Competitive Exams: Agroforestry

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Agroforestry is an integrated approach of using the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock. It combines agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land-use systems.


“Agroforestry is a collective name for land use systems and practices in which woody perennials are deliberately integrated with crops and/or animals on the same land management unit. The integration can be either in a spatial mixture or in a temporal sequence. There are normally both ecological and economic interactions between woody and non-woody components in agroforestry” World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) 1993

In agroforestry systems, trees or shrubs are intentionally used within agricultural systems, or non-timber forest resources are cultured in forest settings. Knowledge, careful selection of species and good management of trees and crops are needed to optimize the production and positive effects within the system and to minimize negative competitive effects.

In some areas, a narrow definition of agroforestry might be defined as simply: Trees on farms. Hence, agroforestry, farm forestry and family forestry can be broadly understood as the commitment of farmers, alone or in partnerships, towards the establishment and management of forests on their land. Where many landholders are involved the result is a diversity of activity that reflects the diversity of aspirations and interests within the community.


Agroforestry systems can be advantageous over conventional agricultural and forest production methods through increased productivity, economic benefits, social outcomes and the ecological goods and services provided.

Biodiversity in agroforestry systems is typically higher than in conventional agricultural systems. Agroforestry incorporates at least several plant species into a given land area and creates a more complex habitat that can support a wider variety of birds, insects, and other animals. Agroforestry also has the potential to help reduce climate change since trees take up and store carbon at a faster rate than crop plants.

Alley Cropping

Alley cropping, sometimes referred to as ‘sun systems’ is a form of Intercropping, and can be applied by farmers as a strategy to combat soil erosion, to increase the diversity of farmland, as a means for crop diversification and to derive other integrated benefits. In this practice, crops are planted in strips in the alleys formed between rows of trees and/or shrubs. The potential benefits of this design include the provision of shade in hot, dry environments (reducing water loss from evaporation) , retention of soil moisture, increase in the structural diversity of the site and wildlife habitat. The woody perennials in these systems can produce fruit, fuelwood, fodder, or trimmings to be made into mulch.

Forest Farming

Forest farming, also known as ‘shade systems’ is the sustainable, integrated cultivation of both timber and non-timber forest products in a forest setting. Forest farming is separate and distinct from the opportunistic exploitation/wild harvest of non-timber forest products. Successful forest farming operations produce: Mushrooms, maple and birch syrup, native plants used for landscaping and floral greenery (e. g. Salal, sword fern, bear grass, cedar boughs and others) , medicinal and pharmaceutical products (e. g. Ginseng, goldenseal, cascara or yew bark) , wild berries and fruit.


Silvopastures combine livestock grazing on forage crops or pastures within actively managed tree or shrub crops. Cattle, sheep and goats are the most common livestock incorporated into silvopasture systems and they may be deployed entirely within a private farm/woodlot silvopasture or through collaborative arrangements between forest licensees and livestock producers on public lands (e. g. In British Columbia, sheep grazing is used as a vegetation management tool in young forest plantations) .

Riparian Buffers and Integrated Riparian Management

Riparian buffers are managed forest and shrubs belts in areas bordering lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands. Integrated riparian management systems are used to enhance and protect aquatic and riparian resources as well as generating income from timber and non-timber forest products. Similar to shelter and timberbelts, integrated riparian management systems can employ a wide variety of tree and shrub species, with specific plantings tailored to suit the specific growing conditions and production opportunities.

Other Uses

Agroforestry practices may also be employed to realize a number of other associated Environmental Services, including:

  • Carbon sequestration
  • Odour, dust, and noise reduction
  • Waste water or manure management (e. g. Utilizing urban waste water on intensive, short rotation forests for wood fibre production)
  • Green space and visual aesthetics.

Enhancement or maintenance of wildlife habitat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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