Agroforestry is an agricultural approach of using the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock. It combines agriculture and forestry technologies to create more integrated, diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land-use systems.
"Agroforestry is a collective name for land use systems and practices in which woody perennials are deliberately integrated with crops and/or animals on the same land management unit. The integration can be either in a spatial mixture or in a temporal sequence. There are normally both ecological and economic interactions between woody and non-woody components in agroforestry". -World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) 1993
It means that trees are intentionally used within agricultural systems. Knowledge, careful selection of species and good management of trees and crops are needed to maximize the production and positive effects of trees and to minimize negative competitive effects on crops.
Alternatively, agroforestry might be defined as simply: trees on farms Hence, agroforestry, farm forestry and family forestry can be broadly understood as the commitment of farmers, alone or in partnerships, towards the establishment and management of forests on their land. Where many landholders are involved the result is a diversity of activity that reflects the diversity of aspirations and interests within the community.
Alley cropping, 'sun systems, or Intercropping is a strategy used by farmers to combat soil erosion. In this method, several crops are planted together in strips or alleys between trees and shrubs. This design provides shade (reducing water loss from evaporation), ensures retention of soil moisture, and can also produce fruit, fuelwood, fodder, or trimmings to be made into mulch.
Forest farming, also known as 'shade systems' is the sustainable, integrated cultivation of both timber and non-timber forest products in shaded forest understory. Forest farming is separate and distinct from the opportunistic exploitation of wild non-timber forest products. Successful forest farming operations produce: mushrooms, maple and birch syrup, native plants used for landscaping and floral greenery (e.g. salal, sword fern, bear grass, cedar boughs and others), medicinal and pharmaceutical products (e.g. ginseng, goldenseal, cascara or yew bark), wild berries and fruit.
Silvopastures combine livestock grazing on forage crops or pastures within actively managed tree crops. Cattle, sheep and goats have all been incorporated into silvopasture systems in British Columbia and they may be deployed entirely within a private farm/woodlot silvopasture or through collaborative arrangements between forest licensees and livestock producers on Crown land (e.g. using sheep as a vegetation management tool on forest plantations).
Riparian buffers are managed forest and shrubs in areas bordering lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands. Integrated riparian management systems are used to enhance and protect aquatic and riparian resources as well as generating income from timber and non-timber forest products. Similar to shelter and timberbelts, integrated riparian management systems can employ a wide variety of tree and shrub species, with specific plantings tailored to suit the specific growing conditions and production opportunities.
Agroforestry practices may also be employed to realize a number of other associated Environmental Services, including: