Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits. It has been practiced in the United States and around the world for centuries.
The USDA Agroforestry Factsheet (PDF, 1.8MB) provides more information about agroforestry and its future.
For a management practice to be called agroforestry, it typically must satisfy the four "i"s:
- Integrated, and
There are five widely recognized categories of agroforestry in the United States:
Agroforestry Farming Systems
Silvopasture combines trees with livestock and their forages on one piece of land. The trees provide timber, fruit, or nuts as well as shade and shelter for livestock and their forages, reducing stress on the animals from the hot summer sun, cold winter winds, or a downpour.
Alley cropping means planting crops between rows of trees to provide income while the trees mature. The system can be designed to produce fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers, herbs, bioenergy feedstocks, and more.
Forest farming operations grow food, herbal, botanical, or decorative crops under a forest canopy that is managed to provide ideal shade levels as well as other products. Forest farming is also called multi-story cropping.
Linear Agroforestry Practices
Windbreaks shelter crops, animals, buildings, and soil from wind, snow, dust, and odors. These areas can also support wildlife and provide another source of income. They are also called shelterbelts, hedgerows, or living snow fences.
Riparian Forest Buffers
Riparian forest buffers are natural or re-stablished areas along rivers and streams made up of trees, shrubs, and grasses. These buffers can help filter farm runoff while the roots stabilize the banks of streams, rivers, lakes and ponds to prevent erosion. These areas can also support wildlife and provide another source of income.