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Agroforestry

Transmit land into carbon sinks

Trees are a vital part of the farmland. It is most significant when you travel through rural side then it is appealing to see beautiful sceneries. It is a reality that trees are best for protecting, shielding, and feeding us in natural ecology. However, trees are managed by us and have a purpose in our life. But we know that the world population is growing day by day. So, it is vital to find common ground to grow trees and crops all in one place. However, if you want to know more about this, we start with an essential point. Yes, that point is Agroforestry.

When you hear this term, it's crucial to know it's about the usage of agricultural and land management practices to fixate carbon in the plants and the soil, so that the greenhouse gasses (GHG) can be significantly reduced from the atmosphere. To be labeled as a zero net greenhouse gasses agricultural company, you need to incorporate as many methods as possible to reduce the release of carbon dioxide in the air and with that, to reduce the GHG gasses.

What is agroforestry?

Agroforestry is a system where we integrate trees, crops, and livestock. However, the primary purpose of agroforestry is to use the same land for crops and tree planting. It is one of the integral components of productive agriculture. It is about the cultivation of trees, shrubs, and livestock with the crops using the same land piece. However, the primary purpose of agroforestry is to achieve more ecological and diverse output from the ground. But it's not possible if we use the usual agriculture methods and approach.

Read more: Trees are vital. Stay updated on our mission to plant 1 billion trees

Apart from this, there are following other highlights of this approach.

  • It is a practical and low-cost means for land control.
  • Moreover, it contributes to promoting a green economy.
  • Promote long term and sustainable forest control
  • It produces excellent results for small scale producers.
  • Generally, it is a renewable form of forest and crop management.

However, the main goal of this is to combine modern and traditional land-use systems. In agroforestry, we manage crops and trees as the same unit.

History of agroforestry

If we look at history, then agroforestry arose in the early 20th century by American economic geographers. J. Russel Smith wrote the book "TREE CROPS" to introduce these latest trends. In 1929, Smith viewed agroforestry as a way to solve the land destruction that we often face. But this approach failed to address vital topics like timber and non-timber that we usually derive from trees.

We retrieve the top products from the tree planting: food, fuel, fodder, building material, and medicine. Later in 1977, a Canadian international development research center released a report named; “Trees, food and people.” It was the report that discussed the crucial role of trees to sustain agriculture production in tropical areas. The theory led to the formation of the "International Council for research in agroforestry" (ICRAF). However, in 2002 authorities renamed ICRAF as "World agroforestry center." The primary purpose of renaming the institute was to represent the whole world.

What are the main components of agroforestry?

The agroforestry systems are multi-functional. As a result, it provides a wide range of economic, socio-cultural, and environmental benefits. But we can't go ahead without discussing the main components/types of Agroforestry. It will help to understand the functions of this modern system in a better way. So, we are listing features in detail for a broader vision.

  • Agri-silvicultural system
  • Silvopastoral system
  • Agro-silvopastoral system
  • Other common systems

Agri-silvicultural system

In this type of agroforestry, the main components are agricultural and tree crops that we integrate. We divide this system into the following two categories:

  • Protective irrigation
  • And Refined farming

In this system, the crops can be grown up to two years under a protective irrigation system. On the other hand, we can grow crops for four years under an advanced farming system. If you grow crops beyond the specific period, then it may be uneconomical. But it may be economical to produce crop components like shallow-rooted or shade-loving crops. So, if farmers want to see the best results, then they should adopt wider spacing.

Silvopastoral system

In this agroforestry system, the vital components are woody plants to create a meadow effect. We can do shrubs or tree planting to produce food for livestock and timber—however, we categorize the system into three sub-categories.

  • Protein bank
  • Live fence/Food trees and hedges
  • And food hedges and shrubs on the field.

Protein bank

In this sub-category of the Silvopastoral, we grow multipurpose trees. However, the main aim is to give attention to increasing protein-rich plants around the farmlands. Later we can use these trees to feed the animals.

A fence of food trees and hedges

The second sub-category of this system is to grow food trees and hedges. Usually, we build a live fence of these trees; then, animals can use them as feed.

Trees and shrubs on the ground

In this system of agroforestry, we aim for tree planting and different shrubs. However, we perform this plantation regularly or irregularly.

Agro-silvopastoral system

In this central component of agroforestry, we combine the annual tree fields. The most significant advantage of this system is that we can get the result almost for a whole year. We classified this system into the following other categories:

  • Home gardens
  • Woody borders
  • And Green feed

Home gardens

f you want to name a more sustainable and practical system, then the home garden is that one. However, it is most common in areas that mostly remain under high rainfalls. When we talk about rainfall areas, then south and southeast Asia are those areas where coconut is the main crop. But we can grow many other forms of trees and vegetables by using unique or natural climate actions. Moreover, this system also produces and supports many other animal components.

Woody borders & Green feeds

In this system, the farmers prefer tree planting that supports the environment and land. For this purpose, we use fast-growing trees for green feed and soil conservation.

Other common systems

Apart from the above systems, many others are best to create a sustainable environment. In other famous designs, we include:

  • Apiculture: In which primary components are honeybees and trees that encourage honey production.
  • Aqua forestry: In this system, the farmers plant those trees that are preferred by fish. However, the fish use these leaves as their feed. Moreover, the trees work as a support system around the fish compound.
  • Mixed wood lots: In this system, farmers prefer to grow versatile trees. Later, these trees use for feed, wood, soil defense, and recovery.

How to implement agroforestry?

After knowing the main components and basics of reforestation, we now move towards the next step. Yes, the next step is to learn about the implementation of agroforestry. It is evident that the outcomes of the agroforestry are different and depend on the land conditions. So, it is vital to pay serious attention to set and manage agroforestry. Here are the following steps:

1
Select

Shortlist appropriate options.

2
Design

Improve, adapt and design the systemm.

3
Establish

Establish a system.

4
Maintain

Maintenance of the system.

Soil as a carbon sink

Some businesses belonging to a single individual can be neutral on the carbon, so they can make profits by trading carbon credits to other businesses. Some landowners look forward to carbon, as it can significantly improve the overall production and income. The comparisons made before and after using carbon in the soil have shown amazing results in the agriculture industry so far.

Industry professionals have recently coined the term “carbon farming “, which, in short, refers to the processes used to store carbon in the vegetation or soil. By doing this, the greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere are greatly reduced. These practices have made many businesses transform from net carbon emitters to sinks that fixate carbon.

Design of the agroforestry system

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The agroforestry system is more complex than the traditional one and needs more time, care, and skills. Apart from this, it is vital to consider the cost and benefits you will get with the implementation. If we look at the data, then this reforestation system is more fruitful than the traditional one. 

While deciding the design of the agroforestry system, many factors require your attention. So, let’s start with this:

  • Land ownership affects the feasibility of agroforestry design. Moreover, it has a deep connection with the motivation that inspires you to adopt the agroforest system.
  • The size of the plot is another main factor in deciding whether the system is applicable or not. As a small field will not be able to keep crops and trees together.
  • The location of the plot matters a lot. You have to see whether the field is open, slopy, or have any future possibilities of landscape or not.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget to consider environmental factors like climate, soil, drainage, sunlight, etc.

It's an undeniable fact that agroforestry meets the environmental and farmer needs. So, here are key elements that you should consider during decision making.

Land characteristics

It is vital to consider land characteristics like soil fertility, drainage, water sources, and landscape. Apart from this, you have to see climate and environmental conditions like temperature and other seasonal variations.

Set your needs and priorities

Moreover, it is vital to write down your needs and priorities that you want to achieve through this piece of land. It will help set your use and crop limit that you want to sell in the market.

The availability of sources

There are four main types of capital, and you need to see the availability of those sources. Like you know, the availability of land, labor, capital, and machinery.

Decision making plays the most significant role to assess the agroforestry and its effect in your area. However, you can search for community-based organizations in that area to know more about the system. It is challenging for an outer party to understand land conditions. So, it would help if you involve farmers and land users in the process.

Are you a land owner?

The agroforestry system is more complex than the traditional one and needs more time, care, and skills. Apart from this, it is vital to consider the cost and benefits you will get with the implementation. Let us help you.

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Establish and maintain an agroforestry system

Many factors should be there while setting an agroforest system. For instance, you have to look for site preparation, plant and animal material selection, and tree planting.

  • Site preparation: It varies according to the land type and agroforestry system. So, you have to take care of the work like clearing, fencing, fertilization, etc. However, it will help if you have apt machinery and tools to reduce the cost.
  • Selection of plant and animal material: It is another vital factor that plays a crucial role in the success of agroforestry. However, you can buy tree seedlings from commercial or local markets. Apart from this, you can breed the trees by using different ways.
  • The planting of trees and crops: At this step, you need proper machinery and tool with ample knowledge to plant the trees. But if there is anything unclear, then you can ask for an expert opinion.

It is vital to remember that every system is different from another. So, it is critical to monitor the outdoor as well as indoor factors. However, to maintain an active nursing system, you require a good base and useful information.

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Environmental Benefits

  • Lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with clearing of vegetation
  • Storing carbon in vegetation
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Improved air quality

There are also benefits to the environment when carbon is, without any limits, released in the air. Greenhouse gasses, as some of you may know, are very harmful to agriculture itself too. They can significantly decrease the production and with that the profit, because they have negative effects on the vegetation. However, there are some benefits that carbon farming can have on the environment:

  • Vegetation is much healthier and cleaner with much fewer greenhouse gasses in the air. Vegetation or plants, also use air to survive, so whatever they breathe, directly implements their well-being.
  • Carbon is stored in the vegetation. But this is not harmful to them, because carbon is used in the process of photosynthesis, in which they generate food for themselves.
  • Biodiversity is not decreased, but it rises with each beneficial method.
  • Air is cleaner and much healthier. We, not only the plants but are also affected by this. If nothing, then we need to think and work towards improving our health and environment, we have no other.
  • Soil erosion is much less likely to happen because the soil is fueled and much less dry. Furthermore, greenhouse gasses are the ones, trough rain indicates erosion.
  • Soil is much more fertile and ready for more production.
  • Native vegetation and animal health are also on the positive side. This is crucial for the extinction of the species.

Farmer benefits

There is no doubt that combining trees and crops is a common practice throughout the world. According to an estimate of the world bank in 2014, more than 1.2 billion are applying agroforestry. According to the data of "Agroforestry research trust," there are the system's following advantages.

  • It controls soil erosion and reduces water losses.
  • Apart from this, it helps to maintain the organic matter and fertility of the soil.
  • Agroforestry maintains the good things of soil. It is more effective than farming and helps to keep tree roots.
  • Moreover, it promotes the more efficient use of nutrients and proves the best one for farming.
  • It utilizes solar energy more capably and helps to grow different height plants, leaves, and arrangements.
  • Apart from this, agroforestry helps to create more natural habitats for birds and other animals. However, with the help of these birds, farmers can control pests efficiently.
  • Agroforestry is more ecological than other means and boosts income by using land competently.

If we look at the record, around 900 million hector land is infertile due to high soil salinity. But agroforestry is the solution in which trees and shrubs can control the salt content in the soil. In the end, it is vital to mention that agroforestry is the best way to mimic the forest environment. As a result, it supports different types of plants to grow and flourish.

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Land-based methods can be broadly separated into vegetation or agricultural methods. DGB has the expertise and experience in both areas and therefore offer complete services. Running an Emissions Reduction Fund project may offer many benefits for program participants, as well as the environment.

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