Agroforestry grow trees and agricultural crops together. Secondary income from growing mushrooms or Crop Circles to grow food can pay for a tree plantation in a single year.
Agroforestry is also used to create a more diverse, productive, healthy, and sustainable land-use system. Although thousands of years old, the idea of growing crops with trees is being touted as the new way to combat climate change and alleviate world hunger.
Agroforestry offers many other benefits besides wood and food.
Agroforestry Soil Improvement
In many instances, a symbiotic relationship exists between trees and other plants. Fiddlehead ferns and Trillium flowers provide root fertilizers for temperate forests in Eastern North America, for example. Maple, beech and birch trees prefer acidic soils and typically are found growing alongside columbine, wild ginger, flowering dogwood, foxglove, gardenia and huckleberry in the wild. These plants may be dispersed throughout a tree plantation soon after transplant to create an acidic soil ph. Tropical trees grow well with tropical plants like canna, the tropical bird of paradise, dragon tree, hibiscus, bamboo, umbrella trees and impatiens to name a few.
Agro-forestry, Create Biodiversity & Ecosystem Development
Tree plantations on their own provide for at least a level of biodiversity, even mono-cultured stands. Many species of birds will thrive in the tree canopy and on the forest floor. A natural “green manure” is created each year from tree leaves that fall to the forest floor creating an environment for fungi and small creatures that feed on the decaying material. Over-time, non-woody plants germinate from this nutrient rich layer of material creating an understory beneath the upper tree canopy. Small animals will eventually inhabit the understory with larger animals such as deer soon to follow. Within 10 years of transplant, a diversified ecosystem will thrive throughout the plantation due to Agroforestry.
Agro-forestry, Land Stabilization & Water Retention
The leaf canopy of a tree plantation retains moisture and regulates temperature, which may be beneficial for understory plants. In drier climates, higher humidic levels may be achieved compared to those outside the plantation. Most understory plants grow better the higher the humidity. Plantation tree roots pull water from the ground. This action multiplied by several thousand trees can make water tables rise so that understory plants can thrive.
In the industrialized west, Agroforestry is in its infancy, however in some tropical areas of the world growing trees and agricultural crops together has been practiced for many generations. In Latin America for example, coffee plants needed to be cultivated under the shade of trees but in the 1960’s new plant breeds where introduced to the region that could grow in the full sun. It soon became apparent that without shade, the new coffee plants required expensive, frequent fertilizing and became susceptible to all kinds of pests. Productivity was also lower. Today, most of these new sun coffee plantations have been abandoned and the land returned to its natural state. Agroforestry would have been the answer.
In more temperate regions of the world, tree farmers are experimenting with combining more traditional agricultural crops with trees.
Many types of vegetables can intermingle throughout a tree plantation, particularly when it is young, and the plant canopy hasn’t entirely blocked out the sun. Most types of pole beans will climb the trunk and branches of a young tree, for example. Melons and squash of all types can be planted at the center point between each row of trees. Raspberries, blackberries and currants will thrive between tree rows even as the canopy develops and creates more shade. Many herbs grow well in the acidic soil of a forest floor including parsley, cilantro, basil, mint and rosemary.
Agroforestry, Growing Mushrooms
Growing mushrooms under the tree canopy of a growing forest is a perfect example of Agroforestry. The tree canopy should be tall and mature enough to provide shade through the summer months. A hardwood forest is the best choice for growing mushrooms due to the humidity that collects within the top 5 or 6 feet of the floor. Types of mushrooms like Shiitake, Oyster, Maitake, Enoki and Morel grow well in these conditions.
Simple to make, a wood log structure is erected between two trees that are at least 30 feet apart. The wood logs are stood on end to form a long triangular two-sided lean-to, so air circulates between the two linear sides. Good mushroom growing logs should be at least 8 inches in diameter and 6 feet long. Each side of the structure should have a log lean of about 45 degrees. Hardwoods like oak, beech and maple are the best for growing mushrooms.
After the structure is erected, each of the wood logs is inoculated with mushroom spores by drilling small holes about an inch deep below the interior of the bark cover.
A drip line mister is erected above and below the structure to provide moisture and humidity. The above structure mister can be hung from tree branches and the below structure mister inserts into the interior.
Agroforestry, Growing Mushrooms, Income
Agroforestry allows a tree plantation owner to develop a secondary income from the plantation. Income from growing mushrooms is only limited by the size of the plantation, market size and market price. Done properly, income from growing mushrooms could set up annually, and be large enough to offset tree plantation capital costs.
Crop Circles and Agroforestry naturally grow together. New to the global timber development industry, Crop Circles grow any type of annual plant using very little resources. This is vitally important where plantation trees require most if not the entire forest floor nutrient.
Just a few feet in diameter, Crop Circles install on top of a flat-topped mound of soil that has been fertilized with plant nutrient. Plants are selected, planted and grown in a plurality of openings configured in the Crop Circle. Where there are extended periods between rainfalls, a series of Crop Circles can be connected to an external water source.
Crop Circles are perfect for growing vining crops like cucumbers and melons, providing there is adequate sunlight filtered through the forest canopy. Lettuce, spinach and other greens thrive in a shaded environment. An optional cover can be erected about each of the Crop Circles to protect plants from insects and rummaging rodents or animals.
Agroforestry, Crop Circles, Income
Agroforestry allows a tree plantation owner to develop a secondary income from the plantation. If the enterprise is large enough, income from growing edible plants with Crop Circles can recover tree plantation costs in a single season.
There are three ways to participate in agroforestry tree plantations; you can invest directly in one of our agroforestry tree plantation projects, hire us as a consultant to start your own agroforestry tree plantation or contract us to build you an agroforestry tree plantation anywhere in the world.