January 6, 2021
Definition: The practice of intentionally integrating trees and shrubs with other crop and/or animal farming systems for improved production and ecological benefits. Major agroforestry practices include: windbreaks, live fences, alley cropping, contour planting, parkland agroforestry, forest gardens, riparian buffers, forest farming, and silvopasture systems, but there are many more.
A Closer Look: The TREES Forest Garden model is a prime example of agroforestry in practice, and it incorporates some of the main agroforestry techniques. Forest Gardens are intentionally designed to incorporate a diversity of crops with a portfolio of trees: multipurpose, fruit, timber, and medicinal trees, harnessing the beneficial relationships between different species and creating a system with greater overall benefits.
Major Agroforestry Elements in TREES’ Forest Garden Design:
Windbreaks and Living Fences: In the Forest Garden, these two agroforestry elements are combined to create a “Green Wall”. Farmers plant 2-3 rows of different trees around the perimeter of the field that serve to protect crops from wind, roaming animals and other unwanted intruders.
Alley Cropping: In the Forest Garden Design process, farmers plan to include rows or alleys of trees across their land to build soil fertility. They plant nitrogen fixing trees and use the foliage from these rows of trees as green fertilizer in a method known as “chop and drop”.
Contour Planting: This agroforestry technique is integrated with Forest Gardens when working on sloped land. Contour planting is applied for erosion prevention but can also provide additional soil fertility benefits similar to alley cropping.
Forest Gardens/Forest Farming: By not only focusing on the trees but also gardening the understory of the canopy of major trees, farmers are able to make use of the space below and increase and diversify yields substantially.
To learn more about the many benefits of Forest Gardens, read Chapter 1 of the Technical Manual.