Agroforestry FAQ


Q. What is Agroforestry?

Agroforestry is defined as a land use system that involves the deliberate retention, introduction or mixing of trees or other plants into crop and animal production systems in order to increase profitability, sustainability, protection of the environment and social acceptance.
Agroforestry is:
Intentional - designed and managed for a planned result
Intensive - all components are intensively managed
Integrated - a blend of agriculture, forestry and environmental science
Interactive - designed to minimize negative and maximize positive interactions between trees, other crops and livestock.
Agroforestry practices are divided into groups of similar agroforestry activities or crop combinations that can be integrated into farms and woodlands. Agroforestry practices in :
Forest Farming
Alley Cropping
Silvipasture and
Buffers (Buffers include Integrated Riparian Management; Windbreaks, Shelterbelts and Boundary Plantings; Community Greenways and Urban Buffers).

Q. Doesn't Agroforestry belong in the forest, not on good agricultural land?

Most Agroforestry practices can be successfully introduced into either cleared agricultural land or existing woodland. One of the primary reasons for interest in agroforestry is for diversification - new crops or new ways of growing old crops. Well-designed and managed Agroforestry Practices should be more environmentally sound and at the same time increase short and long-term farm profitability. Maximum environmental benefit from agroforestry plantings is achieved in agricultural areas where all the trees have been removed.

Q. Why would I plant trees on my land when so much time and effort was spent removing them so we could farm?

A. Agroforestry practices do not involve random tree planting or returning the land to the state of a natural forest. If your land has no trees or shrubs, Agroforestry is the planned and intensively managed reintroduction of shrubs and or trees for environmental protection and new sources of income. A well-planned Agroforestry practice can produce more per hectare of land, not less.

Q. What kind of trees should I plant?

A. The variety and type of tree you should plant in an agroforestry practice depends on a number of things:
Is the goal a short or long term ?
what is the market for the crop?
do you have environmental goals?
which agroforestry practice do you want to develop?
soil type, climatic zone, etc.

Q. What agroforestry crops will make me money?

A. If it were only that easy! As with any product traded in the market place agroforestry crops are reflective of supply and demand. Agroforestry crops that have a good return one year may have a poor return the next. Agroforestry crops generally exist in small niche markets where fluctuations in demand and price are common. The only sure fire way to determine the crop that is best suited to your situation is to produce a detailed business plan. With the long rotation period of many agroforestry crops a combination of crops may be the best answer, providing both short and long-term income to offset fluctuations in commodity prices. Agroforestry is primarily a production system so the design should reflect the environmental, economic and social goals of the specific farm operation.

Q. Is the wild harvest of non-timber forest products from public land agroforestry?

A. No. The wild harvest or 'wildcrafting' of non-timber forest products (also called 'forest botanicals' in British Columbia and 'special forest products' in the United States) is the opportunistic harvest of marketable native plants from public and private forests with no management intent. Many of these same plants can and are being integrated into agroforestry practices, particularly forest farming practices.

Q. What are the potential economic advantages and disadvantages of a silvopastoral practice as opposed to open grazing?

A. Economic benefits are both short term and long term. Short-term benefits include protection of the livestock from summer sun and harsh weather in both summer and winter. The trees also protect the forage crop from wind and most forage crops have improved growth in partial shade. Once the amount of shade exceeds 50% production of forage starts to drop off. Silvopastoral practices are planned to keep the density of shade below 50% for as long as possible. Long term benefits depend on the trees planted - fruit, nuts, medicinal crops, boughs, firewood and various solid wood products.

Q. Will livestock damage the trees?

Livestock may browse or trample young trees if the trees are not protected or the livestock intensely managed to prevent the damage. Once trees reach a reasonable size (depending on species) trees should not require a lot of protection.

Q. Where do I get trees to plant?

Trees can be grown from seed, transplanted from crown land (with a permit) or purchased from a nursery. Planting stock is a critical component of agroforestry developments.

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