Agroforestry: A unique pathway to securing a more sustainable future
The term 'agroforestry' is one of the newest buzzwords circulating in the organic sector at the moment. It is an integrated land use system that combines elements of agriculture and forestry in a sustainable production system.
It could be said that Irish farms already incorporate a certain amount of agroforestry, with plenty of hedgerows that have a practical function as field and farm boundaries.
However, the practice of agroforestry is not simply having trees or woodland on the farm. It differentiates itself as a farming system because trees are grown as a specific crop for harvesting, in addition to, and in close proximity to, tillage crops or livestock.
The various farming activities are carried on in "alleys" between the trees.
Farming systems involving crops with fruit and nut trees (silvoarable), as well as trees with pasture/livestock (silvopastoral) were once popular across large areas in central Europe.
Although the practice has decreased significantly over the past 100 years, agroforestry is now making a comeback.
Many EU countries are now beginning to realise the benefits of agroforestry systems.