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Universal Agroforestry Systems in Tropics

Region-a review





Vikas Kumar
Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur, Keral…


All in-text references underlined in blue are linked to publications on ResearchGate, Available from: Vikas Kumar
letting you access and read them immediately. Retrieved on: 14 January 2016
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

Universal Agroforestry Systems in Tropics Region- a review

*Vikas Kumar
*Department of Silviculture and Agroforestry, College of Forestry, Vellanikkara
Kerala Agricultural University, KAU, Thrissur, Kerala 680656, India
Abstract: Agroforestry is emerging as a major land use activity in the country after agriculture and forestry. Traditional resource management
adaptations such as agroforestry systems may potentially provide options for improvement in livelihoods through simultaneous production of
food, fodder and firewood as well as mitigation of the impact of climate change. The universal agroforestry systems in tropics region offer
enumerable ecological benefits such as carbon sequestration, mitigation of climate change, enhancing soil fertility and water use efficiency,
biodiversity conservation, biological pest control, sustainable land use, shelterbelt and windbreaks, microclimate amelioration, breaking the
poverty and food insecurity circle, Caveats and clarifications. Overall, this special collection is a timely effort in highlighting the promise of
agroforestry system in addressing some of the environmental quality issues, and the challenges in realizing that potential.
Key words: Agroforestry, carbon sequestration, homegardens, climate change, and biodiversity.

homesteads are typical examples of epitome of

Introduction: biodiversity both structurally and functionally
(Kumar, 2011). They constitute careful blending of
During their evolutionary and ecological histories, crops including trees with livestock, poultry and fish
forest tree species have experienced numerous production mainly for the purpose of satisfying life-
environmental changes. Changed environments may forms. Increased human population and associated
have lasted as long as 100,000 years (Bowen, 1979; development activities in the last few decades has
Imbrie and Imbrie, 1980; Pisias and Moore, 1981) or resulted directly and indirectly in depletion of the
they may have lasted only a decade (i.e. well within natural vegetation which in turn increase the pressure
the lifetime of an individual tree). Environmental on the homestead forest specially in the developing
changes may have been gradual or sudden occurring countries to meet various needs of the human beings
over a relatively few years (Bryson et al., 1970). (Khan, 1998; Bashar, 1999; Kumar and Nair, 2004;
During the past decade, increased attention has been Kumar and Takeuchi, 2009; Vikas Kumar, 2015a;
given to the effects of environment change on tree Vikas Kumar, 2015b; Kunhamu et al., 2015). In this
species due to the rapid climatic changes thought to circumstances correct inventory and assessment of
have been brought on by recent human activities biodiversity in different habitats is necessary for
(Davis and Zabinski, 1992; Alig et al., 2002). evolving a long term strategy for conserving the
Forestry has been recognized as a means to reduce endangered species and improvement of the existing
CO2 emissions as well as enhancing carbon sinks. species.
The role of forests in carbon cycles is well In fact, agroforestry systems can function as both
recognized (Singh and Lal, 2000) forests are a large source and sink of carbon (Dixon, 1995; Montagnini
sink of carbon (Dixon et al., 1994a; Wang et al., and Nair, 2004). There is also clear evidence to
2001; Bertini et al., 2011; Merian et al., 2013). There suggest that the type of agroforestry system greatly
is considerable interest to increase the carbon storage influences the source or sink role of the trees. For
capacity of terrestrial vegetation through land-use example, agrisilvicultural systems where trees and
practices such as affrestation, reforestation, and crops are grown together are net sinks while agro
natural regeneration of forests, silvicultural systems silvipastoral systems are possibly sources of GHGs
and agroforestry (Brown, 1996; Canadell and (Kandji et al., 2006; Vikas Kumar, 2015c). While
Raupich, 2008). Agroforestry systems are very most agroforestry systems (e.g., multipurpose trees,
important given the area currently under agriculture, silvopasture and energy plantations) have great
the number of people who depend on land for their potential for C sequestration, homegardens are
livelihoods, and the need for integrating food unique in this respect. They not only sequester C in
production with environmental services (Soto-Pinto biomass and soil, but also reduce fossil-fuel burning
et al., 2001; Garrity, 2004; Makundi and Sathaye, by promoting wood, fuel production, and conserve
2004, Vikas Kumar et al., 2014). agro-biodiversity (Kumar and Nair, 2004). In
From ecological and conservation point of view and addition, they help in the conservation of C stocks in
food crops were found in the homesteads. Tropical existing natural forests by alleviating the pressure on
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

these areas (Kumar, 2006; Falk and Mellert, 2011; 2013). The conservation and management of forests
Linares and Camarero, 2012; Lafortezza et al., 2013). has been strengthened through various policy and
There is a need for intensified conservation efforts as legal frameworks, and the management of the forests
well as growing products and generating services in is now oriented towards watershed function and
agro-ecosystems (Pandey, 2002). Tree growing in ecosystem services (Dhyani et al., 2007). With the
combination to agriculture (agroforestry systems) as increase in area from 25.32 million ha to 53.0 million
well as numerous vegetation management regimes in ha in next forty years, agroforestry will be
cultural landscape (ethnoforestry systems) may contributing substantially in meeting the basic needs
improve nutrient availability and efficiency of use of the society through increased production and
and may reduce erosion, provide firewood and store providing environmental benefits (Dhyani et al.,
carbon. Agroforestry systems can also be managed to 2013).
reduce inputs of weeds and other agricultural pests
(Tilman et al., 2002). Increasing the livelihood Agroforestry supplies almost 72 per cent of the
security and reducing the vulnerability call for demand of fuelwood, 2/3 of the small timber, 70-80
societal adaptation (Pandey, 2005). Such adaptations % wood for plywood, 60-80 % raw material for paper
are possible when combined with traditional resource pulp, 9-11 % of the green fodder requirement besides
management systems. Agroforestry as a local meeting the subsistence needs of households for
adaptation, therefore, is a promising area of interest. food, fodder, fruit, fiber, fuel and medicine etc
This review examines the multifunctional (Dhyani et al., 2013). With the increase in area from
agroforestry systems in India as a potential option for 25.32 million ha to 53.0 million ha in next forty
livelihood improvement, climate change mitigation, years, agroforestry will be contributing substantially
biodiversity conservation in agroecosystems as well in meeting the basic needs of the society through
as yield of goods and services to the society. increased production and providing environmental
Synthesis of the available literature also helps benefits (Dhyani et al., 2013).
identify the remaining uncertainties and thus the
Agroforestry can improve soil fertility, provide
future directions for research.
fodder, produce tree fruits, expand fuel wood
supplies and produce a variety of wood products for
Current scenario of Agroforestry in India
farmers own use and sale without demanding
The forest and tree cover of India is 78.92 million ha additional land. Research results from different agro-
accounting for 24.01 per cent of the geographical clamatic regions of the country slow that financial
area (ISFR, 2013). Agroforestry is contributing to returns generated from agroforestry system vary
achieve the national goal as desired tree cover from greatly but are generally much higher than returns
present less than 25 per cent to 33 per cent in the from continuous unfertilized food crops. The higher
country can only be achieved by planting trees on returns associated with agroforestry can translate into
farm field/bunds, especially in states that have low improved house holding nutrition and healthy,
tree cover. Agroforestry has an important role in particularly when women control the income.
reducing vulnerability, increasing resilience of
farming systems and buffering households against Agroforestry System for Carbon Sequestration
climate related risk in additional to providing
livelihood security (NRCAF, 2013). Agroforestry During the past two decades, there has been a
practices are said to be characterized by four “I” veritable explosion of the literature on C
words: intentional, intensive, integrated, and sequestration. Internet search engines and abstracting
interactive (Gold and Garrett, 2009). Agroforestry services are virtually flooded with all sorts of
has an important role in reducing vulnerability, literature on all aspects of the process. Unfortunately,
increasing resilience of farming systems and considerable variations exist among different user
buffering households against climate related risk in groups about the concept of C sequestration and the
additional to providing livelihood security (NRCAF, term is not used or understood uniformly in different
contexts (Vikas Kumar, 2015c). This has led to
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

serious difficulties in consolidating and synthesizing lanceolata (China fir) reported higher carbon storage
available reports and publications according to a for China fir forests than for moso bamboo, 99.5 vs.
uniform pattern and set of norms. 40.6 Mega gram per hectare (Mg ha-1). But there was
The United Nations Framework Convention on variation in age between the plantations and the mean
Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines carbon aboveground carbon sequestration was higher in
sequestration as the process of removing C from the moso bamboo (8.13±2.15 Mg ha-1) compared to
atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir. It entails China fir (3.35±2.02 Mg ha-1). Wen et al. (2011)
the transfer of atmospheric CO2, and its secure reported that the capability of carbon fixation of P.
storage in long-lived pools (UNFCCC, 2007). From pubescens leaves had obvious
the agroforestry point of view, C sequestration temporal and spatial dynamic variations. Daily and
primarily involves the uptake of atmospheric CO2 seasonal carbon fixation showed a negative
during photosynthesis and the transfer of field C into correlation with the CO2 concentration. Yongfu et al.
vegetation, detritus, and soil pools for “secure” (i.e. (2011) studied the dynamic changes in height,
long-term) storage (Nair et al., 2010). Different biomass, and carbon accumulation in young
agroforestry systems sequestering varied amount of Phyllostachys pubescens. They found that the
carbon based on type of system, species composition, accumulation of biomass and carbon in young
soil and climate. Some of the earliest studies of bamboos depended mainly on ground diameter
potential carbon storage in agroforestry systems and and the length of time after the bamboo shoots
alternative land use systems in India has estimated a sprouted. Studies conducted in Vietnam indicated
C sequestration of 68-228 Mg C ha-1 (Dixon et al., that a shift in land use from annual crops to bamboo
1994b) and studies from Jha et al. (2001) showed that provides an annual net gain of soil organic carbon of
agroforestry could store nearly 83.6 Mg C ha-1. approximately 0.44 t ha−1 (Proyuth et al. 2012).
Average carbon storage by agroforestry practices, of Kittur (2014) studied the biomass production of 9
which fertilizer trees is an integral part has been year old bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus (Roxb.)
estimated as 9, 21, 50 and 63 Mg C ha-1 in semi-arid, Nees) planted under varying spacings (4x4, 6x6, 8x8,
sub-humid, humid and temperate regions, 10x10 and 12x12 m; Densities: 625, 277, 156, 100
respectively (Montagnini and Nair, 2004). Average and 69 clumps/ha) in Kerala. Results indicated that
sequestration potential in agroforestry in India has the clump wood constituted the largest (60-70 %)
been estimated to be 25 t C ha–1 over 96 million ha share to the total biomass in all the spacings. The leaf
(Sathaye and Ravindranathm, 1998). biomass in widest spacings was increased by 325 per
In another estimate agroforestry contributes 19.30% cent compared to closest spacings. The densest (625
of total C stock under different land uses. clump/ha) stand though recorded maximum biomass,
International network on Bamboo and Rattan the eventual clump-wise biomass was highest in least
(INBAR) reports that bamboo biomass and carbon dense stand (69 clumps/ha). The C in clump wood
production may be seven to 30 per cent higher decreased by 55 % in closest spacings compared to
compared to the fast growing wood species. Gratani widest spacings. The majority of C was accumulated
et al. (2008) studied the growth pattern and in clump wood (5.45 to 22 Mg/ha). When spacings
photosynthetic activity Phyllostachys viridi- increased to 12x12 m, the C storage in above ground
glaucescens, P. pubescens, and P. bambusoides and biomass increased by 3.61 times compared to densest
stated that owing to the great potential for stand (4x4 m). The potential of agroforestry systems
biomass production, bamboos could be a significant as carbon sink varies depending upon the species
net sink for CO2 sequestration. Variation in biomass composition, age of trees, geographic location, local
production of Fargesia yunnanensis, an alpine climatic factors and management regimes (Kittur et
bamboo with sites due to total nitrogen (N) and al., 2015). The growing body of literature indicates
organic matter status of soil was reported from China that agroforestry systems has the potential to
(Shuguang et al., 2009). Yen and Lee (2011) on sequester large amounts of above and below ground
comparison of aboveground carbon storage between carbon in addition to soil organic carbon
P. heterocycla (moso bamboo) and Cunninghamia
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

enhancement, as compared to treeless farming Human activities are also causing rapid changes in
systems (Vikas Kumar, 2015c). the atmosphere and climate that directly impact
production agriculture. Changing climate conditions
Carbon management through afforestation and frequently interact with forest growth at the local
reforestation in degraded natural forests is a useful level within regional scenarios; the influence of
option, but agroforestry is attractive because: variability and intensity of climate alterations at the
1. It sequesters carbon in vegetation and forest level may be even stronger than regional trends
possibly in soils depending on the (D’ Aprile et al., 2009). Changing climate conditions
reconversion soil C. can also modify both the extent of the growing
2. The more intensive use of land for season and the months that influence the occurrence
agricultural production reduces the need for of tree growth response (Pretzsch et al., 2014).
slash-and burn or shifting cultivation, which Atmospheric and climate change began accelerating
contributes to deforestation. after the industrial revolution. CO2 concentrations
3. The wood products produced under which averaged about 270 ppm prior to the industrial
agroforestry serve as a substitute for similar revolution, have now surpassed 380 ppm, and will
products unsustainably harvested from the exceed 550 ppm by 2050 (Long et al., 2004). A
natural forest. potentially positive benefit of rising CO2 is the
4. To the extent that agroforestry increases the stimulation of photosynthesis in C3 crops as the
income of farmers, it reduces the incentive higher CO2 in future atmospheres will relieve
for further extraction from the natural forest Rubisco limitation on photosynthesis and suppress
for income augmentation. photorespiratory loss (Farquhar et al., 1980; Long et
al., 2004). However, increasing CO2 is also
Based on the notion that tree incorporation in responsible for more than 60% of the phenomenon
croplands and pastures would result in greater net C known as ‘‘greenhouse’’ effect that is driving global
storage above and belowground (Haile et al., 2008). warming and is predicted to cause changes in
Agroforestry system believed to have a higher precipitation and weather patterns that are expected
potential to sequester C than pastures or field crops to have negative consequences on agriculture (Lashof
growing under similar ecological conditions (Kirby and Ahuja, 1990; Vikas Kumar, 2015d). Under the
and Potvin, 2007). The homegardens consisting Kyoto Protocol’s Article 3.3, A & R (afforestation
higher biomass compared to other systems and arid and reforestation) with agroforestry as a part of it has
zones agroforestry systems consisting more root been recognized as an option for mitigating
biomass. The aboveground carbon stocks are 17 to 36 greenhouse gases. As a result, there is now increasing
Mg C ha-1 in tropical homegardens of Kerala (Kumar awareness on agroforesty’s potential for carbon (C)
and Nair, 2011) and 21 to 65.6 Mg C ha-1 in popular sequestration (Nair et al., 2010).
based systems of North India (Rizvi et al., 2011).
Carbon sequestered by trees and stored in above Agroforestry System to Enhance Soil Fertility and
ground biomass and soil contributes to reducing Water Use Efficiency
greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. It
has estimated of the carbon sequestration potential of The major promises of agroforestry is its role in soil
agroforestry systems vary greatly, from under 100 fertility enhancement especially in nutrient-depleted
MT CO2 per year by 2030 to over 2000 MT CO2 yr-1 tropical soils and in soil conservation in both tropical
over a 30 year period. Regardless of the extract and temperate regions (Schroth and Sinclair, 2004;
amount, agroforestry systems tend to sequester much Van Noordwijk et al., 2004; Garrett, 2009).
greater quantities of carbon than agricultural systems Ecologically sound agroforestry systems such as
without trees (Neufeldt et al., 2009). intercropping and mixed arable livestock systems,
involving legume-based rotations, which reduce
Agroforestry System to mitigate the Climate Change water runoff and improve soil fertility can increase
the sustainability of agricultural production while
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

reducing on-site and off-site consequences and may turnover and litterfall, increasing the nutrient use
be a road to sustainable agriculture (Rasmussen et al., efficiency of the agroecosystems (Jose, 2009). There
1998; Lal, 2008). Trees in agroecosystems can is robust evidence that agroforestry systems have
enhance soil productivity through biological nitrogen potential for improving water use efficiency by
fixation, efficient nutrient cycling, and deep capture reducing the unproductive components of the water
of nutrients and water from soils (Nair, 2011). Even balance (run-off, soil evaporation and drainage)
the trees that do not fix nitrogen can enhance (Turner and Ward, 2002).
physical, chemical and biological properties of soils Examples from India and elsewhere show that
by adding significant amount of above and simultaneous agroforestry systems could double
belowground organic matter as well as releasing and rainwater utilization compared to annual cropping
recycling nutrients in tree bearing farmlands (Jose, systems, mainly due to temporal complementarity
2009). Although tree species have potential to and use of run-off in arid monsoon regions
conserve moisture and improve fertility status of the (Lovenstein et al., 1991; Droppelmann and Berliner,
soil in agroforestry systems, legumes are the most 2003). It must be pointed out that although
effective for promoting soil fertility. In addition, deep agroforestry systems may reduce crop yield for a
rooted species could reduce competition for nutrients variety of reasons, there may be a trade-off. Pandey
and moisture with crops by pumping from deeper and Sharma (2003) found that effect of residual
layers of soil (Das and Chaturvedi, 2008). Patel et al. nitrogen on the yield of rice crop after removal of 15-
(1996) reported that N2 fixation efficiency suggests year old A. nilotica trees resulted in increase in the
that planting of stem cuttings and flooding resulted in crop yield (12.5 t ha-1) on traditional agroforestry
greater biological N2 fixation, 307 and 209 kg N ha-1 system in central India and reported that almost equal
by Sesbania rostrata and S. cannabina, respectively. to the reduction in the crop yield suffered during 15
Significant improvement in soil biological activity years of the tree growth in agroforestry system. Yield
has been reported under different tree based reductions may also be compensated in the long run
agroforestry systems at Rajasthan (Yadav et al., by microclimate modification (Kohli and Saini,
2008). For instance, soil microbial biomass C, N and 2003). Similar study conducted by Sharma et al.
P under agroforestry varied between 262-320, 32.1- (2002) and revealed that nutrient cycling, nutrient use
42.4 and 11.6-15.6 μg g−1 soil, respectively, with efficiency and nitrogen fixation in Alnus-cardamom
corresponding microbial biomass C, N and P of 186, plantations in the eastern Himalaya found that
23.2 and 8.4 μg g−1 soil under a no tree control. nutrient standing stock, uptake and return were
Fluxes of C, N and P through microbial biomass were highest in the 15-year-old stand. Annual N fixation
also significantly higher in Prosopis cineraria based increased from the 5-year-old stand (52 kg ha–1) to
land use system followed by Dalbergia sissoo, the 15-year-old stand (155 kg ha–1) and then declined
Acacia leucophloea and Acacia nilotica in with advancing age. Thus, Alnus–cardamom
comparison to a no-tree control (Yadav et al., 2011). plantations performed sustainably up to 15–20 years.
Such improvements are vital for long term
productivity and sustainability of the soil in tropics, Agroforestry for Biodiversity Conservation
where level of soil biological activity is low due to
lower soil organic matter. If we are concerned about conserving important
Agroforestry systems have the potential for biodiversity, then protected areas are the preferred
improving water use efficiency by reducing the choice, and biodiversity conservation may not be a
unproductive components of the water balance like primary goal of agroforestry systems. Nevertheless,
run-off, soil evaporation and drainage (Turner and in some cases agroforestry systems do support as
Ward, 2002). Trees with their comparatively deeper high as 50–80% of biodiversity of comparable natural
root system improve ground water quality by taking systems (Noble and Dirzo, 1997), and also act as
up the excess nutrients that have been leached below buffers to parks and protected areas. Agroforestry is a
the rooting zone of agricultural crops. These nutrients system of complex and integrated approach, which
are then recycled back into the system through root provides opportunity to intermingle trees, crops,
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

pastures and animals in a managed aspect and homegardens as a site for biodiversity conservation in
provides shelter for soil flora and fauna, birds, insects agricultural landscape was emphasized by several
and wildlife. Traditional agroforestry systems are workers (Ramkrishna et al., 1996; Godbole, 1998;
best examples of agro-biodiversity conservations Martin et al., 2001; Depommier, 2003; Das and Das,
(Montagnini et al., 2011; Vikas Kumar, 2015a). 2005; Srivastava and Heinen, 2005; NBPGR, 2007;
Using agroforestry systems as carbon sinks, and by Schroth and Harvey, 2007; Sahoo, 2009; Deb et al.,
designing a suitable emissions trading system, the 2009; Devi and Das, 2010; Tynsong and Tiwari,
Kyoto Protocol provides a new source of financial 2010). The forest-like structure and composition of
support for protection and management of biological the homegardens (Kumar and Nair, 2004) and the
diversity (Walsh, 1999). specific management practices that tend to enhance
The literature on the role of agroforestry in nutrient cycling and increase soil organic carbon
biodiversity conservation is growing rapidly. (Montagnini, 2006) are particularly relevant in this
Agroforestry also helps in conserving genetic respect. Homegarden size and survival strategies of
diversity of wild cultivars or landraces and trees, the gardeners are other determinants of biomass
which are in danger of loss and require priority (Kumar et al., 1994) and soil C (Saha et al., 2010)
conservation (Pandey, 2007). Jose (2009) has pools. However, precise quantitative estimates on the
suggested five major roles of agroforestry in potential of tropical homegardens to sequester
conserving biodiversity: atmospheric CO2 are scarce (Kumar, 2006; Saha et
1. Agroforestry helps to provides habitat for al., 2009; 2010). Species diversity of tropical
species that can withstand a certain level of homegardens is also quite variable (Kumar and Nair,
disturbance in agroecosystems. 2004) depending on the geographical location, size of
2. It helps preserve germplasm of socially the garden, gardeners’ socioeconomic status, and
useful and associated species. managerial interventions.
3. It helps reduce the rates of conversion of Unlike the other regions in India, the farm front of
natural habitat by providing goods and Kerala is characterized by extreme diversity in its
services alternative to traditional agricultural bio-physical resource base and agro-climatic
systems that may involve clearing natural endowments providing multiple opportunities for
habitats. raising a variety of crops (Kumar et al., 1994).
4. It provides connectivity and acts as According to Nair and Krishnankutty (1984), as the
stepping-stone by creating corridors between pressure of the population increased, and the size of
habitat remnants and thereby conservation the holdings decreased, the intensity of tree cropping
of area-sensitive plant and animal species. was increased, miscellaneous tree species were
5. It helps conserve biological diversity by replaced by multiple-use tree species. The arrival of
providing other ecosystem services such as cash crops such as rubber, nutmeg, cocoa etc has
erosion control and water recharge, thereby threatened the continuity and persistence of the
preventing the degradation and loss of homegardens in Kerala. Homegardens, with tree
surrounding habitat. species varying between 20 and 40 on each unit with
India has a long historical tradition of growing trees an average area of 376 m2, support in all 93 tree
on farm lands and around homes. Farmers maintained species counted in just 1.7 ha. In southern States of
or preferred trees as a part of their agricultural India, 269 tree species were recorded in the 544
landscapes where homegardens formed in important farms sampled over 61 districts of Karnataka, Kerala
component, where several species of plants are and Tamil Nadu (Patil and Depommier, 2008).
grown and maintained by the household members Arecanut agroforestry systems of south Meghalaya
and their products are primary intended for the family conserve 160 species of plants (83 tree species, 22
consumption. Trees provide shade, shelter, energy, shrub species, 41 herb species and 14 climber
food, fodder and many good and services that enable species) in addition to cash income, medicine, timber,
the farmstead to prosper (McNeely and Schroth, fuelwood and edibles for household consumption and
2006; Huai and Hamilton, 2009). The importance of sale (Tynsong and Tiwari, 2010). Indeed, numerous
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

regions of India can be designated as agricultural annual crops, while the modern, herbaceous-
biodiversity heritage sites based on the crop diversity agricultural systems remain perpetually youthful as
and numerous tree species in traditional agroforestry ripened crops are harvested and the unwanted
systems to enhance food security and adaptation to vegetative parts ploughed down or removed off the
climate change (Singh, 2011). Kunhamu et al. (2015) fields. He also suggested that new sets of data are
reported that three size classes of homegardens viz. required for insect pest management in agroforestry
small (> 0.08 ha), medium (0.04-0.08 ha) and large systems. Data on insect pest behaviour as influenced
(0-0.04 ha) from Neyyatinkara Municipality area, by (i) plant species diversity, (ii) perennial woody
Trivandrum, Kerala. Altogether, the total number of plants, (iii) age of the agroforestry system and (iv)
species observed in different size classes of the cropping pattern and relatedness of the
homegardens as 24, 48 and 94 respectively. There is companion crops are considered.
a growing corpus of research demonstrating that
while there are some wildlife-friendly and Agroforestry for Sustainable Land Use
biodiversity-rich farming systems that support high
species richness, a large proportion of wild species Agroforestry is an age-old practice. Trees and shrubs
cannot survive in even the most benign farming are important in the traditional farming systems of
systems (Phalan et al., 2011). To conserve those the tropics, where woody species form a major
species, protection of wild lands will remain component of the bush fallow system and are also
essential. Thus, although not a substitute for widely grown in cropped land. Trees and shrubs
continuous and intact natural systems, fragments of benefit the farmer in three main areas:
all sizes and shapes, nonetheless, have conservation 1. Direct agricultural benefits (plant stakes,
relevance. mulching materials, green manure, animal
fodder and so on),
Agroforestry for Biological Pest Control 2. Environmental benefits (shade, soil erosion
control, nutrient recycling, carbon
Agroforestry systems create a landscape structure sequestration and so on) and
that is important for biological pest control. In small- 3. Socioeconomic benefits (saleable
scale, subsistence agriculture in the tropics, commodities like timber, fruits, vegetables,
traditional farming practices have evolved that cereals, building materials, and so on).
provide a sustainable means of reducing the An economic and ecological interaction exists
incidence and damage caused by pests, including between the tree and non-tree components of the
nematodes. The biodiversity inherent in multiple agroforestry system. It has not only benefit farmers, it
cropping and multiple cultivar traditional farming also supplies raw material to wood industry, generate
systems increases the available resistance or employment of various kinds thus benefiting millions
tolerance to nematodes (Bridge, 1996). In in related economic activities like transportation,
understanding the effect of complexity, it is also wholesale, retailing etc. It help consumers with an
important to evaluate the quality of semi natural areas affordable supply of wood and contributes to import
surrounding croplands in terms of agroecological substitution for timber and timber related products,
functions for natural enemies and pests (Rusch et al., which India imports worth thousands of crores of
2010). Epila (1986) suggested that agricultural insect rupees a year. Agroforestry is as good, if not better,
pest management strategies are duplicatable in than degraded forests for environmental
agroforestry systems. But the bio-ecological factors improvement, pollution control, etc, especially as it
governing the population dynamics of the insect pests can be initiated in farmers’ holdings in villages and
in the two systems are not necessarily the same. This nearer to urban conglomerations.
is largely because agroforestry with time matures into
a complex system of perennial woody plants whose Agroforestry for Shelterbelt and Windbreaks
ecology is temporarily interrupted by the cultural
processes of crop husbandry and harvesting of these
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An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

Shelterbelts and windbreaks are important exserta are most common boundary plantations. In
components of agroforestry systems in rainfed, dry, northern parts of India, particularly in Haryana and
temperate and desert areas. Windbreaks are located Punjab Eucalypts and Populus are commonly grown
around the field mostly on bunds but shelterbelts are along the field boundaries or bunds of paddy fields;
integrated with cropping systems in the fields. other trees which are grown as boundary plantations
Brandle et al. (2004) stated that windbreaks or or live hedge include-. Dalbergia sissoo and Prosopis
shelterbelts are barriers used to reduce wind speed. juliflora. Farmers of Sikkim, grow bamboo
Cleugh (1998) addressed the mechanisms by which a (Dendrocalamus, Bambusa) all along the irrigation
porous windbreak modifies airflow, microclimates channels. In coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh,
and hence crop yields. These are providing crop Borassus is the most frequent palm. In Andamans,
assurance to farmers against extreme climatic events farmers grow Gliricidia sepium, Jatropha spp, Ficus,
by modifying weather condition of the field. Ceiba pentandra, Vitex trifolia and Erythina
Windbreaks and shelterbelts reduce wind velocity, variegata as livehedges.
reduce evaporative water loss from surface
downwind, and thus conserve soil moisture and Agroforestry for Microclimate Amelioration
decrease temperature and also provide shelter against
direct sunlight. Therefore, it is considered as good Agroforestry is ecologically dynamic, complex and
adaptive strategies of climate change (Dixon et al., sustainable system which provides opportunity to
1993; Hugues and Philippe, 1998; Montagnini and mimic natural forest in farm land with high
Nair, 2004). Prasad et al. (2013) has revealed that complementary economical and environmental
how morphological characteristics of different benefits. Tree systems are having ability to improve
shelterbelts (Acacia tortilis, Eucalyptus microclimatic environment by lowering temperature,
camaldulensis, Dalbergia sissoo, Tecomella evaportranspiration, moisture reduction, and acting as
undulata) affect wind regimes, air temperature and a filter for providing buffer against direct sunlight.
soil properties in arid Western Rajasthan. They found Microclimate amelioration is considered as one of the
that all the shelterbelts had caused maximum important role of trees in agroforestry systems to
reduction (21.5 to 36.0 %) in wind speed on provide sustainability. In dry land and low rainfall
downwind side at distance of 2H (H is average height areas, water availability to crops is paramount and
of shelterbelt). The reduction was more pronounced seems to be the dividing factor between absolute crop
between 2H and 10H and slowly nullified up to 20H. failure and reasonable food production (Garrity et al.,
On an average, more reduction in speed of upwind 2006). Lin (2007; 2010) has revealed on coffee based
was caused by double-row shelterbelts. However, agroforestry systems mentioned that crops grown
single-row belts provided more sheltered area on lee under heavy shade (60-80 %) were kept 2-30C cooler
side. Besides reducing speed of wind, presences of during the hottest times of the day than crops under
shelterbelts also enhanced soil organic carbon and light shading (10-30 %) and lost 41 % less water
reduce daily air temperature in sheltered area. The through soil evaporation and 32 % less water through
enrichment of soil and moderation of plant transpiration. The effect of extremely high
microenvironment on downwind side was more temperature on some crops may be reduced through
pronounced up to distance of 5H.Conserving fertile modifying the microclimate e.g. by adding shade and
soil, protecting water quality, enhancing air shelter as in agroforestry systems (Cannell et al.,
movement and biological connectivity in the 1996). According to Steffan-Dewenter et al. (2007)
landscape, reducing energy bills, capturing carbon, the removal of shade trees increased soil surface
recreation opportunities, aesthetic, bird-watching and temperature by about 4 0C and reduced relative air
cultural identity of a community are few examples of humidity at 2 m above ground by about 12%. Soil
shelterbelts multifunctionality (Newaj et al., 2013). temperature under the baobab and Acacia tortilis
Many of the boundary plantations also help as trees in the semi-arid regions of Kenya at 5-10 cm
shelter-belts and wind-breaks, particularly in fruit depth were found to be 6 °C lower than those
orchards. In Bihar, Dalbergia sissoo and Wendlandia recorded in open areas (Belsky et al., 1993). In the
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
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Sahel, where soil temperatures often go beyond 50° et al., 2000). The net present value (NPV) for the
to 60 °C, a major constraint to establish a good crop, different agroforestry models on six years rotation in
Faidherbia trees lowered soil temperature at 2-cm Haryana varied from Rs. 26,626 to Rs. 72,705 ha-1 yr-
depth by 5° to 10 °C depending on the movement of whereas the benefit: cost ratio and the internal rate
shade (Vandenbeldt and Williams, 1992). of return varied from 2.35 to 3.73 and 94 to 389%,
About 150 million ha of land in India is subject to respectively. Thus, agroforestry has not only uplifted
serious wind and water erosion, of which 69 million the socioeconomic status of the farmers but also
ha are critically affected (Narayana and Rambabu, contributed towards the overall development of the
1983). About 4 million ha is suffering from region (Kumar et al., 2004). Likewise, in Rajasthan,
degradation due to ravines and gullies 11.3 M ha as yield of the annual crops can be optimized in
riverian land (NCA, 1976). Coastal sandy areas and combination with Prosopis cineraria at optimum tree
steeply sloping lands and more than 9 million ha is densities of 278 trees ha-1 at 6 and 7 years, 208 trees
salt affected. The deep and narrow gullies are best ha-1 at 10 year and <208 trees ha-1 at 11 years of age
controlled by putting them to permanent vegetation (Singh et al, 2007). Studies on Tecomella undulata L.
after closure to grazing. Afforestation with suitable (Rohida) intercropped with Cyamopsis tetragonoloba
tree species like Acacia nilotica, Azadirachta indica, (L.) Taub (Clusterbean), Vigna radiata (L)
Butea moonosperma. Prosopis juliflora, Dalbergia (mungbean), Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R.Br. (pearl
sissoo, Tectona grandis, Bambulsa spp. and millet) suggest that seedling density of 833 stem ha-1
Dendrocalamus and other adaptable species such as and 417 stems ha-1 were optimum for total production
grasses like Dichanthium annulatum, Bothriochloa at the age of four and five years, respectively (Singh
pertusa, Cynodon dactylon and Sehima nervosum et al., 2005). Beyond that age, 287 stems ha-1 was
will help in stabilizing ravines and gullies and most favourable for crop production at the age of 6-7
checking their spread. years and 208 stem ha-1 at 10-11 years (Singh et al.,
2004). Neem (Azadirachta indica A. Juss) and
From the meteorological point of view agroforestry understorey crop black gram (Phaseolus mungo)
systems are providing two key facts viz., shade tree experiments suggest that crop yield under the tree
concept (radiation) and mechanic concept. For the canopy decrease but are compensated by increase in
first concept, shade will create microclimates with wood volume and fruit yield of neem and thus giving
lower seasonal means in ambient temperature and higher economic returns (Pandey et al., 2010).
solar radiation as well as smaller fluctuations. The Domestication of such species aimed at
effect of solar radiation during the day and night commercialization and production of valued products
times increases the surface temperature considerably can reduce the pressure on natural ecosystems
and affect the crop during critical periods such as (Belcher et al., 2005; Chandrashekara, 2009).
flowering and seed maturing. The shade tree reduces Domestication of forest fruit trees and other species
evaporative demands from soil evaporation and crop grown in agroforestry systems offer significant
transpiration. Shade trees are potential adaptive opportunity for livelihoods improvement through the
strategy for farmer’s vulnerability to reduce water nutritional and economic security of poor people in
scarcity and microclimate alteration. tropics (Milne et al., 2006). Suitable agroforestry
programmes may enhance the availability of wood in
Agroforestry as Breaking the Poverty and Food agroecosystems thereby improved ability of
Insecurity Circle developing countries to participate in the growing
global economy (Pandey et al., 2003).
Agroforestry could contribute to livelihoods
improvement in India where people have a very long
Agroforestry for Caveats and Clarifications
history and accumulated local knowledge. India is
particularly notable for ethnoforestry practices and
Agroforestry is a useful land-use management option;
indigenous knowledge systems on tree growing. In
it requires careful planning and studies on the
terms of household income central Indian upland rice
remaining challenges, such as farm yield decline
fields provide an illuminating economics (Viswanath
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

under agroforestry systems. There may not be an Eucalyptus was incompatible with mango and sapota.
entirely convincing rationale for the argument that Many species suffer from root competition and thus
agroforestry systems are the answer for livelihood selection of tree species with either low root
improvement. Households that do not have competitiveness or trees with complementary root
ownership to lands may not be able to benefit from interaction is of strategic importance in agroforestry
the agroforestry interventions for livelihood systems (Kumar et al., 1999).
improvement, unless market regimes permit their
inclusion through value addition services. Trees in a Benefits from Agroforestry
variety of ethnoforestry and agroforestry systems
contribute to food security, rural income generation Environment Benefits: Combining trees with food
through diversity of products and services and can crops on cropland farms yield certain important
enhance nutrient cycling, improve soil productivity, environment benefits, both general ecological
soil conservation and soil faunal activities. benefits and specific on-site benefits. The general
Nonetheless, trees in agroforestry systems can also ecological benefits include:
cause competition with the associated food crops. 1. Reduction of pressure on forest.
Agroforestry may, thus, reduce the yield of the 2. More efficient recycling of nutrients by
agricultural produce in farmlands. For instance, in deep-rooted trees on the site.
Haryana, A. indica and P. cineraria did not produce 3. Better protection of ecological systems.
any significant difference in the wheat yield, while D. 4. Reduction of surface run-off, nutrient
sissoo and A. nilotica gave a reduction in yield. A. leaching and soil erosion through impending
nilotica had a more prominent effect with a reduction effect of tree roots and stems of these
of 40 to 60% wheat yield and D. sissoo reduced yield processes.
by 4 to 30%, but the reduction effect (Puri et al., 5. Improvement of microclimate, such as
1995) was only up to a distance of 3 m. Interestingly, lowering of soil surface temperature and
species that did not negatively affect the yield are reduction of evaporation of soil moisture
indigenous trees occurring in traditional agroforestry through a combination of mulching and
systems, and they are economically more useful for shading.
providing multiple benefits. Selection of such species 6. Increment in soil nutrients through addition
to enrich agroforestry systems shall be useful for and decomposition of litter-fall.
local and national food security. 7. Improvement of soil structure through the
Designing a sustainable tree mixture for agroforestry constant addition of organic matter from
systems is another challenge. In agroforestry, decomposed litter.
differences in functional group composition do have Economic Benefits: Agroforestry systems on
a larger effect on ecosystem processes than does croplands/farmlands bring significant economic
functional group richness alone. Thus, much time and benefits to the farmer, the community, the region or
expense need to be invested in finding species or the nation. Such benefits may include:
genetic varieties that combine in more diverse 1. Increment in maintenance of outputs of
agroecosystems to improve total yield. For instance, a food, fuel wood, fodder, fertilizer and
five-year field experiment of tree mixtures for timber.
agroforestry system in tropical alfisol of southern 2. Reduction in incidence of total crop failure,
India involving mango (Mangifera indica), sapota common to single-cropping or monoculture
(Achrus sapota), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus system; andmonoculture system.
tereticornis), casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia) and 3. Increase in levels of farm incomes due to
leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala) found that growth improved and sustained productivity
of sapota can be enhanced by 17% when grown in Social Benefits: Besides the economic benefits, social
mixture with leucaena. But a reduction of 12% in the benefits occur from increase in crop and tree product
growth of mango may occur when co-planted with yields and in the sustainability of these products.
casuarina or leucaena (Swaminathan, 2001). These benefits include:
Nature Environment and Pollution Technology ISSN: 0972-6268 Vol. 15 No. 2 pp. 000-0000 2016
An International Quarterly Scientific Journal

1. Improvement in rural living standards from adaptation and mitigation measures for creating
sustained employment and incomes. environmental secure options of carbon sequestration
2. Improvement in nutrition and health due to with multifunctional benefits from agroforestry.
increased quality and diversity of food
outputs. References:
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