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Agroforestry Profile

  Riparian buffer strip.
  Courtesy of USDA NRCS.

By Dan Burden, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University, djburden@iastate.edu.

Developed August 2010.


Due to the diversity of practices encompassed by agroforestry, aggregate production figures are difficult to determine. The Census of Agriculture will have the first agroforestry-related question in 2011. Agroforestry takes advantage of the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock. The USDA National Agroforestry Center lists some specific practices that include:
  • Alley cropping (growing hardwoods and nuts alternatively with agricultural crops).
  • Forest farming (growing crops such as ginseng, shiitake mushrooms and ferns under the canopy).
  • Riparian forest buffers.
  • Silvo pasture (adding forage for livestock production).
  • Windbreaks (to control erosion or odors and to keep roads clean of drifting snow).
  • Special applications such as practices that enhance wildlife habitat and optimize carbon storage.
Exports and Imports
Due to the diversity of practices encompassed by agroforestry, this also is difficult to determine. Agroforestry is a system of production not a product, so data exists for specific product areas, not the overall production concept in its many forms.
Agroforestry has been slow to develop in the United States, because it takes many forms and is not as easily understood or widespread as row-crop agriculture or traditional forestry. Currently, advocates are working together to identify the core issues (gaps/barriers/conflicts/opportunities) for advancing adoption of agroforestry as a cornerstone of productive land use. They are working in the form of state and public partnerships to initiate and coordinate actions to address and resolve those core issues, as well as to develop ways in which to effectively communicate with key audiences about the goals, principles and practices, and many outstanding environmental and social benefits of agroforestry. Most current initiatives focus on the adoption of agroforestry through expanding knowledge of the concept, coordinating and leveraging resources, and building stakeholder capacity.
Agroforestry: An Overview, ATTRA, NCAT, updated 2011 - This publication presents the principles of agroforestry, an overview of common practices, marketing considerations, several case studies and an extensive list of further resources.
Agroforestry Net - A Hawaiian agroforestry information site that provides practitioner information and training in agroforestry, forestry and sustainable resource management. Publications for sale and download, internships, links to organizations and events, and home to the free international e-mail journal “Overstory.” Agroforestry Net, Inc., PO Box 428, Holualoa, Hawaii 96725; email@agroforestry.net
Agroforestry: USDA Reports to America, Fiscal Years 2011–2012—In-Brief, Agroforestry Executive Steering Committee, USDA, October 2013 - This first-ever report on USDA's role advancing agroforestry details how agroforestry practices are helping farmers, ranchers and woodland owners enhance agricultural productivity, protect the environment and increase profits.
Mid-American Agro-Forestry Working Group - A regional initiative coordinated by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. This group focuses its agroforestry efforts in Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
Missouri Center for Agroforestry - The center focuses on interdisciplinary research, education, training and demonstration to initiate, coordinate and enhance agroforestry. University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry, 203 Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Bldg., Columbia, MO 65211; umca@missouri.edu; (573) 884-2874
National Agricultural Library, USDA  - Source of publications and other information about all activities that combine agricultural and forestry practices, including conservation practices such as alley cropping, windbreaks and riparian buffers.
National Agroforestry Center (NAC), NRCS, USDA - NAC accelerates the application of agroforestry through a national network of partners. Together, they conduct research, develop management technologies and tools, coordinate demonstrations and training, and provide useful information to natural resource professionals. The center had its origins in the 1990 Farm Bill. It began as a Forest Service, state and private effort in 1992 and expanded into a partnership with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 1995. NAC offices are located in Lincoln, Nebraska and Blacksburg, Virginia. USDA National Agroforestry Center, 1945 North 38th Street, UNL-East Campus, Lincoln, Nebraska  68583-0822; (402) 437-5178.
National Network of Forest Practitioners - A clearinghouse for information and technical assistance. Provides an extensive set of Web marketing articles, hosts live Web-based seminars (webinars) and offers Web services.
National Woodland Owner’s Association - This nationwide organization is made up of non-industrial private woodland owners. They provide group rates for woodland and for hunting lease liability insurance. They also provide a limited directory of national private hunting lands.
Profitable Farms and Woodlands, National Agroforestry Center, USDA, 2012 - This first-of-its-kind practical agroforestry handbook contains information to help establish, manage and market agroforestry projects that are profitable and sustainable over time. The handbook was written for farmers and woodland owners living in the Southeast and includes five main agroforestry practices: alley cropping, forest farming, riparian buffer strips, silvopasture and windbreaks.
Shelterbelts, Windbreaks and Establishing Cover - An informative introduction from the wildlife-habitat advocacy-organization Pheasants Forever.
Shelterbelt/Windbreak Implementation on the Farm, University of Missouri - This tool provides helpful information to design, implement andmaintain a shelterbelt for an animal feeding operation and outlinescost-share opportunities to help fund shelterbelt implementation.
Small-Diameter Success Stories III, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, USDA, 2008 - This document tells the story of twelve wood product businesses and communities in nine different states that are successfully using low-value wood from forest restoration projects and converting it into wood products and biomass energy.
U.S. Forest Products Annual Market Review and Prospects 2005–2009, Forest Products Laboratory, U.S. Forest Service, USDA, 2007.
Working Trees publication series, National Agroforestry Center (NAC), University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

World Agroforestry Centre - With over three decades of work with smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and strategic alliances with advanced laboratories, national research institutions, universities and non-government organizations, the World Agforestry Centre is uniquely positioned to address global challenges. World Agroforestry Centre, United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, PO Box 30677, Nairobi, 00100, Kenya; International telephone from the Untied States +1 650833 6645; Email: icraf@cgiar.org

Case Studies

Dan & Jan Shepherd, Shepherd Farms: Pecans, Timber, Pasture and Seed, North central Missouri on the Chariton River - They changed their focus from commodity grains to pecans, buffalo and gamagrass seed.  

Links checked July 2013.


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