Assessing agroforestry's advantages

June 30, 2011
North Dakota field windbreaks protect adjacent field crops, reduce wind erosion and store carbon. A typical, 2-row, mixed species field windbreak will store between 15 and 30 metric tons of carbon per mile. Credit: USDA-NRCS

Agroforestry, the deliberate placement of trees into crop and livestock operations, can help capture substantial amounts of carbon on agricultural lands while providing production and conservation benefits. However, we currently lack tools for accurately estimating current and projected carbon values in these systems.

In North America, windbreaks are an effective carbon-capturing option. Only occupying about 2 to 5% of the land, windbreaks also help protect and livestock, as well as reduce . They provide a means to increase production while reducing .

James Brandle, a University of Nebraska–Lincoln professor, explains that unlike forests, the linear design of windbreaks creates a more open environment with different light and climate conditions. As a result, agroforestry trees usually have different characteristics than trees grown under forest conditions. New tools specifically designed for windbreak trees are needed to determine current or future amounts of carbon contained in agroforestry practices.

Researchers at the University of Florida, University of Kansas, University of Nebraska and the USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) have developed a model to predict the amount of carbon contained by agroforestry systems. This modeling approach uses detailed web-available data for windbreak, soils and climate.

While this research focused only on green ash windbreak growth in Nebraska, it provides a good basis for determining agroforestry's contributions in farming operations.

Explore further: New study: Farmers protecting and growing significant amount of world's trees

More information: www.agronomy.org/publications/jeq/articles/40/3/842

Related Stories

Scientists find that evergreen agriculture boosts crop yields

November 2, 2010

A unique acacia known as a "fertilizer tree" has typically led to a doubling or tripling of maize yields in smallholder agriculture in Zambia and Malawi, according to evidence presented at a conference in the Hague today. ...

Towards an efficient, effective and equitable REDD+

December 7, 2010

An exclusive focus on forests -- as opposed to the entire landscape -- could lead to inequitable and destructive outcomes for the poor in developing countries, said a Nairobi-based agroforestry research organization today.

Recommended for you

Clues from ancient Maya reveal lasting impact on environment

September 3, 2015

Evidence from the tropical lowlands of Central America reveals how Maya activity more than 2,000 years ago not only contributed to the decline of their environment but continues to influence today's environmental conditions, ...

Climate ups odds of 'grey swan' superstorms

August 31, 2015

Climate change will boost the odds up to 14-fold for extremely rare, hard-to-predict tropical cyclones for parts of Australia, the United States and Dubai by 2100, researchers said Monday.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Caliban
not rated yet Jun 30, 2011
This is a pretty limited assessment of AgroForestry's potential, and essentially one derived from a strictly monoculture-based industrial agriculture.

True AgroForestry employs a mixture of trees, crops, and livestock to maximize the robustness and diversity of the system, ie, the crops provide a harvest for human use, as well as fodder for livestock, which in turn provide fertiliser, in a complex of cyclical interrelationships(that I've greatly oversimplified here) which are largely self-sustaining.

Wind rows around cereal grain crops only just minimally qualify as A-F, if at all.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.