This project was an initiative of the 1890 Agroforestry Consortium (1890 AC) to train field-level Extension and technical assistant personnel (hereafter field personnel) and lead landowners in agroforestry practices in the Southeastern Region. The 1890 AC was established in 2000 under the aegis of USDA Forest Service to enable collaborative partnerships among 1890 institutions in agroforestry research, teaching, and Extension. Tuskegee University led the project and four other 1890 land-grant universities: Alabama A&M, Alcorn State, Florida A&M, and North Carolina A&T collaborated. Collaborators from all these universities are members of the 1890 AC, and have a common interest to promote agroforestry adoption in the Southeast. Agroforestry is a sustainable land-use system that involves an intentional integration and management of trees, crops, and/or livestock in a single management unit. This system offers diversified income opportunities, promotes sound environment, and creates aesthetically appealing scenery, thereby promoting the sustainability of the whole system. The Southeastern Region has great potential for developing various agroforestry practices because of its suitable environment for growing all components of agroforestry systems. However, the adoption of agroforestry practices is currently negligible because of inadequate research and Extension education. The project goal was to train field personnel and limited resource landowners in agroforestry practices for efficient management of land resources. Project objectives were to 1) develop training curricula on agroforestry practices, and 2) train field personnel and lead landowners on agroforestry practices in the Southeastern Region. Major project activities were to prepare training curricula and conduct hands-on training on agroforestry practices. The curricula were prepared and curricula-based trainers’ trainings on agroforestry practices were conducted at two locations in 2014, and at three locations in 2015. Field personnel and landowners (181) from different states of the Southeast (Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) participated in the training sessions.
Objective 1. To develop training curricula on sustainable agroforestry practices in the Southeastern Region. Objective 2. To train field personnel and lead landowners on sustainable agroforestry practices in the Southeastern Region.
Agroforestry is a sustainable land-use system that involves the intentional integration and management of trees, crops, and/or livestock in a single management unit. This system offers more economical, environmental, and social benefits compared to the sole operation of its components. Well-managed agroforestry systems provide economic viability through regular, short-term incomes from crop and/or livestock components, and long-term incomes from trees. Most of the Southeastern forest consists of pine trees, which require 20 to 30 years to mature. Landowners with sole pine plantations have to manage the tree stands (thinning, pruning, and burning) several times before trees are harvested, and also have to pay property tax annually; a similar scenario is true with non-pine woodland. However, they may not get much regular incomes from the woodland (except from possible hunting leases) to support these costs unless agroforestry practices are adopted.
There are several environmental benefits of agroforestry systems. From a SSARE-funded research project, Karki and Goodman (2010) found lower diurnal dew point (1–29%), wind speed (29–58%), gust speed (23–58 %), solar radiation (14–58%), and photosynthetically active radiation (10–72%) in a 20-yr old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.)-bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum Flugge) silvopasture compared to a bahiagrass open-pasture landscape in Chipley, Florida indicating milder microclimatic conditions in the silvopasture system. These authors also found higher water retention in a 5-8 year old long-leaf-pine- (P. palustris Mill.)-bahiagrass silvopasture than in an adjacent bahiagrass open-pasture in Americus, Georgia (Karki and Goodman, 2012). The silvopasture had higher soil moisture content (15–173%) and a lower evapotranspiration rate (11–32%) compared to the open-pasture. Milder microclimatic conditions and higher water retention promote the growth and productivity of understory vegetation. Also, such conditions provide a comfortable environment for grazing animals, especially during very hot summers and cold, windy winters that exist in most Southeastern States.
Agroforestry systems also promote wildlife habitats by facilitating the growth of understory vegetation, which support wildlife food and shelter. Moreover, agroforestry systems such as silvopasture, alley cropping, and shelterbelt create better natural scenery compared to sole cropland, pastureland, or woodland. This increases the social acceptability and land value. Agroforestry also promotes soil conservation, nutrient recycling, and carbon sequestration better than any of its components operated separately (Sharrow and Ismail, 2004). Riparian buffers minimize the contamination of water bodies from agricultural lands. There are tremendous opportunities for developing agroforestry systems in the Southeastern Region as most of the landowners in this region have woodlands. USDA-ERS (2011) data shows that woodlands cover 60 percent of the total land area in this region. To obtain the potential benefits of agroforestry systems, landowners need awareness and continuous education, which is possible by training the field personnel and equipping them with the training material. Trained field personnel are expected to conduct regular training and educational programs for landowners residing in different Southeastern States.
Karki, U. and M.S. Goodman. 2012. Microclimatic diversity between young longleaf-pine silvopasture and open pasture. Agroforestry Systems, DOI 10.1007/s10457-012-9551-3 Online First.
Karki, U. and M.S. Goodman. 2010. Landscape use by cattle in silvopasture versus open pasture. Agroforestry Systems 78: 159-168, DOI: 10.1007/s10457-009-9250-x.
Sharrow, S. H. and S. Ismail. 2004. Carbon and nitrogen storage in agroforests, tree plantations, and pastures in western Oregon, USA. Agroforestry systems 60:123-130.
USDA-ERS. 2011. Major uses of land in the United States, 2007. USDA Economic Research Service. Available at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB89/EIB89.pdf
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Objective 1. To develop training curricula on sustainable agroforestry practices in the Southeastern Region
Experts from the collaborating land-grant universities (Tuskegee, Alabama A&M, Alcorn State, Florida A&M, and North Carolina A&T) worked together to develop training curricula on Sustainable Agroforestry Practices in the Southeastern Region in the form of a handbook. All existing, relevant educational materials available online or in print, including the agroforestry manual developed by the 1890 Agroforestry Consortium, materials on silvopasture practice developed by Tuskegee University, and the publications of the National Agroforestry Center and University of Missouri were used as references. The handbook was developed to train field-level Extension and technical assistance personnel (hereafter field personnel), who are involved in educating and helping farmers and landowners in the southeastern United States understand and adopt sustainable agroforestry practices. Trained field personnel are expected to educate farmers and landowners on sustainable agroforestry practices and eventually enhance their income opportunities, sustainable land management practices, and ecosystem services.
The handbook contains 11 chapters. Chapters 1 to 5 are on Silvopasture Systems. Chapter 1 is an introduction to silvopasture, Chapter 2 presents the establishment and management of trees in silvopasture systems, and Chapter 3 discusses forage selection and establishment in silvopastures. Chapter 4 focuses on suitable animal species and facility requirements for grazing animals in silvopastures, and Chapter 5 presents sustainable grazing management in silvopasture systems. Chapter 6 discusses different types, aspects, and methods of Forest Farming. Information on different aspects of Alley Cropping is presented in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 on Riparian Buffers discusses basic information and economics of these buffers, and possible assistance available to develop these buffers. Chapter 9 is about Windbreaks, and includes the basic information, usage, and designs of windbreaks. This module also presents the tentative costs involved and possible sources of assistance to develop this system. Chapter 10 presents Ecosystem Services that can be obtained from different agroforestry practices. Chapter 11 discusses economic aspects of agroforestry practices in comparison to various monocultures, such as forestry, crop farming, and pastures. All chapters include hands-on activities to be incorporated during the training sessions. When field personnel are trained by subject matter specialists on the content of this handbook, including the hands-on activities, these field personnel are expected to be able to conduct similar training sessions for farmers and landowners in their working areas by using this handbook as a guide. Field personnel can also use this handbook as reference material to develop various fact sheets and articles to fulfill the needs of their clientele.
Objective 2. To train field personnel and lead landowners in agroforestry practices in the Southeastern Region
Field personnel and the lead landowners in the Southeastern Region were approached through the Cooperative Extension of land-grant universities, State Forestry Commissions, USDA/NRCS offices, and relevant community-based organizations including Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Alabama Forest Owners’ Association. The training handbook was used for training purposes. Two curricula-based training sessions were conducted in 2014 (October 28-29, Tuskegee University, AL and Nov. 20-21, North Carolina A&T (Raleigh), NC). Similarly, three training sessions were conducted in 2015 (Tuskegee, AL, Huntsville, AL, and Quincy, FL). All training sessions included indoor presentations on various topics of agroforestry systems (Silvopasture – trees, forages, soil, animals and facilities, grazing management; Forest Farming; Alley Cropping; Wind Break; Riparian Buffers, Ecosystem Services; and Economic Assessment of Agroforestry Systems). All training sessions also included site tours (Atkins Silvopasture Research and Demonstration Site, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL; Silvopasture Site in Raleigh, North Carolina; Medicinal Plant Research Site, Alabama A&M University Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station, Hazelgreen, AL; and Silvopasture Site of Florida A&M University Research and Extension Center, Quincy, FL). Additionally, the Tuskegee session included hands-on activities: soil sample collection, processing, and mailing to the lab; measuring tree diameter (DBA), pruning, installing electric fencing and watering facilities for rotational grazing, identification and use of different medicinal plants (naturally grown and that can be cultivated in the forest), mushroom inoculation on logs for mushroom production, and beekeeping and honey tasting. All trainees received a package of relevant educational materials including the training manual so that they could use it while conducting field-level training sessions and/or implementing the selected agroforestry practices on their land. The number of training sessions and trainees were more than the initial project target by 250 percent and 450 percent respectively. Short-term impact of the training sessions was assessed by conducting the pre- and post-session tests. For assessing the longer-term impact, trainees who participated in sessions conducted during 2014 were surveyed using the pre-structured questionnaire.
Outreach and Publications
A training handbook – Sustainable Agroforestry Practices in the Southeastern Region is the main publication. An electronic copy of this material is available online: http://www.tuskegee.edu/sites/www/Uploads/Users/732/Files/tucep/Agroforestry/Agroforestry_Handbook.pdf. Agroforestry has been one of the major focus programs of the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension (TUCE). Annual training events and sessions on sustainable agroforestry practices are being conducted by Tuskegee University and other collaborating institutions. Moreover, the project work and outcomes were submitted for journal publication and presented at various scientific conferences, seminars, training programs, and community meetings as presented below.
- Karki, U., J. Idassi, S. R. Mentreddy, N. Gurung, L. Karki, S. Bambo, and C. Christian. 2016. Agroforestry research and extension education at 1890 universities and its impact in the Southeast. Agroforestry Systems. (Manuscript in Review)
- Karki, U., J. Idassi, S. R. Mentreddy, N. Gurung, C. Christian, G. Boyd, O. Onokpise, L. Karki, Y. Diabate, and S. Bambo. 2016. Agroforestry education: key to sustainable land management and diversified income. Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Conference, Jan. 27-30, Lexington, KY. (Abstract and poster presentation)
- Karki, U. 2015. Agroforestry research and extension education program at Tuskegee University. The 73rd Professional Agricultural Workers Conference, Dec. 6-8, Kellogg Conference Center, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL 36088. (Abstract and oral presentation).
- Karki, U., J. Idassi, S. R. Mentreddy, N. Gurung, C. Christian, G. Boyd, O. Onokpise, L. Karki, Y. Diabate, and S. Bambo. 2015. Trainers’ training in agroforestry practices in the Southeastern Region: 1890 Agroforestry Consortium initiative. 14th North American Agroforestry Conference. June 1-3, Ames, Iowa. (Abstract and poster presentation)
Project outcomes were ready-to-use training curricula in the form of a handbook (sustainable agroforestry practices in the Southeastern Region). The handbook is available online at this link: http://www.tuskegee.edu/sites/www/Uploads/Users/732/Files/tucep/Agroforestry/Agroforestry_Handbook.pdf. Individuals who do not have access to the internet, but are interested in being educated on the topics included in the handbook can request hard copies of the handbook by contacting Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Other outcomes of this project were trained professionals (extension specialist, field-level extension and technical assistance personnel – 30) and lead landowners (151). Short-term impact results showed a 23 percent increase in the knowledge of trainees. Participants expressed that the presented topics were very useful to them (4.4/5.0), they were very likely to apply what they learned (3.9/5.0), and the ultimate condition would be significantly improved if they apply the learned practices (4.6/5.0). All trainees expressed that they gained knowledge on different agroforestry practices, and their advantages and challenges. Moreover, trainees also became aware of the economic, environmental, and social benefits of agroforestry systems.
Medium-term impact assessment showed the following impacts reported by professional and producer trainees.
- Professional trainees organized 16 different educational events and served 279 landowners within a year or less after they were trained.
- Landowner/farmer trainees developed new agroforestry systems or improved the existing agroforestry systems
- Improved the existing agroforestry systems (6: silvopasture – 1, forest farming – 3, alley cropping – 1, riparian buffers – 1)
- Developed new agroforestry systems (3: silvopasture – 1, forest farming – 2)
A team of experts (9) from different institutions (as mentioned under Objective 1 in the Methods Section) in the Southern Region got a chance to develop a closer working relationship while collaborating in this project. Comprehensive training curricula in the form of a handbook have been developed; the handbook contains a wide range of topics relevant to sustainable agroforestry practices in the Southeastern Region. This handbook has been rated as very useful educational material by the professional and landowner trainees as well as others who have had a chance to read the handbook. Trained extension specialists and field-level extension and technical assistance personnel (30) are conducting the educational programs, disseminating the educational materials, and providing technical services to farmers and landowners in their working areas on improving the existing agroforestry systems, and adopting new agroforestry systems as applicable to the local area. Similarly, several trained farmers and landowners (9) improved the existing practices or developed new agroforestry operations as mentioned above under “Outcomes and Impacts”.
The training handbook has enormous potential to increase the educational opportunities on sustainable agroforestry practices for farmers and landowners in the Southeastern Region in particular, and in other regions of the country in general. A printed version of the handbook was made available to trainees, 1890 Agroforestry Consortium collaborators/trainers, reviewers, and interested landowners. Experts from this project team will continuously organize educational programs based on clientele’s demand by using the handbook. Trained field personnel are expected to educate landowners in their working areas on agroforestry practices and help them develop and manage such practices efficiently. The electronic version of the handbook is made freely available online (http://www.tuskegee.edu/sites/www/Uploads/Users/732/Files/tucep/Agroforestry/Agroforestry_Handbook.pdf) is very useful to all institutions in this region and beyond to educate farmers and landowners on agroforestry practices. Moreover, the trained professionals under this project have already initiated educating farmers and landowners in their working areas through different means (conducting educational programs, disseminating educational materials, and providing technical services). Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension has included sustainable agroforestry practices as one of the major, continuous Extension programs for farmers and landowners using this handbook as the main reference material.
Southern SARE funding has made it possible to strengthen the collaborative efforts among the 1890 Agroforestry Consortium members to enhance the agroforestry education in the Southeast for farmers and landowners. More funding will be needed to strengthen the applied research, demonstrations, and educational programs on agroforestry in the Southeast.