Agroforestry

  • Regeneration:
    • Protection from erosion of depleted soils by ground-cover plants such as naturally growing grasses.
    • Restoring soil fertility.
    • Carbon sequestration.
    • Cleaner water through reduced nutrient and soil surface run-off.
    • Reducing the need for the use of toxic chemicals.
    • Reducing pressure on primary forests by providing forest products.
  • Multifunctional land use:
    • Production of fruits, nuts and edible oils.
    • Increased crop stability. If a pest shows up in numbers, the system is out of balance in some way, and a natural fix is found. Which takes time, but is usually a permanent fix.
    • Making corridors between wildlife habitats and maintaining wildlife habitats, for example by providing food and nesting possibilities.
    • Drought resistance and countering winds, high rainfall, and harmful insects.
    • Growing space for medicinal plants in situations where people have limited access to mainstream medicine.
    • Improving local human nutrition through food that is richer in diversity, anti-oxidants, and safer to eat (read: less contaminated with pesticides) to eat.
  • Green space and visual aesthetics.

Market availability

In 2011, agroforestry professionals were surveyed in the US. Some degree of effectiveness and success were reported, and obstacles to more widespread adoption were noted. Some of the mentioned critical factors were 1) :

  • Lack of developed markets and knowledge about where to market products.
  • Unfamiliarity with technologies and lack of infrastructure, tools and technical assistance.
  • Lack of awareness and demonstration sites.
  • Competition between trees, crops and animals.
  • High adoption/start up costs, including costs of time, accompanied by lack of apparent profit potential and financial assistance.
  • Insufficient availability of land.

But that was in 2011 and in the US. Europe has a unique heritage of traditional agroforestry systems with a high environmental and cultural value, and Europe has a high potential for innovative modern agroforestry systems developed by research centres across Europe during the last two decades and the bio and eco products market is growing fast, too fast to keep up with by current bio and eco farmers.

Productivity questions

Some people have argued that forests cannot be more productive than farmland because the net productivity of forests declines as they mature due to ecological succession (the process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time). This compares data between woodland forest and climax vegetation (a historic term for a biological community of plants, animals, and fungi which, through the process of ecological succession in the development of vegetation in an area over time, have reached a steady state), and not farmland vegetation with woodland forests.

A woodland or wood is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an under story of shrubs and herbaceous plants, including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of primary or secondary succession. Higher density areas of trees with a largely closed canopy that provides extensive and nearly continuous shade are referred to as forests. Woodland forests and forests do not have a climax vegetation.

The alternatives have a main focus on sustainability, not on regeneration while producing.



1)
Extent of Agroforestry Extension Programs in the United States, Michael Jacobson and Shiba Kar, Journal of Extension, August 2013, Volume 51, Number 4, Research In Brief