Agroforestry is an integrated approach to land use which uses the interactive benefits derived from combining trees with crops and/or livestock.
Agroforestry combines agriculture and forestry practices to create diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and resilient forms of land-use. Agroforestry systems reduce damage to soils, produce food and timber, increase bio-diversity by planting more species and creating habitat, reduce dependency upon chemical pesticides and fertilisers, and store carbon in the soil and biomass.
The benefits created by agroforestry practices are both economic and environmental. Agroforestry can increase farm profitability in several ways:
- the total output per unit area of tree / crop / livestock combinations is greater than any single component alone
- crops and livestock protected from the damaging effects of wind are more productive
- new products add to the financial diversity and flexibility of the farming enterprise.
Agroforestry helps to conserve and protect natural resources by, for example, mitigating non-point source pollution, controlling soil erosion, and creating wildlife habitat. The benefits of agroforestry add up to a substantial improvement of the economic and resource sustainability of agriculture.
At present there are five basic types of agroforestry practices :
- alley cropping,
- riparian buffers, and
- forest farming.
Agroforestry practices are intentional combinations of trees with crops and/or livestock which involve intensive management of the interactions between the components as an integrated agroecosystem. There are four key characteristics that define the agroforestry approach -
- interactive, and
- integrated -
These form the essence of agroforestry and are what distinguish it from other farming or forestry practices.