What is agroforestry?

farm with tree and sheepGibside Community Farm, our neighbour, is working on tree and hedge planting (including oaks, rowan, hazel, cherry, walnut, chestnut, holly and alder). This is a small agroforestry scheme though the volunteers may not call it anything that technical.

Simply put, agroforestry means combining agriculture and trees. Agroforestry is a land management approach with multiple benefits. Planting trees on farms can give farmers healthier soil and higher yields – not to mention creating vital homes for wildlife.

To quote from the article by the Soil Association:

“There are two main types of agroforestry:

1. Silvo-pastoral agroforestry: which means the grazing of animals under trees. The animals enrich the soil while the trees provide shelter and fodder for the animals.

2. Silvo-arable agroforestry: where crops are grown beneath trees, often in rows which are large enough for a tractor to tend to the crops without damaging the trees. This is farming in 3D, the trees and the crops occupy different levels above ground, and also below ground where the tree roots will reach down deeper than the crops.

Other types of agroforestry include hedgerows and buffer strips, forest farming – cultivation within a forest environment, and home gardens for agroforestry on small scales in mixed or urban settings.” This is the area in which Gibside is investing labour and funds.

Properly choosing the trees can also provide an extra crop for the farmer, for instance fruit and nuts (think sweet chestnut for instance). Hedgerows can provide hips, haws, elder flower, blackberries and other edible crops.

Agroforestry is another method of sustainable agriculture which will help the soil, protect the environment and help to feed the growing world population.