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: Scientists find that evergreen agriculture boosts crop yields

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

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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.

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