Agro Forestry refers to the practice whereby fast-growing trees are grown along with a crop. The trees help maintain nitrogen fixation in soil and also the humidity to soil and prevent soil erosion by wind. Moreover, some trees yield fodder and fruits.
The concept has developed due to the environmental problems. Agroforestry aims at maximizing the agricultural production by minimising damage to the environment. That is why it seeks to combine agriculture with forestry. But not all crops can be grown with all trees. A proper crop-tree combination is necessary. This reduces its applicability Below are given some suitable tree-crop combinations:
Pearlmillet -Subabul, Large cardamom-utis, Sesamum-Kirar
There is serious concern over degradation of environment. Serious adverse ecological manifestation, increase of carbon-dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, global warming, serious soil losses, repeated droughts, floods and serious pollution etc. are the results of dwindling forest resources. An agroforestry system helps to increase the tree cover. It also makes available to people the required quantity of timber, fruit, fuel-wood, fodder etc. for which they traditionally depend on forests. Thus, this system helps in reducing the pressure on forests and helps in conservation and development.
Different areas are gravely under the threat of pollution. Air, water and noise pollution are common. Trees guard from distinct kinds of pollutants. The best safeguard against landslides is through agroforestry i.e. mixed forests and grasses. This requires careful selection of tree species, grasses etc.
Agroforestry systems maintain soil fertility through recycling of nutrients and prevent soil erosion and loss of nutrients through leaching and runoff. Reduction in erosion and surface run off helps in reducing flood damage. Many leguminous tree species fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and return much more in leaf-fall than they take from the soil. Leaves of the trees could be used as green manure and help the farmer in increasing soil fertility.
Agroforestry system is, therefore, helpful in maintaining land productivity at optimum levels over a long period of time. These systems constitute sustainable land management.
These systems are capable of meeting the demands of raw materials of several agricultural and forest based industries. Some of the industries e.g. paper and pulp mills, sports goods, furniture, saw mills, etc. are meeting requirements from forestry and agroforestation produce. Poplar has been widely culti- vated in the Tarai area of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana and is being used by several industries, e.g., match splints, plywood, packing cases etc.
Such systems improve the productivity of plants and animals since they are based on sustainable land management and maximum utilisation of natural resources, to increase the ecological and economic benefits.
The forest policies of the Government of India have changed significantly. A blanket ban on cutting and felling of trees in private lands under cultivation have not only affected the income of poor people from agroforestry but also have served as a disincentive for planting trees. The restriction is applicable even for fuel wood.
Farmers owning small and marginal lands not suitable for growing crops should be given liberal incentives in form of training for planting, protecting and raising tree/grasses. In order to have sustainable land management, there should be legislation such as naional agroforestry policy similar to national forest/agriculture policy. It needs to be carried out on mission mode for the entire country.
Future Action Plan
Government regulations on felling of trees from agroforestry lands and transport of agroforestry of produce particularly of fuelwood, fodder and timber has to be carefully deregulated to benefit various strata of farming community.
Joint agroforestry management by participatory approach at all levels should be practiced between the planners and executors to plant, maintain, protect and to draw the benefits across, out of the plantations, which may also pave the way for developing and incorporating other enterprises as one of the components for getting higher income per unit area of land.
The permanent solution for land problems lies in sustainable land management i.e. changing the land use of the entire country for agriculture, forestry and open grazing. Then how will people in the area survive? The answer lies in Agroforestry.
Forms of Agroforestry
Agri-silviculture system : In this system, tree species are grown and managed in the farmland along with agricultural crops. The aim is to increase overall yields of the land.
Silvipastoral system : In this system of sustainable land management improved pasture crops are grown along with tree species.
Agri-silvipastoral system : This system is the result of the union between silvipastoral and agri-silvicultural systems. Under this system, the same unit of land is managed to get agricultural and forest crops where farmers can also rear animals.
Silvi-horticultural system : In this system, tree species are managed to get timber, fuel wood etc. and horticultural crops are grown in the interspace.
Silvi-hortipastoral system : A combination of tree species horticultural crops and grasses are practiced in this system. The three combinations are based on the principle that each of its components draws nutrients from different layers of soil.
Silvi-agri-sericultural system : This is a very complex system of agro-forestry. In this system, crops/vegetables are grown along with tree specifies (silk host plants). The larval excreta are good manure for the crops/vegetables.
Silvi-Agri-lac cultural system : In this system, crops are grown along with lac host plants. It is very common in Chota Nagpur plateau of Jharkhand.
Horti-silvi-agri-apicultural system : The land is managed for concurrent production of flowers, crops and honey. Flowering plants often favour increases of parasites and predators of crop pests and thus an antiregulatory bio-control system operates here.
Multi-storeyed agroforestry system : This system is managed by the combination between cultural practices and the natural processes of vegetation production and reproduction. It represents a profitable production system and constitutes an efficient buffer between villages and forests. This is common in coastal parts of Southern India where coconut is grown with black pepper and tapioca (cassava).
Aqua-agri-hortipastoral system : In this system, fruit trees are planted on the terraced land around the water tanks, ponds, etc. and crops (agricultural and pastoral) are grown in the intersperse. The fallen leaves of trees enrich the pond nutrients for fish.