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Title:Perennial pathways: Planning and establishment practices for edible agroforestry
Author(s):Wilson, Matt Heron
Advisor(s):Lovell, Sarah Taylor
Contributor(s):Davis, Adam; Kling, Gary
Department / Program:Crop Sciences
Discipline:Crop Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Tree crop
Forest farming
Alley crop
Black currant
Abstract:Agriculture faces the unprecedented task of feeding a world population of 9 billion people by 2050 while simultaneously avoiding harmful environmental and social effects. One effort to meet this challenge has been organic farming, with outcomes that are generally positive. However, a number of challenges remain. Organic yields lag behind those in conventional agriculture, and greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient leaching remain somewhat problematic. In chapter 1, we examine current organic and conventional agriculture systems and suggest that agroforestry, which is the intentional combination of trees and shrubs with crops or livestock, could be the next step in sustainable agriculture. By implementing systems that mimic nature’s functions, agroforestry has the potential to remain productive while supporting a range of ecosystem services. We outline the common practices and products of agroforestry as well as beneficial environmental and social effects. We address barriers to agroforestry and explore potential options to alter policies and increase adoption by farmers. We conclude that agroforestry is one of the best land use strategies to contribute to food security while simultaneously limiting environmental degradation. Temperate agroforestry has traditionally focused on timber species, but there is a growing interest in integrating edible trees and shrubs with vegetables, row crops, or livestock. Utilizing food-bearing trees can increase food security while also generating revenues for farmers. These systems have the potential to be scaled up and even to be mechanized, making wider adoption possible. However, as the complexity and diversity of these polycultures increases, more knowledge and planning are required to be successful. To meet this need, we developed a practical, extension-style handbook to aid farmers and consultants in planning and establishing edible agroforestry projects. The first part of the handbook outlines the process of planning and design, walking the reader through doing a site assessment, selecting suitable species of trees and livestock, deciding on a harvest strategy, and evaluating their own goals. We include profiles of some of the most promising trees and shrubs and describe how to generate a working planting design. The second part of the handbook includes the practical steps for field preparation, tree installation, and early care of young plantings. We go over funding options and government programs that are available and highlight case studies of successful farms with diverse, perennial polycultures. The handbook will be freely available online and will be promoted through workshops and partnerships with non-profit entities working in agroforestry.
Issue Date:2017-12-11
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Matt Wilson
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-03-13
Date Deposited:2017-12

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