pruning, or adding trees; 5-40% crown cover is usually desirable. Existing stands of trees can be intercropped with annual, perennial, or woody plants.
SilvoarableIn Silvoarable systems agricultural or horticultural crops are grown simultaneously with a long-term tree crop to provide annual income while the tree crop matures. Trees are grown in rows with wide alleys in-between for cultivating crops.
Wood or tree products are produced in addition to agronomic crops, with no reduction in crop yields per unit area for many years. Utilisation and recycling of soil nutrients is improved. Wildlife habitat and corridors are created.
SilvopastureIt comprise trees deliberately introduced into a forage production system (or, rarely, forage introduced into a tree production system), the whole designed to produce a high-value tree component, while continuing to produce the forage and livestock component indefinitely or for a significant time.
Trees provide shade and wind protection, which reduce heat stress and windchill of livestock; performance is improved and mortality reduced.

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