Agroforestry systems offer farmers practical land-use alternatives for marginal agricultural lands beyond high-input agriculture and low-output forestry systems. Agroforestry technologies help farmers diversify production, improve ecological sustainability, and increase economic productivity. Agroforestry concepts and practices need to be encouraged in the mid-South as part of mainstream agricultural practice, research, and extension.
To increase understanding of and encourage more work on agroforestry, Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development convened a 2-day conference in November 1990 on agroforestry practices and policies for the mid-South states. The conference brought together innovative farmers, researchers, and extension personnel from public and private institutions in the mid-South to discuss opportunities and mechanisms for strengthening LISA-related agroforestry strategies by agricultural extension and forestry landowner assistance agencies. Participants shared state-of-the-art agroforestry information and examined policies for encouraging development and adoption of LISA-compatible agroforestry technologies and programs.
The conference resulted in published conference proceedings which contain the most current available information on agroforestry technologies, research, and extension activities within the mid-South states.
To help facilitate communication, Winrock International and the center for Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) published in August 1993, a directory listing individuals and organizations with an interest in and knowledge of agroforestry. The Directory is specifically oriented to the mid-South region, but includes several listing of expertise of potential value nationally and internationally. The Directory includes 278 listings, organized into sections of farmers and researchers, each listed in alphabetical order by state.
The Directory was published in a hard copy format and distributed to numerous individuals and organizations in that format. ATTRA is maintaining and will continuously update the database used to generate the printed Directory.
Winrock International planned and conducted a 2-day conference (November 28-29, 1990) on agroforestry practices, research, and policies related to low-input, sustainable agriculture (LISA) in the mid-South states of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. In addition, Winrock, in cooperation with the center for Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), produced a directory of individuals and organizations interested in agroforestry in the mid-South states. The Conference and Directory were to provide innovative farmers, researchers, extension personnel, and specialists from public and private institutions opportunities to:
1) Share state-of-the-art information on LISA-related agroforestry concepts, research, and practices for the coastal plain, Mississippi Delta, and upland regions of the mid-South region of the U.S.
2) Promote agroforestry research and extension strategies, emphasizing multidisciplinary and collaborative activities.
3) Discuss the economic and environmental benefits that low-input agroforestry strategies bring to farmers and rural environments.
4) Examine policies affecting the development and adoption of LISA- compatible agroforestry technologies and programs.
5) Encourage stronger programmatic emphasis on LISA-related agroforestry strategies by agricultural extension and forestry landowner assistance agencies in the mid-South states.
6) Establish a mid-South Agroforestry Network to link farmers, researchers, extension personnel, non-governmental advisory agents, and policy makers involved in agroforestry.
7) Improve communication through participation in a directory of agroforestry practitioners and researchers produced in association with the conference.
By convention, agriculture, horticulture, and forestry are treated as isolated land uses, each requiring physical separation and independent production techniques. These distinctions are reinforced through a variety of cultural institutions such as academic disciplines and departments, research and extension agencies and programs, and professional and commercial associations, and by agricultural and natural resource policies. Such institutions and policies generally emphasize competitive aspects of different land uses rather than examining the benefits that can result from interactions between agricultural and tree components in integrated systems.
In many real-world landscapes, however, distinct boundaries between these land uses often blur. Trees and agriculture frequently occur together in farm environments, either where single trees grow in agricultural fields and pastures, or where stands of trees adjoin fields and pastures. In the theoretical world of land-use models, the appearance of distinct “optimum” land uses — as conventionally defined — is also often misleading. At least in the mid-South, most land is either economically or ecologically marginal — or both — between two or more categorical land uses, especially if considered over longer-term time spans.
Agroforestry — techniques that intentionally integrate tree and agricultural production in the same land-use system — takes advantage of the interfaces and margins between trees and agricultural activities. If properly managed, these interactions can provide net benefits to the farm enterprise and the agroecosystem. By emulating natural ecosystems more closely than standard agriculture, agroforestry techniques enable environmental sustainability and stewardship objectives to be met along with commodity-output objectives. Agroforestry also enables landowners to diversify production activities and outputs from a limited land base, resulting in increased long-range economic security.
Three major obstacles impede more-rapid development of agroforestry. First, much of the potential of agroforestry is unexplored by research and practice, and knowledge that exists is not widely disseminated. Second, individuals and organizations engaged or interested in agroforestry frequently either do not know about each other or do not communicate effectively. Third, most of the institutional framework conditioning rural land use — policies, regulations, and laws; organizational missions, programs, and budgets; and paradigms of reality fostered by institutions such as universities and research organizations — reflects tradition and reinforces convention.
Recognizing the potential of agroforestry for accomplishing the objectives of sustainable agriculture, Winrock International initiated in the late 1980s a program to assess and promote agroforestry within the mid-South region of the U.S. As part of this program, Winrock, in cooperation with several other organizations, organized the Mid-South Conference on Agroforestry Practices and Policies, held November 28-29, 1990, in West Memphis, Arkansas.
The conference enabled a mix of farmers and landowners, researchers, and extension and technical assistance personnel from across the mid-South to share ideas and experiences on agroforestry. The conference encouraged a broader concept of agroforestry by including a wider range of integrated tree-agriculture strategies than past efforts within the region. Finally, the conference stimulated discussion among participants about strategies for getting agroforestry more widely recognized by the research and extension communities in the mid-South.
The proceedings contains 12 papers presented at the conference. Five papers address agroforestry technologies appropriate for the mid-South, including silvopasture, alley cropping, perennial intercropping, and alternative forest products. Five other papers examine policy concerns such as the relationships of agroforestry to sustainable agriculture, to commodity production and environmental quality, and to contemporary land- use patterns and influences in the mid-South. Two papers consider the potential roles of governmental and nongovernmental organizations in developing agroforestry. The combined papers compose the broadest treatment of agroforestry to date focused on the mid-South. As such, they provide a milestone marking the development of agroforestry in the region.
In August 1993, Winrock International and the center for Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), published the Mid-South Directory of Agroforestry Producers and Researchers, listing individuals and organizations with an interest in and knowledge of agroforestry. The Directory is specifically oriented to the mid-South region, but includes several listing of expertise of potential value nationally and internationally. The Directory contains information provided by farmers, Extension personnel, consultants, and researchers who responded to a survey conducted by Winrock during the summer of 1990. The Directory includes 278 listings, organized into section of farmers and researchers. Within each section, entries are listed in alphabetical order by state.
Survey questionnaires were sent to individuals and organizations that were considered to be active or interested in agroforestry. Names were provided by staff, membership and mailing lists of sustainable agriculture organizations and networks, forestry and agricultural Extension agencies and organizations, agricultural producer associations, research institutions and others. Many additional contacts were suggested by survey respondents. Although efforts were made to identify farmers and forest owners in all states in the region, the survey reached, and the Directory contains, only a very small fraction of the potential participants.
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) took responsibility for the transfer and formating the survey data, and is helping make the information more widely available. Based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, ATTRA is a program of the National Center for Appropriate Technology. It operates under a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide information about sustainable agriculture to U.S. farmers, ranchers, and another agricultural professionals.
The Directory was published in a hard copy format and distributed by Winrock to numerous individuals and organizations in that format. ATTRA is maintaining and will continuously update the database used to generate the printed Directory. ATTRA, which operates a 1-800 telephone service to help farmers address sustainable agriculture questions, is using this agroforestry electronic database to find resources to answer questions it receives and is providing callers with selected lists of individuals or organizations included in the directory. The electronic database is not directly searchable by the public. Anyone can access information contained in the Directory or add to it by calling ATTRA at 1-800-346- 9140.
There is no doubt that agroforestry techniques can increase the economic and management flexibility of land while enabling both commodity production and environmental protection objectives to be met. However, each of the challenges noted above — more research, better communication, and a supportive institutional and policy framework — will have to be addressed effectively before the potential of agroforestry will be realized. In both objectives and challenges, agroforestry and sustainable agriculture share much common ground. It is toward reaching these objectives and constructively addressing these challenges that the Proceedings and Directory are dedicated.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Three hundred and fifty copies of the Proceedings and 253 copies of the Directory have been distributed free of charge by Winrock to people interested in agroforestry. Conference proceedings can be obtained by contacting U.S. Program, Winrock International, Rt. 3, Box 376, Morrilton, AR 72110, phone: 501-727-5435.
ATTRA is maintaining the Directory as an electronic database, and is adding new listings to it as additional sources of information are found. People needing information from the Directory can access it by calling ATTRA’s national toll free telephone number 800-346-9140.
The official citations for the Proceedings and Directory are:
Henderson, D. R. (ed.) 1991. Mid-South Conference on Agroforestry Practices and Policies. Proceedings of a conference held November 28-29, 1990, West Memphis, Arkansas. Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, Morrilton, Arkansas. 112 p.
Henderson, D. R. and T. A. Maurer. 1993. Mid-South Directory of Agroforestry Producers and Researchers. Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, Morrilton, Arkansas, and Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas, Fayetteville, Arkansas. 150 p.
The Mid-South Agroforestry Conference Proceedings contains 12 papers that in total summarized the state-of-the-art of agroforestry practices, policies, and development opportunities for the mid-South states. Following is a list of the paper titles.
- The Role of Agroforestry in Low-input Sustainable Agriculture
Alley Cropping with Eastern Black Walnut in Missouri
Silvopasture: Forest Grazing and Agroforestry in the Southern Coastal Plain
Windbreaks and Tree Barriers for Sustainable Agriculture in the mid- South
Alternative Forest Products
A Public Policy Perspective of Agroforestry
Trends in Agroforestry Public Policy
Three Popular Paradigms for Agroforesters to Pop
Opportunities for Agroforestry in the mid-South
The Role of Government in Agroforestry Development
The Role of NGOs in Agroforestry in the Southern USA
Publishing the Agroforestry Directory in cooperation with ATTRA should ensure that the directory database will be continually updated and remain current. ATTRA will also make information contained in the database widely available through their nationwide information dissemination program. ATTRA will also use the database to help answer sustainable agriculture questions they receive from farmers, Extension personnel, consultants, and others.
Farmers provided input into the agroforestry conference program, and attended the conference. The Directory lists 129 farmers with agroforestry experience and expertise.
Areas needing additional study
a. Market development activities are needed to give farmers confidence that their investment of money and time will provide a reasonable rate of return.
b. Farmer associations focussed on production and marketing of agroforestry products might speed dissemination of information to farmers, and improve opportunities for development of sustainable agroforestry systems.