- Crop Production: agroforestry, alley cropping
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
There is a current lack of research of incorporating cultivated domesticated crops in agroforestry systems and how production may be increased by these systems that also benefits sustainability of agriculture, in addition to the value-added potentiality for this production. Prior biodynamic and sustainable agriculture research has provided us with the knowledge that strawberries are companion plants to alliums (root crop), legumes, borage, and spinach. We seek to introduce a standard companion planting system (legumes, alliums, borage, spinach) that has performed well in organic biointensive agriculture into an agroforestry system through the use of alley cropping.
Contributions of both wild non-domesticated and cultivated agricultural crops in biodiverse systems contributes to both human and system health through the improvement of food security, nutrition, adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, and increased resiliency. Forest farming has several goals including more overall economic value from integrated polyculture, increasing agriculture productivity for humans by emulating natural architecture, and creating systems that encourage balance and ecological function. Agroforestry, or forest farming, is being increasingly recognized as an important agroecological practice that may balance farming family’s ability to meet their food and income needs with the sustainable management and conservation of agrobiodiversity. Diversified agroforestry systems can significantly increase growers’ ecological and economical resilience by increasing and diversifying productivity.
The Southeastern United States has great potential for developing agroforestry systems by integrating crops with woodland and/or nut tree production systems. This is because of this region’s mild and moist climate, which is suitable for producing timber, crops, forages, and grazing animals. Agroforestry, specifically alley cropping, can make organic farming more efficient. Trees or shrubs, often leguminous, are planted in hedgerows between open spaces where a companion crop or crops are grown. Alley cropping can diversity farm income, improve crop production and provide protection and conservation benefits to crops. The hedgerow species are periodically pruned and the pruning fall where the crop is growing. The pruning adds carbon and nutrients to the soil and provides mulch to help suppress weeds. Use of pruning reduces the need for composting and hauling manures and mulches and thereby increases efficiency by which organic material is applied to the soil.
Alley cropping with cultivated fruit and nut trees has been established in government funded projects but has not effectively been studies or effectively applied in preexisting agroforestry settings, nor has cultivated companion crop production been effectively researched with alley cropping in agroforestry settings despite its great ecological and economic potential. Promotion of forest farming in North America is relatively new and still evolving. The potential to diversify and stabilize income sources, increase forest health, and promote alternative “green” enterprises is tremendous. Often the task of learning about and entering new markets is daunting to forest landowners. The integration of forestry and farming with new plants requires broader knowledge to encompass the growing and management of trees, understory crops, and their interactions.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Thin trees in an existing agroforestry operation to open canopy and light availability;
- Implement organic biodynamic agriculture practices in conjunction with agroforestry practices in a preexisting operation by alley cropping with cultivated vegetables and fruits suited to temperate climates;
- Analyze the efficacy of increasing production and diversification of forest farming revenue by the introduction of companion cultivars suited to temperate climates.