Forest Atlas Of The United States

Agroforestry

We want our agricultural landscapes to provide food, fiber, and energy while protecting soil, air and water quality, and wildlife habitat. We also want these working landscapes to be pleasant and healthy places with vibrant local economies. Trees outside of forested landscapes can assist in this important work.

Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal production systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits. It has been practiced in the United States and around the world for centuries.

Environmental benefits from agroforestry can include clean water by reducing nutrients in runoff, improved wildlife habitat, increased soil productivity by controlling wind and water erosion, and reduced off- site damage from spray drift. Woody species can provide habitat for pollinators as well as beneficial insects that prey on insect pests, reducing the need for pesticides.

Increased crop yields and quality, more efficient use of nutrients and water, enhanced crop pollination, and reduced energy inputs are several of the ways that agroforestry can provide economic benefits. Additional income can come from wood for energy generation, fruits and nuts, high-value timber, and other products grown in agroforestry plantings.

Agroforestry also offers social benefits such as mitigating odor from livestock facilities, screening undesirable views, and managing drifting snow near roads and buildings. Agroforestry practices can add variety that enhances the Note: Delete numbering from descriptions. visual quality and recreational opportunities in agricultural landscapes.

The management of agriculture plays an important role in determining the health of our Nation’s lands. Soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and water quality degradation are some of the issues undermining the health and sustainability of our agricultural landscapes. Trees in these areas have important roles in protecting soil, air, water, and wildlife.

Of particular importance are erosion from wind and water because of its impacts to soil quality and crop productivity, and its off-site impacts on water and air quality, and biological activity. Trees and shrubs can minimize soil erosion by reducing wind velocity and stabilizing soil with roots and vegetative cover.

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agroforestry diagram livestock/pasture windbreaks alley cropping riparian buffers forest farming

AGROFORESTRY PRACTICES

There are five widely recognized agroforestry practices in the United States with a sixth category — special applications — that uses agroforestry knowledge in other environments.

SILVOPASTURE SYSTEMS

Combine trees with livestock and pasture. The trees can be managed for timber production while at the same time provide shade and shelter for livestock.

ALLEY CROPPING SYSTEMS

Widely spaced rows of high-value trees that create alleyways for agricultural crops. This arrangement benefits both the trees and crops, creates annual and long-term income, and provides conservation benefits.

FOREST FARMING

The cultivation of high-value non-timber crops (food, medicinal plants, woody florals, and crafts) under the protection of a forest canopy that has been managed to provide a favorable crop environment.

WINDBREAKS

are rows of trees and shrubs that reduce wind speed. They improve crop yields, reduce soil erosion, improve water-efficiency, protect livestock and conserve energy.

RIPARIAN FOREST BUFFERS

Streamside plantings of trees, shrubs and grasses that reduce water pollution and bank erosion, protect aquatic environments, and enhance wildlife habitat.

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