Agroforestry: Systems, Practices and Technologies


Agroforestry: The Need of the Hour

-Dr. Arvind Singh

According to International Council for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) “Agroforestry is a system of land use where woody perennials are deliberately used on the same land management units as annual agricultural crops and / or animals, either sequentially or simultaneously, with the aim of obtaining greater outputs on sustained basis”. In other words Agroforestry encompasses promotion of components like woody perennials, crops, livestock and other natural resources in temporal and spatial sequence which ultimately alters livelihood options and sustainability. Agroforestry is an age-old practice followed in some form or the other in different parts of the world. 

Rotational Agroforestry:

It is traditional shifting cultivation in which trees and woody species of natural regeneration are rotated (5 to 40 years) with the cultivation of annuals (1-3 years). Improvements in rotational agroforestry or shifting cultivation can be made by substituting improved natural fallows such as multispecies tree gardens. These improved fallows may also serve as woodlots, home gardens, and compound farms.

What is Alley cropping?

Alley cropping is an agroforestry system in which food crops are grown in alleys formed by contour hedge rows of trees or shrubs. The hedge rows are preferably established from native trees or shrubs. These trees are periodically pruned to prevent shading of food crops. Shrubs and trees act as a windbreak, facilitate nutrient cycling, suppress weed growth, decrease run-off and reduce soil erosion. The prunings can be used as fodder for livestock and as a source of nitrogen-rich mulch.

Advantages of Agroforestry:

Agroforestry has several advantages which can be summarized as follows:

1. Conserves soil by improving the soil structure. 

2. Conserves the environment by fixing carbon dioxide (CO2) and releasing oxygen (O2). 

3. Provides fruit, fodder, timber, and fuelwood. 

4. Increases nutrient status of the soil. 

5. Enhances the efficiency of nutrient cycling. 

6. Increases the organic matter content of the soil. 

7. Helps in maintaining the ground water table. 

8. Protects the crop from detrimental effects of wind. 

9. Helps in improved animal production through better quality fodder. 

10. Helps in the development of cottage industries; and 

11. Brings deep-seated nutrients on the soil surface.

Types of Agroforestry System:

1. Agrisilviculture system: It is a system of agroforestry in which tree species are grown and managed in the farmland along with agricultural crops. For example, poplar (Populus deltoids) and wheat (Triticum aestivum) or white teak (Gmelina abrorea) and paddy (Oryza sativa). This system can solve the problem of shortage of food, fuelwood, timber and conserve soil moisture contents and also ameliorate the harsh climatic condition.
2. Silvopastoral system: Under silvopastoral system of land management improved pasture species are grown along with tree species. For example, mulberry (Morus alba) and marvel grass (Dichanthium annulatum) or lebbeck (Albizia lebbeck) and Dinanath grass (Pennisetum pedicellatum) . Here the selection of tree species could be either for timber alone or for dual purpose i.e. fuel cum fodder. Grasses or legumes mixtures are grown along with tree species simultaneously on the same unit of land. Combining trees, grasses and legumes also helps to conserve soil moisture and improve the fertility status of the soil. It has two sub-types:

(i) Silvopastoral system with control grazing 
(ii) Silvipastoral system in which domesticated ruminants (herbivores) are not permitted for grazing.

3. Agrisilvipastoral system: Under this system the same unit of land is managed to get agricultural and forest crops where farmers can also rear animals. For example wheat (Triticum aestivum), poplar (Populus deltoids) and marvel grass (Dichanthium annulatum) .

4. Agrihortisilviculture system: It is integrated system of land use in which agricultural crops, fruit trees, and timber trees/fuel wood are grown together to fulfill the needs of food grains, fruits, timber, and fuel wood. For instance wheat (Triticum aestivum), mulberry (Morus alba) and sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo).

5. Silvihorticulture system: It is a system of agroforestry in which timber trees are grown with fruit trees. For example, lebbeck (Albizia lebbeck) and mulberry (Morus alba) . This system is extremely helpful in soil conservation.

6. Agrihorticulture system: This land management system aims at the production of both agricultural crops and fruits. Therefore, crops and fruit trees are grown together. For example, apple (Malus pumilo) and wheat (Triticum aestivum).

7. Hortisilvipastoral system: It is an integrated system of land management in which fruit trees, forest trees, and pasture grasses are grown together. The three components fulfil the demand for fruit, fodder, fuel, and timber. For example, mulberry (Morus alba), lebbeck (Albizia lebbeck) and marvel grass (Dichanthium annulatum).

8. Hortipastoral system: In this type of agroforestry system fruit trees are grown with pasture grasses for the fulfillment of need of fruits and fodder. For instance mulberry (Morus alba) and Dinanath grass (Pennisetum pedicellatum).

9. Agripasture system: In this system crops and pasture grasses are grown together to meet the need for food and fodder. For example, wheat (Triticum aestivum) and annual meadow grass (Poa annua).

10. Silviapiculture system: It is a system of bee rearing along with the growing of trees on the agricultural land. For example, white teak (Gmelina arborea) and the bee (Apis spp.).


Conclusively it can be said that the agroforestry is integrated system of land use to generate multiple products and services. Therefore, agroforestry is the need of the hour for the fulfillment of the requirement of food, fodder, fuel wood, and timber and also for the conservation of environment and land resources.

Dr. Arvind Singh is M. Sc. and Ph. D. in Botany with an area of specialization in Ecology. He is a dedicated Researcher having more than four dozens of published research papers in the journals of national and international repute. His main area of research is the Restoration of Mined Lands. However, he has also conducted research on the Vascular Flora of Banaras Hindu University-Main Campus, Varanasi (India). Furthermore, he is also an active science writer having more than 10 dozens of published science articles in different periodicals of national repute. His email address is:

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