Agroforestry is the method of managing and integrating trees, crops and livestock on a common plot of land. Considered as an integral part of productive agriculture, this practice can include forests that are established by landholders and existing native forests. It is a flexible concept that involves both large and small land holdings. While this agricultural method is seen a very beneficial by many, it is also seen as having its own set of negatives. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of agroforestry:
List of Advantages of Agroforestry
1. It can effectively leverage short-term cash-flow over time.
In economic terms, this approach has an advantage over conventional methods of horticulture and forestry and horticulture, as it combines long-term yields with short-term returns from crops, livestock and other forest products. In this aspect, agroforestry is able to leverage short-term cash flow over time more effectively, making the entire operation more profitable than when the agro and the forestry components are separated.
2. It can increase crop yields.
Research shows crop yields in fields that are adjacent to shelterbelts have increased. This due to the better snow and moisture retention techniques and improved microclimates used, which can control or reduce climatic effects that lessen damage to crops.
3. It helps with energy savings.
Heat loss through infiltration and conduction is a common problem faced by farmers every winter. But thanks to shelterbelts in agroforestry, the amount of energy needed to heat confinement buildings will be reduced.
4. It can help sustain or even increase biodiversity.
Aside from conserving energy, soil and water, landowners plant trees around in their farms to try and conserve wildlife through diversity. Lands that were converted for settlements, which dramatically reduced wildlife habitat, can be reverted to make up for the loss by planting trees. After all, this action is not only good for the landowners and the wildlife, but also for the environment as a whole.
List of Disadvantages of Agroforestry
1. It requires a huge amount of time to reap products.
Probably, the biggest disadvantage of agroforestry is the huge amount of time required to reap the yields. As you can see, this is often the first challenge for agroforestry, where it always involves integrating long-lived perennial crops or trees with other plants and livestock. Usually, planting to harvest crops, even the fast-growing species, can take many years.
2. It comes with complex issues in a general sense.
Another big problem with this method is in managing the land in question. Because it involves diverse use, daily farming issues are far more complex compared with those in monoculture farms and straight forestry operations. Aside from this, agroforests often see reduced yields because smaller crops would have to compete with the taller trees for light, nutrients and water, not to mention that farm machinery would be more difficult to utilize in a confined forest space.
Of course, agroforestry is not the ultimate remedy to the issues in agriculture, as no farming system is optimal for every producer or situation. However, when agroforestry works, it will certainly work well, but it can also fail miserably when applied to the wrong situation. This is why it is important to assess its advantages and disadvantages first before proceeding to use this method.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.