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What is Agroforestry?

Photo taken by AGFORWARD project, cattle grazing in Wood Pastures in Epping Forest, UK

What is agroforestry?

Agroforestry is the integration of trees and shrubs into animal or crop farming systems. Agroforestry systems use natural ecosystems as role-models. By mimicking natural ecosystems farmers are able to create more productive and resilient systems that are less dependent on external inputs. 

Usually, the main focus of agroforestry is to integrate trees in agriculture. However, agroforestry principles can also be adapted to forestry or gardening. In forestry, the goal is to introduce a crop that thrives in an environment with more shade and moisture. This practice is called forest farming. In gardening, you want to create a forest-like ecosystem that produces food. These systems are called forest gardens.

There are many different spatial configurations and species compositions in temperate agroforestry systems. However, agroforestry systems are usually categorized in the 6 following systems:

  1. Riparian buffers

  2. Hedges & windbreaks

  3. Alley-cropping

  4. Silvopasture

  5. Forest gardens 

  6. Forest farming

Silvoarable agroforestry experiment with poplar and barley in the UK

Silvoarable agroforestry experiment with poplar and barley in Bedfordshire in 2002. Source: AGFORWAD project

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