What is Agroforestry?

December, 2007

Simply stated, Agroforestry is growing trees in agricultural fields or pastures. It is a relatively new term for a set of age-old practices that are done because they make efficient use of land. Agroforestry has three properties that set it apart from other forms of land management: (1) crops or livestock and trees are intentionally combined, (2) the interactions between these components are planned and managed, (3) the enterprise is managed and evaluated as a single system rather than as separate parts. Because the crop/livestock and tree components can be managed to help rather than to hinder each other, agroforestry systems are often more productive and sustainable than traditional crop, livestock, or timber systems.  

Agroforest Design Principles.

December, 2007

A well designed system should be better than the sum of its parts. That is, combining crops and trees or livestock trees must outperform the same amount of land divided up into separate crop, tree, or livestock operations. Joint production of several components is usually more complex than managing things separately. The extra work must be rewarded by superior total performance of agroforests. This is possible because agroforestry components may be selected and managed to both produce income as well as to help other components also be more productive. In tree-livestock systems, for example, trees provide salable forest products such as timber and pine straw, while livestock control weeds that compete with trees while producing salable meat and fiber (wool). We are trying to emphasize natural win-win relationships among our components.

Silvicultural Grazing - Livestock Helping Trees

January, 2008

Livestock grazing in forests is a common practice. In the United States, approximately 1/4 of all forest and woodlands are grazed. Much of this use is designed to harvest forage so that income may be generated. However, livestock offer a powerful tool to promote forest renewal by controlling vegetation that competes with young trees. Livestock are selective feeders and are creatures of habit. Knowledge of their habits and preferences can be used to employ them as tool in forest management. This provides a win-win opportunity to benefit forest regeneration while producing food and fiber through prescription livestock grazing.

Plant Community Succession -
The Time Dimension of Land Management


Natural resource managers know that stands of perennial vegetation will change over time. Some of this year-to-year change will merely reflect normal climatic differences in weather patterns. Other changes, however, will be longer-term processes that are driving vegetation towards a future state. Our ability to predict this state, to recognize its intermediate stages, and to manipulate it to get what we desire are fundamental to successful land management. This natural, orderly progression over time is called "succession". Since the two processes that drive succession, initial floristics and relay floristics, can't be readily stopped, land managers seek to manipulate them to their advantage. This makes succession the time dimension of vegetation management.

About DoctorRange

Dr. Sharrow's pictureDr. Sharrow is Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Management at Oregon State University, USA, where he has taught undergraduate and graduate level natural resources classes for the past 31 years.

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