Agroforestry Makes A Comeback in the US
For generations, farmers in the United States removed trees in order to plant crops. Now farmers in the U.S. are beginning to plant trees in and around their fields in order to reap a number of ecological and economic benefits. The practice, known as agroforestry, is far from a new practice. Farmers all over the world have used systems of intercropped trees and crops or pasture. Agroforestry started to become common in the Dust Bowl, with trees acting as a windbreak and prevent soil erosion.
Functioning as a windbreak and preventing erosion is just the tip of the ecological-services iceberg that incorporated trees can provide. For instance, trees can provide habitat for beneficial species like pollinators and natural enemies of pests; keep fields cooler and retain moisture; prevent nutrient depletion; build soil organic matter; act as a riparian buffer zone; and sequester and store carbon.
Of course, species and placement have to be selected carefully to maximize the desired effect of trees.
Perhaps most important to many farmers and ranchers, trees’ timber or fruit can provide an additional source of income. Indeed, in some agroforestry systems, such as coffee, trees often provide the primary source of income.