Agro forestry: An Integrated System of Land Use

By: Dr. Arvind Singh         Posted Date: 9/27/2012      8:55:36 AM


What is Agroforestry?

According to International Council for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) “Agroforestry is a system of land use where woody perennials are deliberately used on the same land management units as annual agricultural crops and or animals, either sequentially or simultaneously, with the aim of obtaining greater outputs on sustained basis”. In other words Agroforestry encompasses promotion of components like woody perennials, crops, livestock and other natural resources in temporal and spatial sequence which ultimately alters livelihood options and sustainability. Agroforestry is an age old practice followed in some form or the other in different parts of the world.

What is Rotational Agroforestory?

It is a traditional shifting cultivation in which trees and woody species of natural regeneration are rotated (5 to 40 years) with the cultivation of annuals (1-3 years). Improvements in rotational agroforestry or shifting cultivation can be made by substituting improved natural fallows such as multispecies tree gardens. These improved fallows may also serve as woodlots, home gardens and compound farms.

What are the advantages of Agroforestry?

Agroforestry has several advantages which can be summarized as follows :

  • Conserves soil by improving the soil structure.
  • Conserves environment by fixing carbon dioxide (CO2) and releasing oxygen (O2).
  • Provides fruit, fodder, timber and fuelwood.
  • Increases nutrient status of the soil.
  • Enhances the efficiency of nutrient cycling.
  • Increases the organic matter content of the soil.
  • Helps in maintaining the ground water table.
  • Protects the crop from detrimental effects of wind.
  • Helps in improved animal production through better quality fodder.
  • Helps in development of cottage industries; and
  • Brings deep seated nutrient on the soil surface.


What are Different types of Agroforestry System?


1.      Agrisilviculture system : It is a system of agroforestry in which tree species are grown and managed in the farmland along with agricultural crops. For example,  poplar (Populus deltoids)  and wheat (Triticum aestivum)or Gmelina abrorea and paddy (Oryza sativa) This system can solve the problem of shortage of food, fuel wood, timber and conserve soil moisture contents and also ameliorate the harsh climatic condition.

2.      Silvipastoral system : Under silvipastoral system of land management improved pasture species are grown along with tree species. For example, Morus alba and Dichanthium annulatum or Albizia lebbeck andPennisetum pedicellatum. Here the selection of tree species could be either for timber alone or for dual purpose i.e. fuel cum fodder. Grasses or legumes mixtures are grown along with tree species simultaneously on the same unit of land. Combining of trees, grasses and legumes also helps to conserve soil moisture and improve the fertility status of soil. It has two sub-types :

(i)                   Silvipastoral system with control grazing

(ii)                 Silvipastoral system in which domesticated ruminants (herbivores) are not permitted for grazing

3.      Agrisilvipastoral system : Under this system the same unit of land is managed to get agricultural and forest crops where farmers can also rear animals. For example wheat (Triticum aestivum), poplar (Populus deltoidesand Dichanthium annulatum.
      Agrihortisilviculture system :  It is integrated system of land use in which agricultural crops, fruit trees and timber trees/fuel wood are grown together to fulfil the needs of food grains, fruits, timber and fuel wood. For instance wheat (Triticum aestivum), Morus alba and Dalbergia sissoo.
      Silvihorticulture system : It is a system of agroforestry in which timber trees are grown with fruit trees. For example, Albizia lebbeck and Morus alba. This system is extremely helpful in soil conservation.
      Agrihorticulture system : This land management system aims at production of both agricultural crops and fruits. Therefore, crops and fruit trees are grown together. For example, apple (Malus pumilo) and wheat(Triticum aestivum).
      Hortisilvipastoral system : It is integrated system of land management in which fruit trees, forest trees and pasture grasses are grown together. The three components fulfils the demand of fruit, fodder, fuel and timber. For example, Morus alba, Albizia lebbeck and Dichanthium annulatum.
      Hortipastoral system : In this type of agroforestry system fruit trees are grown with pasture grasses for the fulfillment of need of fruits and fodder. For instance Morus alba and Pennisetum pedicellatum.
      Agripasture system : In this system crops and pasture grasses are grown together to meet the need of food and fodder. For example, wheat (Triticum aestivum) and Poa annua.
  Silviapiculture system: It is a system of bee rearing along with growing of trees on the agricultural land. For example, Gmelina arborea and bee.


What is Alley Cropping?


Alley cropping is an agroforestry system in which food crops are grown in alleys formed by contour hedge rows of trees or shrubs. The hedge rows are preferably established from native trees or shrubs. These trees are periodically pruned to prevent shading of food crops. Shrubs and trees act as a windbreak, facilitate nutrient cycling, suppress weed growth, decrease run-off and reduce soil erosion. The prunings can be used as fodder for livestock and as source of nitrogen rich mulch.

Dr. Arvind Singh