Have you ever visited the countryside? What did you see there? Did you find acres of land covered with crops? Were the crops all the same kind?
A typical farm is a piece land, usually covered with a single type of crop. Be it wheat, rice, maize, cotton or something else. Scientists thought the land could be better utilized than this. And they came up with the idea of mixing agriculture with forestry. They suggested that farmers grow trees and shrubs on the same land as the crops. They called this concept Agroforestry.
How is it done?
The name may sound tough, but the method is quite simple. All one needs to do is plant trees between rows of crops. Crops provide income to the farmers even while the trees mature. Once the trees begin to bear fruits, they add to the income. This type of Agroforestry practice is also called Alley Cropping.
Sometimes trees are combined with grazing land for livestock. The trees provide shade for the animals and at the same time, their fruits add to the income. This method is known as Silvopasture.
There is another type of Agroforestry called Forest Farming. In this method, forests are not cut down for farming. Instead, crops are cultivated under the shade of forest trees. This method is useful for crops that are herbal or decorative in nature.
Why the need for Agroforestry?
You may have heard about the need to conserve our forests. Many jungles are vanishing, and their land is being used for farming or building homes. Our planet’s green cover is almost gone, and this is causing a lot of problems. Without trees, the Earth is getting hotter. The air is becoming more polluted. With the help of Agroforestry, we hope to fix these problems.
How does it help us?
Agroforestry helps us use our land space better. Crops usually become ripe in about six months’ time. After they yield their fruits, the plants are cut down. The farmer then prepares his fields for the next season’s crop. Most of the land remains bare and unused during this time. However, if trees have been planted, they continue to grow and bear fruits.
- More trees add to the green cover of our planet. Trees even make the farms look beautiful. Fruits from the trees add to the farmer’s income.
- Some crops are sensitive to the wind. The trees protect the crops from the force of the wind. Then, trees also provide shelter from snow and rain.
- Trees bind the soil and help in preventing soil erosion. Their presence improves pollination as the trees house insects like bees.
- In some places, trees and shrubs are planted between farmlands and rivers or streams. The trees and shrubs filter out waste from the rainwater flowing into the river from the farms.
This practice of growing trees with crop has been in use for centuries. Old tribes have always done farming in this manner. Now, more people are beginning to use these methods. The many benefits of Agroforestry after all are quite clear to the mankind.