Future use of bionet.agroforestry

Michael Hagen mhagen at mail.olympus.net
Fri Jan 31 12:00:37 EST 1997

John Skillman wrote:
> Agroforestry, as considered by the ICRAF (International Council for
> Research in Agroforestry) is a part of the agriculture-forestry
> continuum with interfaces between annual crops, trees, and often
> livestock.  This is one approach towards both sustainable agriculture
> and sustainable forestry.  Agroforestry is recognized as a high priority
> for agricultural research in tropical regions (ICRAF, 1988).
> The model agroforestry system which many people are familiar with is
> "traditional" coffee cultivation where the coffee shrubs are grown under
> trees.  The trees may be monospecific or may a mixture.  One outcome of
> research on this model system is that the greater the mixture of tree
> species grown in this managed system the more structurally complex it is
> and consequently the greater the number of non-plant species that can be
> found there.  There is evidence that these traditional coffee
> plantations serve as a biodiversity refuge (a place where the forest
> critters can escape to) as tropical forests are cleared.  An example of
> this with direct implications for North Americans is that many northern
> songbirds that migrate to the neotropics during the winter are thought
> to be declining partly as a result of changes taking place in how coffee
> is grown.  More and more coffee is grown in monoculture plantations (no
> trees) requiring greater inputs of fertilizer (fast growing sun plants
> require more nutrients then slow growing shade plants) and pesticides
> (forested coffee plantations presumably support greater numbers of birds
> and beneficial insects that keep the insect pests in check).  The
> scenario looks like this; (1) Tropical deforestation coupled with loss
> of "substitute" forest in the form of agroforested fields results in
> loss of habitat for migratory birds.  (2) Loss of migratory birds in
> North America leads to more outbreaks of insect pests increasing crop
> losses and insect mediated disease.  Of course the loss of the tree
> production in what had been a tropical agroforested field has many
> social and economic implications for the farmer/forester too.
> So yes, agroforestry is quite distinct from forestry as conventionally
> practiced in the US and Europe.  It is not about growing trees like a
> field crop but rather growing trees with field crops.  Consequently I
> suggest that individuals that are interested in forestry issues
> establish their own foretry newsgroup.

Well said!
1st point:  Several readers have e-mailed me to note that there just
isn't enough activity on this group to warrant splitting. Something in
the neighbohood of 100 votes are minimum a new Usenet group, and the
ratio must be better than 3:2 in favor. Frankly, my response has gone
the other way.
Second point:  Agroforestry as defined by Mr. Skillman, indeed seems to
be more wholistic and environmentally oriented than traditional Forestry
is often interpreted to be.  However, I would guess that there is a
range of activities within both fields which both just possibly meet and
overlap.  It could be that both partys have skills, science and
technology which would be of interest to each other.  Here in the
Pacific Northwest we have a bit of a problem with sorting out science
from politics, but even that might not be wasted information for other
regions, especially international, that have not yet reached our
position.  Continued discussion is just what we need. Why not do it
Mike Hagen

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