Agroforestry

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Agroforestry is an approach to land cultivation that deliberatly creates interaction between pasture, crops, woody plants, and animals to reduce input costs, increase productivity, or increase ecosystem services. Agroforestry systems are designed to provide less yield of any one commodity, but to provide more goods and services per unit of land then if production was segregated by nesting several products within a single assemblage (such as timber and grazing).

  • Agricultural water management is a page that describes strategies for integrating agricultural systems and watershed hydrology, which can be integrated to enhance agroforestry systems.
  • Surface water havesting for irrigation is a more specific strategy, which can be integrated with agroforestry by using diversion and irrigation swales to support alley cropping or windbreak development.

Agroforestry systems that reduce or eliminate nutrient and pestiside outputs, and provide permanenet cover with a complex root and canopy structure, have the potential to increase ecosystem services to rivers and creeks, while providing some value to landowners. Agroforestry is more common in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and in less industrialized countries than in the United States. This may be caused by a combination of the following reasons:

  • A large land base and inexpensive nutrient and energy availability reduces the incentive for developing of more integrated farming systems.
  • Agroforesty design and management requires a skill set not taught in the United States.
  • Agroforestry is not specifically supported by incentives or regulatory frameworks.

Agroforesty education in the Salish Sea is increasingly limited to programs associated with the international permaculture movement. Oregon State University still offers (c. 2013) two agroforestry courses taught by Badege Bishaw. Academic agroforestry education appears to have declined since the 1970s and 80s.

A workshop to discuss a Northwest Agroforestry Workgroup supported by the NRCS was held on May 14, 2013. The following information was gleaned:

North American Agroforestry Hotspots

Agroforestry Resources On-line

Agroforestry Examples

  • Most Salish Sea agroforestry-like activity to date is what could be called "forest grazing"--the simple exploitation of wild forage on public lands.
  • Oak woodland managment for acorns and camas are a traditional tribal example, similar in some ways to European oak-based silvopasture (Known as Dehesa in Spain).
  • Living fencing (hedgerow) of hawthorne and rose have been used in the Willamette Valley.
  • Interplanting crops into young orchards or forests (known as Taungya in Burma and India) has been common in Europe, but less so with the increase in high density orchard practices.
  • Agroforestry provides an opportunity to create dialog between silviculture, pastoral and agricultural specialists, and to test system hypotheses proposed in ecological sciences.

Regional Developments

  • The NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant program may be a source for supporting agroforestry installations.
  • Chad Kruger at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources is primarily focussed on the columbia basin, and identified the following potential applications:
    • Designing agrforestry for biocontrol strategies (breeding predatory insects for target pest species).
    • Carbon sequestration (but requires a carbon value of over $100/ton).
    • Pyrolysis systems for production of energy/biochar as a scalable technology supporting local production/consumption.
  • David Pilz has completed feasibility on expanding truffle production through innoculation of douglas-fir to expand oregon truffle production to meet European market demand. 20-40 y.o. douglas-fir planted on agricutural land appears to provides optimum production.
  • Advanced Hardwood Biofuels NW is developing hybrid popular to ethanol to motor fuel systems, with a test plot at the Pilchuck Tree farm, growing poplar hybrid as coppice on three year harvest cycles.
  • In the pacific northwest, we lack good case studies and models. The following key issues might be drivers for agroforestry adoption at larger scales:
    • Pollinator-insect predator support for agricultural systems
    • Fuel crops production
    • Specialty crops on small farms
    • Salmon recovery in agricultural landscapes

Woody Plants as Cut Flowers