Most of the fertile land on this planet was covered in forests before human interference. Agroforestry systems aim to bring some of the benefits of forest ecosystems into agriculture.
The permanent root systems protect the soil from erosion and carbon loss and the conditions are good for mycorrhizal activity, resulting in carbon being stabilised in the soil as glomalin. Trees have a massive surface area and so more carbon can be drawn down from the atmosphere.
Ethnoagricultural evidence shows that forest gardening is not new. For example, Canadian indigenous tribes, previously thought to be hunter gtherers, are now known to have manipulated the forest ecosystems by planting crops within forests.
Silvopasture, silvoarable, forest farming and forest gardening are some of the different approaches to agroforestry described on the agroforestry research trust web page.
Here at Swansea Biochar we are establishing an agroforestry system known as alley cropping. Vegetables and other annual crops are grown in long beds flanked by rows of mixed trees. The trees produce food crops, fuel for the biochar heating systems, mulch material and they encourage arbuscular mycorrhizal fungae through ensuring the presence of roots throughout the year.
Willow, Alder, Hazel and other copice trees are grown here as coppicing encourages fast tree growth. Fruit trees, nut trees and other perennials such as comfrey and bamboo are also grown in these lines of trees.