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QUESTION: Discuss the use of agroforestry as a conservation practice under the following headings; i) Definition Agroforestry ii) Benefits

of Agroforestry iii) Drawbacks of Agroforestry

According to the World Agroforestry Centre, Agroforestry is a collective name for land use systems and practices in which woody perennials are deliberately integrated with crops and/or animals on the same land management unit. Agroforestry may also be defined as the term used to describe the cultivation of both trees and other agricultural food crops on the same piece of land at the same time (Organic Research Center: Eco-Agroforestry). This practice aims to grow trees and other agricultural products in a system that helps to preserve the environment and its resources (soil and its constituents) while providing a sustainable and diverse economic model for the landowner (Organic Research Center: Eco-Agroforestry). CHARACTERISTICS OF AGROFORESTRY Combines production on the same plot of land, from annual agricultural activities (such as crops and pasture) and from delayed long-term production by trees (for example timber and services). This is obtained by planting both trees and crops on agricultural land. According to the agroforestry research trust, there are four principal classifications within agroforestry, and these are; Silvopasture - introduces forage crops into a forest for animals to graze. Silvoarable which combines woods with traditional arable crops varieties that can thrive in deciduous forests to the increased light when foliage is gone? Forest farming - harvests high-yield crops, including specialty mushrooms such as shiitake, nuts, honey and forest fruits. Forest gardening - involves the cultivation of shrubs, flowers and perennial plants in a wooded setting. According to Rani, 2008, the benefits derived from agroforestry could be grouped into three main categories as; from the environmental perspective, from the forestry perspective and from the arable perspective. According to Agroforestry Research Trust, World Agroforestry Centre, and Organic Research Center: Eco-Agroforestry, there are numerous benefits from the practice of agroforestry. Aside the fact that the trees improve the atmosphere by releasing abundant oxygen, which aids in respiration or gaseous exchange between the plants and human, agroforestry has significant effects on the soils on which it is practiced; some of which benefits are;

1. The vegetation cover provided by the trees tends to reduce the direct impact of rain drop reducing the level of detachment, transport and deposition (erosion). 2. The roots of the trees bind the soil particles together thereby protecting the soil from the erosive effect of rain, runoff and wind thereby reducing losses of water, soil material, organic matter and nutrients. 3. The decomposition of tree litter and prunings can substantially contribute to the addition of organic matter to the soil which results in improvement in the soil particle cohesiveness or soil structure thereby reducing erosion and increasing the fertility status of the soil. This depends on an adequate proportion of trees in the system - normally at least 20% crown cover of trees to maintain organic matter over systems as a whole (Patish, Daizy Rani, 2008). 4. Nevertheless, the decomposition activities of the micro organisms on the plant parts that fall on the soil surface results in an increase in aeration due to the boring effects of some microbes that occur in the soil. 5. More so, the practicing of agroforestry help to smoother weeds since the trees provide shade over the weeds that compete with the main crops for water, nutrients and light, thereby kills the weeds. 6. They can check the development of soil toxicities, or reduce existing toxicities - both soil acidification and salinization can be checked, and trees can be employed in the reclamation of polluted soils. (The Springer Journal, "Agroforestry Systems" ISSN 15729680). 7. Agroforestry practices may use only 5% of the farming land area yet account for over 50% of the biodiversity, improving wildlife habitat and harbouring birds and beneficial insects which feed on crop pests that may attack the main crops. 8. Nitrogen-fixing trees & shrubs can substantially increase nitrogen inputs to agroforestry systems eventually adding ample nitrogen into the soil (Patish, Daizy Rani, 2008). 9. The branches of the trees serve as wind breaks to the main crops thereby preventing them from being uprooted by strong wind. 10. In the case where livestock or animals are involved, their droppings add to the fertility status of the soil as well as an increase in the soils organic matter content. 11. The fallen leaves of the plants serve as mulch and help regulate the temperature of the soil, add organic matter upon decay, which improves the structure as well as the water holding capacity and infiltration of the soil thereby ensuring a continuous availability of

water for the crops growth and development, resulting in higher yield, and maximum profit on the part of the farmer (Dupriez, H. de Leener, 2007).

Despite these benefits, agroforestry has some drawbacks, problems or disadvantages making its practice not employed by some farmers. Some of these drawbacks are; 1. The management of the land in question is difficult since with such diverse use, the day-to-day farming issues are far more complex than in a straight forestry operation or monoculture farm. 2. In addition, the trees have deep rooted systems which results in competition with the smaller crops for light, water and nutrients from the soil leading to reduced yields. 3.The use of farm machines is more difficult in the confined space of a forest making agroforestry a boring system. 4. The trees become habitats for birds and other animals which may feed on the main crops reducing total crop yield and ultimately, the income of the farmer. 5. Since the trees are normally taller than the main crops, the trees provide shade over the main crops thereby depriving them from receiving enough sunshine to carry out their photosynthetic activities. 6. The branches of the tall trees when broken may fall on the main crops leading to destruction of the main crops. 7. Nonetheless, the trees become alternative host for pest and diseases which may affect the crops leading to poor yield, crop failure and low profit.

REFERENCES 1. USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC) 2. Agroforestry Research Trust 3. Patish, Daizy Rani, ed (2008). Ecological basis of agroforestry. CRC Press. ISBN 9781420043273. 4. The Springer Journal, "Agroforestry Systems" (ISSN 1572-9680) [2]; Editor-InChief: Prof. Shibu Jose, H.E. Garrett Endowed Professor and Director, The Center for Agroforestry, University of Missouri 5. 6.