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The Status, Opportunities and Needs for Agroforestry in the United States


Edited by
Miles L. Merwin

Association for Temperate Agroforestry

H.E. "Gene" Garrett, President
School of Natural Resources
University of Missouri
Columbia, Missouri


I. Executive Summary

II. Background, Purpose and Acknowledgements

III. Agroforestry Concepts and Practices

   Key Characteristics of Agroforestry Systems

   Current Status of Agroforestry Systems

   Agroforestry and Farm Management Planning

   Practices Which Are Not Agroforestry

IV. Issues, Needs and Recommendations

   Applicability of Agroforestry

   Sustainability Issues

   Landowner Adoption

   Needs, Opportunities and Recommendations

V. Summaries of Regional Assessments




   Northern Great Plains

   Southern Great Plains


   Pacific Northwest


   Pacific Islands

Literature Cited & Notes


AFTA defines agroforestry as an intensive land management system that optimizes the benefits from the biological interactions created when trees and/or shrubs are deliberately combined with crops and/or livestock. There are five basic types of agroforestry practices today in the US: windbreaks, alley cropping, silvopasture, riparian buffers and forest farming. Within each agro- forestry practice, there is a continuum of options available to landowners depending o­n their own goals (e.g., whether to maximize the production of interplanted crops, animal forage, or trees).

Landowner Adoption

Farmers, ranchers, and foresters may not recognize particular practices as "agroforestry" even though they make use of them (e.g., field windbreaks to protect crops). Agroforestry is a set of practices integrated into larger land use systems. It is not a product or commodity. As a part of integrated land use management systems, agroforestry is relevant to the sustainable production of a wide variety of agricultural commodities, as well as the production of high-value specialty products.

Economic gain is the primary motivating factor in the adoption of agroforestry in the US. The decision whether or not to adopt an agroforestry practice depends o­n the decision maker's perception of how that practice compares with alternative land use options. To be acceptable, agroforestry practices must offer (1) at least as much income potential, without significantly greater risk, compared to other market-driven land uses, or (2) better prospects for solving a particular conservation problem compared to other practices that do not involve tree planting. While economics are often paramount in the decision to adopt o­ne land use practice over another, social and aesthetic considerations may also be important to the landowner. The relative weighting of economic, social and other factors will vary among landowners depending o­n the size of the farming or forestry enterprise, the level of production intensity, proximity to markets, and whether it is a full or part-time activity.

Research and Development

To advance agroforestry in the US, research is needed both o­n basic, process-level questions and o­n applied management techniques that are appropriate for commercial farm or forest operations. While basic research may, for example, investigate the long-term biological interactions between the components of an agroforestry practice, applied research should seek to maximize the tangible short and intermediate term benefits. Agroforestry practices should be tailored to readily integrate into existing farming or forestry enterprises, minimize the displacement of existing crops, use equipment and technical skills that are readily available, and allow some harvesting of products within conservation agroforestry practices (e.g., hardwood timber from riparian buffer strips). There is the potential to expand the participation of state, community and junior colleges, through their agriculture and forestry programs, in agroforestry research.

The greatest research need is to develop farm-level analyses of the potential economic costs, benefits, and risks associated with agroforestry practices. This information is a vital prerequisite to the objective comparison of both production-and conservation-driven agroforestry practices with alternative land use options. Furthermore, attention should be given to evaluations of future price trends in regional, national and international markets for commodities that can be produced using agroforestry (e.g., hardwood lumber or high-value, wind-sensitive crops). Research o­n tree-crop-animal-environment interactions should be pursued to provide a scientific basis for optimizing agroforestry designs.

Information and Technology Development

Technical information must be developed locally or regionally for application within that region. Information which is too general or which is based o­n studies conducted in dissimilar regions or climate zones is not likely to convince landowners to adopt agroforestry practices, or provide relevant skills and knowledge to ensure their success. o­n-farm demonstrations and field days are key to the understanding and appreciation of agroforestry practices by landowners. Education and training in agroforestry are needed both for natural resource professionals and college students.

In addition to the traditional model for the transfer of technology from researcher to extension agent to practitioner, landowners should have greater involvement in all phases of this process. With the assistance of research and extension personnel, local groups of landowners may analyze their own needs for agroforestry development, conduct o­n-farm experiments under real-life conditions, and then choose the practices most appropriate for their individual properties. Rather than accusing landowners of causing environmental degradation, they should be approached from a "win-win" perspective. Emphasis should be placed o­n participatory decision-making including landowner advisory groups. Research and information development should focus o­n agroforestry practices that afford economic opportunities, increase production efficiency, and provide cost-effective and pro-active solutions to conservation problems.

Public Policy

Public policy at the national and state levels impacts private land use decisions, including the adoption and use of agroforestry. Whether intentional or not, federal or state regulations may discourage landowners from adopting agroforestry practices for fear of loss of agricultural transfer payments, or government-imposed restrictions o­n their farming or forestry operation. Likewise, forest practice laws and regulations in some states may prohibit animal grazing. Government regulations which negatively impact agroforestry should be reviewed. Agroforestry can be a useful tool in developing voluntary and flexible approaches that enable landowners to comply with environmental quality guidelines.

Federal and, where available, state cost-share funding is perhaps the most important incentive for the adoption of farm conservation practices, including protective forms of agroforestry. It is vital to maintain and if possible expand the availability of public cost-share funding for conservation agroforestry practices. Financial incentives should be combined with flexible guidelines for the management of conservation practices by landowners. For example, riparian buffer strips can protect surface waterways by filtering sediment, chemicals and nutrients from cropland runoff, but most of their benefits will accrue downstream of the landowner who pays for their establishment. Allowing periodic harvest by coppicing trees (e.g., poplar) in riparian buffers not o­nly provides a return to the landowner, but also is necessary for maintaining the optimal filtration capacity of the buffer.


The future advancement of agroforestry in the US must proceed at the state, regional and national levels. The principal focus of activity should be at the state or regional level where agroforestry groups (e.g., the Minnesota Agroforestry Coalition) help to coordinate research and outreach activities among universities, government agencies, private groups, and practitioners. At the national level, groups such as AFTA can help increase communication among researchers, extension advisors and regional agroforestry groups. Federal programs such as the National Agroforestry Center should continue to support research, disseminate information to resource professionals, and import overseas agroforestry techniques which may be adaptable to the US.


This national report seeks to build upon two previous documents o­n temperate agroforestry in the US published by the Association for Temperate Agroforestry (AFTA). In February 1994, AFTA published the report of a committee assembled to assess the potential for agroforestry in the US as part of the Resource Conservation Act appraisal for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service1. The document defined five temperate agroforestry practices, examined the potential acreage for agroforestry in the US, discussed the ecological and economic benefits of agroforestry, described federal support available for agroforestry, and made recommendations o­n how to advance agroforestry o­n a national level. Later that year, AFTA published the report of a workshop held in Nebraska City, Nebraska2. That report made specific recommendations related to public policy, interagency cooperation, establishment of a national agroforestry center, and funding needs for research and development.

This national report by AFTA is a synthesis of nine regional assessments of the status of agroforestry that were prepared for the USDA National Agroforestry Center (see Figure 1). The authors of each regional assessment compiled the following information: (1) description (general climate, soils and land capability); (2) environmental problems which agroforestry may help mitigate; (3) sustainability concerns; (4) status of agroforestry practices; (5) needs and opportunities for agroforestry; and (6) specific recommendations o­n actions to advance agroforestry. The regional reports were prepared by agency or academic authors and are based o­n literature reviews, personal observations, and in some cases, opinion surveys of resource professionals and practitioners. Some of the assessments were presented at the Agroforestry and Sustainable Systems Symposium held in 19943.

Agroforestry Assessment Regions

The definition of agroforestry, a summary of the key components that distinguish agroforestry from other farm tree planting practices, and an overview of the five main types of temperate agroforestry practices and their current status in the US appear in Section III.

The findings of the regional assessment authors were then consolidated in a national overview of issues, needs and recommendations related to agroforestry (Section IV). The purpose of the synthesis is (1) to identify common problems and needs across regions, and (2) to help prioritize efforts at the national and regional levels to address the needs for agroforestry research, development and technical information.

The major findings from the agroforestry assessments are summarized by region in Section V. All of the authors identified socioeconomic as well as environmental factors affecting future sustainability; these are combined in the "Sustainability Issues" section. The authors discussed the current status of agroforestry practices as implemented in their region. They also cited other uses of trees o­n farms which are not complete agroforestry practices; these are not included in the regional summaries. Factors affecting landowner willingness to adopt agroforestry practices were mentioned by most authors and are reported in the regional summaries. Identified needs, opportunities and recommendations are divided into five general categories to facilitate comparisons among regions: (1) research and development, (2) economics and marketing, (3) policy and funding, (4) education and training, and (5) information and technology development.

AFTA wishes to express its gratitude to the National Agroforestry Center for providing editorial and production assistance, and to the following reviewers who provided valuable comments during the preparation of this report: H.E. ‘Gene' Garrett, Bill Rietveld, Bruce Wight, Michael Gold, Joe Colletti, Catalino Blanche, Louise Buck, Deborah Hill, and Peter Williams. AFTA also wishes to acknowledge the outstanding work of the regional assessment authors in preparing comprehensive and insightful reviews of the status of agroforestry, and for reviewing the summaries of their assessments prepared for this report. Copies of the complete text of the regional assessments may be obtained from the USDA National Agroforestry Center (East Campus-UNL, Lincoln, NE 68583-0822).


Agroforestry is an intensive land management system that optimizes the benefits from the biological interactions created when trees and/or shrubs are deliberately combined with crops and/ or animals4.

The benefits created by agroforestry practices are both economic and environmental. Agroforestry can increase farm profitability in several ways: (1) the total output per unit area of tree/ crop/livestock combinations is greater than any single component alone, (2) crops and livestock protected from the damaging effects of wind are more productive, and (3) new products add to the financial diversity and flexibility of the farming enterprise. Agroforestry helps to conserve and protect natural resources by, for example, mitigating non-point source pollution, controlling soil erosion, and creating wildlife habitat. The benefits of agroforestry add up to a substantial improvement of the economic and resource sustainability of agriculture.

Key Traits of Agroforestry Practices

Agroforestry practices are intentional combinations of trees with crops and/or livestock which involve intensive management of the interactions between the components as an integrated agro- ecosystem. These four key characteristics - intentional, intensive, interactive and integrated - are the essence of agroforestry and are what distinguish it from other farming or forestry practices. To be called agroforestry, a land use practice must satisfy all of the following four criteria:

Intentional: Combinations of trees, crops and/or animals are intentionally designed and managed as a whole unit, rather than as individual elements which may occur in close proximity but are controlled separately.

Intensive: Agroforestry practices are intensively managed to maintain their productive and protective functions, and often involve annual operations such as cultivation, fertilization and irrigation.

Interactive: Agroforestry management seeks to actively manipulate the biological and physical interactions between the tree, crop and animal components. The goal is to enhance the production of more than o­ne harvestable component at a time, while also providing conservation benefits such as non-point source water pollution control or wildlife habitat.

Integrated: The tree, crop and/or animal components are structurally and functionally combined into a single, integrated management unit. Integration may be horizontal or vertical, and above- or below-ground. Such integration utilizes more of the productive capacity of the land and helps to balance economic production with resource conservation.

Current Status of Agroforestry Practices

A wide range of agroforestry combinations may be grouped into five basic types of practices: (1) alley cropping, (2) windbreaks, (3) riparian buffer strips, (4) silvopasture, and (5) forest farming. The characteristics of each practice and their current status of development in the US are discussed below.

Alley Cropping: This practice combines trees, planted in single or grouped rows, with agricultural or horticultural crops which are cultivated in the wide alleys between the tree rows. High-value hardwoods such as oak, walnut, and ash are typically grown in alley cropping combinations. Annual crops (e.g., row crops, forages and vegetables) cultivated between rows of nut or fruit trees (e.g., black walnut) provide extra income before the trees come into bearing and early in the long-term timber rotation. Depending o­n tree spacing, Christmas tree plantations may be interplanted with annual crops. Alternatively, short rotation woody crops or Christmas trees may be interplanted within plantations of longer-rotation timber trees.

Alley cropping or intercropping of tree plantations and orchards is common o­nly in the Pacific Islands, but is also practiced in the Midwest and somewhat in the Southwest, South and Northeast.

Windbreaks: Windbreaks are planted and managed as part of a crop or livestock operation to enhance crop production, protect livestock, and control soil erosion. Field windbreaks are used to protect a variety of wind-sensitive row, tree and vine crops, to control wind erosion, and to provide other benefits such as improved bee pollination of crops and wildlife habitat. Feedlot windbreaks help reduce animal mortality, feed and water consumption, and odor. Windbreaks can function as living snow fences to help with water management by dispersing snow more evenly across cropland. A special type of multi-row windbreak ("timberbelt") is managed both to protect crops or livestock o­n a continuous basis, and to produce timber or biomass.

Windbreaks are most prominent in the Great Plains, although they are used in every part of the country. The Northeast is the o­nly region where windbreaks are generally declining in importance. Feedlot windbreaks are particularly important in the Great Plains, Northwest, and Intermountain regions.

Riparian Buffer Strips: Riparian buffers consist of strips of perennial vegetation (tree/ shrub/grass) planted between cropland or pastures and streams, lakes, wetlands, ponds, or drainage ditches. They are managed to reduce runoff and non-point source pollution from agricultural activities o­n adjacent lands by trapping sediment, filtering excess nutrients, and degrading pesticides. They can also stabilize streambanks, protect floodplains, enhance aquatic and terrestrial habitat, improve landscape appearance, provide harvestable products, and function as a windbreak in some situations.

Interest in riparian buffer strips (also known as filter strips, riparian forest buffers and vegetative buffer strips) is growing in all areas of the US, particularly the Northeast, Midwest and Northwest. However, not all riparian areas currently without woody vegetation are actually in need of tree and shrub planting (e.g., in the Northern Great Plains).

Silvopasture: This practice combines trees with forage (pasture or hay) and livestock production. The overstory tree component provides shade and wind shelter, thereby protecting livestock from temperature stresses. In plantations of softwood or hardwood trees managed for timber or Christmas trees, grazing provides a source of income during the early years of the rotation. Some nut (e.g., black walnut) and fruit orchards may also be grazed to produce income before the trees begin bearing. Silvopasture is different from traditional forest or range management because it is intentionally created and intensively managed.

Silvopasture is important in the South and is also found in the Midwest. In the Northeast, some woodlots and orchards incorporate rotational grazing with dairy sheep or fallow deer.

Forest Farming: This practice utilizes a forested area for producing specialty crops which are sold for medicinal, ornamental or culinary uses. Shade tolerant crops such as ginseng, decorative ferns or shiitake mushrooms are intensively cultivated under a forest cover that has been modified to provide the correct level of shade. Suitable understory crops are those that grow naturally under forest conditions, or are adaptable to the edaphic and microclimatic conditions of the site. Forest farming can provide annual/regular income either before, or as an alternative to, harvesting the trees for wood products.

Forest farming is rapidly gaining interest and economic importance in all regions of the US, except the Great Plains and Intermountain.

Tropical Agroforestry Practices in the US

Two traditional, tropical agroforestry practices are unique, within the US and its territories, to the Pacific Islands. Shifting cultivation, or swidden, has been practiced since the earliest island settlers and can be sustainable provided the fallow period is sufficiently long.

Multilayer forest gardens are another common tropical agroforestry practice in the Pacific. They combine a permanent overstory of tall trees, a lower canopy of fruit and multipurpose trees, and an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants to produce a variety of products for subsistence and sale.

Agroforestry and Farm Management

The implementation of agroforestry allows landowners much flexibility to design land management practices that satisfy their individual objectives and planning horizons. Emphasis may be placed either o­n production or conservation goals, although agroforestry practices combine elements of both. Because agroforestry practices are a continuum between agriculture and forestry, landowners can manage them to maximize the production of interplanted crops, animal forage or trees. Agroforestry may be used o­nly during a limited time period as part of farm or forestry management (e.g., to generate income from grazing during the early years of a long-rotation tree plantation), or as a long-term sustainable farming system.

Farm management (or whole farm) planning is an important first step to incorporating agroforestry practices in a farming or forestry enterprise. Agroforestry involves managing trees o­n a long-term basis (e.g., for timber or windbreaks); therefore they need to be planted in the right place the first time. Farm management planning usually entails several phases, including (1) setting business and personal goals, (2) evaluation of the farm's existing natural features, improvements, crops produced, and financial condition, (3) identification of additional or alternative farm enterprises, and (4) determination of priorities for implementation. The planning process helps to identify which agroforestry practices have the greatest potential economic and conservation benefit for a particular property, and where they can be implemented to complement, rather than compete with, other farming practices.

Practices Which Are Not Agroforestry

A variety of other practices currently used in the US may appear to be agroforestry, but do not meet all four of the basic criteria for agroforestry practices. Either they are not deliberately planned and intensively managed, or they do not involve integrated combinations of trees, crops and/or animals whose interactions are consciously manipulated and enhanced. In no way does such a distinction imply that these practices are less viable than agroforestry; it is o­nly intended to more clearly delineate the functional boundaries of agroforestry in the US. Some examples of practices which are not agroforestry are listed below.

Forest and Orchard Grazing: Livestock grazing of native forests and plantations is practiced in all regions of the US. However, it is often opportunistic, rather than part of a deliberate, intensive effort to produce both animals and trees (e.g., when cattle or sheep are used simply to clear brush before trees are planted). In open rangeland, trees may be incidental to, and not an active part of, livestock management. Fruit orchards may also be grazed intermittently for weed control, but unless combined livestock and fruit production is intended, this practice is not agroforestry.

Farmstead Windbreaks: Windbreak buildings improve living conditions of rural dwellers by reducing heating costs, dust, and noise. In areas with harsh winters, trees are planted specifically to protect rural roads from blowing snow and thereby reduce snow removal costs. However, they are not considered agroforestry since, unlike field or feedlot windbreaks, they are not an integrated part of agricultural production.

Special Forest Products: Gathering of naturally-occurring special forest products from forestland is increasing in many areas of the US. Special forest products include, for example, wild medicinal plants, craft materials, floral greens, and wild mushrooms. In contrast, forest farming involves the planting and intensive cultivation of specialty understory crops in a manipulated forest environment.

Farm Woodlots: Farm woodlots are planted or native stands of trees managed for a variety of wood (e.g., fuelwood, timber, posts, and poles) and non-wood (e.g., honey) products. Fast-growing hardwoods have been established in large, single species plantations which are intensively managed for pulpwood or biomass fuel. However, when these practices do not actively incorporate crop or livestock production, they are not considered agroforestry.

Table 1. Characteristics of temperate agroforestry practices that have current or potential importance in the US*

Agroforestry Practice Practitioner's Goals Design and Management Criteria Time


Regional importance


Farmer: increased income from better crop yield & quality; soil erosion control minimize crop displacement, maximize area of wind protection, fast-growing trees, seasonality of problem winds, reduce tree competition with crop for water & nutrients multi-year all

(less so NE)



Rancher: increased production & reduced mortality of livestock minimize width, maximize amount of wind reduction, fast-growing trees, seasonality of problem winds, control impact of animals o­n tree growth & survival multi-year NW, NGP, SGP
Silvopasture: tree emphasis Forest Landowner: extra/early income from livestock production; weed control close-spacing of trees, maximize tree growth, tree protection needed, thinning & pruning of trees for wood quality, forest management to promote understory forage, control impact of animals o­n tree growth & survival early in tree rotation PI, SGP, MW, S
Silvopasture: animal emphasis Rancher: increase animal production with shade, shelter and fodder from trees, extra income from timber maintain pasture & fodder tree growth, thinning & pruning of trees for pasture growth, fodder yield & palatability, wide spacing of tree rows, manage shading & root competition that reduces pasture growth annual & multi-year PI, SGP, MW, S
Alley Croppingtree emphasis Forest Landowner: extra/early income from interplanted crops; weed control close tree spacing, intercropping o­nly during early years, reduce competition of crops with trees for water & nutrients early in tree rotation PI, SW, MW, S, NE
Alley Croppingcrop emphasis Farmer: extra income from long-term timber crop wide spacing of tree rows, maintain crops longer in rotation, tree thinning & pruning to increase crop growth & wood quality annual & multi-year PI, SW, MW, S, NE


Farmer: reduce NPS pollution and sediment (compliance); fee hunting from game species minimum displacement of crops, minimum width for buffering effectiveness, crop &/or tree harvesting within buffer, cost of fencing to exclude livestock, loss of grazing land multi-year NGP, SW, NW, MW, NE
Forest Farming Forest Landowner: extra/early income from cultivated understory crops thinning or clearing of trees to enhance understory crop cultivation; intensive management annual & multi-year PI, SW, NW, MW, S, NE

*Regional abbreviations: IM-Intermountain, MW-Midwest, NE-Northeast, NGP-Northern Great Plains, NW-Northwest, PI-Pacific Islands, S -South, SGP-Southern Great Plains, SW-Southwest.


Applicability of Agroforestry

Based o­n the environmental diversity reflected in the regional assessments, it is clear that o­ne or more agroforestry practices can be implemented anywhere within the continental US and its Pacific island territories. Climate, soils, and land capability do not pose absolute restrictions o­n tree and shrub planting. Within each region, locally adapted species and appropriate establishment techniques are used for agroforestry plantings.

Nevertheless, climatic and edaphic conditions are important limiting factors o­n tree establishment in some regions (e.g., Intermountain, Northern and Southern Great Plains). In some areas within those regions, the choice of species is more restricted due to harsh environmental conditions. Not o­nly is the need for protective plantings such as windbreaks greater in these areas, but the cost to establish trees and shrubs also will be higher than in locations where milder environmental conditions prevail.

Because of the extra costs associated with irrigation, alley cropping and silvopasture may be more economically viable in areas of the US that normally receive sufficient rainfall to support both trees and crops together. However, the availability of low-cost water (e.g., municipal or industrial wastewater) for irrigation may make these practices possible in drier climate zones.

Riparian buffer strips can be established along any stream or river with sufficient soil moisture to support perennial woody vegetation. Even in areas affected by brackish water or saline soil, adaptable species can be identified for buffer plantings.

Forest farming can be practiced wherever there is sufficient forest cover, and edaphic and climatic conditions are suitable, for the cultivation of shade-tolerant understory crops. Higher rainfall areas of the country are likely to be more suitable for forest farming compared to regions with low rainfall and high potential evapotranspiration. However, high crop values can offset irrigation costs.

Sustainability Issues

Natural Resource and Environment

Four natural resource sustainability issues were cited as being critical in every region of the US: soil erosion, water quality, wildlife habitat, and riparian zones. All areas of the US are subject to soil erosion by water or wind, and erosion control is o­ne of the primary reasons for conservation agroforestry practices. The quality of both surface and ground water resources is a major issue in all regions. The primary concern is non-point source pollution, i.e., sediment, nutrients, chemicals and animal wastes, resulting from agriculture, industry, and communities. The loss of biodiversity and declining populations of bird, animal, and fish species resulting from terrestrial and aquatic habitat destruction is an issue nationwide. A major contributing factor in the degradation of water quality and loss of wildlife habitat throughout the nation is the clearing of vegetation from riparian areas.

Several other environmental problems cited in the assessments have regional significance. Concerns about the impacts of farming operations o­n air quality (e.g., dust, soil particulates, and odor) are important in the Southwest, Northern and Southern Great Plains, and Midwest. Also in the Midwest, issues related to the reclamation of surface coal minelands and regeneration of native hardwood species are important. Other regional problems include the impacts of farming o­n natural playa lakes in the Southern Great Plains, the spread of invasive non-native plants in the Southwest, and the decline of aquifers used for irrigation and drinking water supplies in the Southern Great Plains.


Four socioeconomic issues are of nationwide importance: urban encroachment o­n rural areas, farm demographics, declining rural economies, and public land management. In all regions, except the Great Plains and the Pacific, the expansion of cities into rural areas is occurring at a rapid pace. This "urbanization" process creates both challenges and opportunities for farming, ranching and forestry. A national trend in farm demographics is changing the priorities for agroforestry research and technology development: fewer, but larger farms account for a high proportion of total agricultural production, while the number of small, part-time, or "lifestyle" farms is growing. At the same time, the strength of rural, resource-based economies has weakened, particularly in parts of the West dependent o­n timber harvests from public lands. This has resulted in part from conflicts over the management of public lands, which has a proportionally greater impact in regions where large acreages are publicly owned.

Several other socioeconomic issues affecting sustainability mentioned by authors of the regional assessments also have national relevance. Health problems of native populations resulting from dietary changes is a concern in the Pacific Islands and the Southwest. The economic impacts of geographic isolation and the transition from subsistence to market-based economies are major issues facing the Pacific Islands. Farmworker health and food safety were important issues mentioned in several regions. The cost and availability of energy was cited as a concern in two regions (Intermountain, Southern Great Plains), although it also affects every region of the country. Likewise, although the impact of the global economy and NAFTA o­n agriculture was mentioned o­nly in o­ne region (Intermountain), this of course has national relevance.

Landowner Adoption

If agroforestry practices have such promising economic, environmental and social benefits, why are they not practiced more widely today in the US? Many of the authors of the regional assessments cited a variety of factors which affect the adoption of agroforestry practices by private landowners. Some have regional significance, while others are valid considerations throughout the US. An understanding of both the motivations for, and constraints against, adoption of particular land use practices is necessary to better tailor research and education programs.

A general observation mentioned by several authors is that most private landowners are not familiar with the term "agroforestry," although they may recognize land use practices that fall within the definition (e.g., windbreaks or riparian buffer strips). Extension advisors and other land use professionals are more likely to have heard the term "agroforestry," although they tend to associate it with a particular land use practice in their region rather than as a suite of different practices. In some cases, landowners or professionals associate agroforestry with practices which are controversial or which they actively discourage (e.g., uncontrolled forest grazing). Lack of recognition of the general term "agroforestry" by practitioners may not necessarily be a cause for concern since technical and financial assistance programs would more likely focus o­n specific agroforestry practices (e.g., alley cropping). Whether or not a particular land use practice is seen by the landowner as "agroforestry," a number of factors affect their willingness to adopt that practice.

An important element of landowner adoption cited by some of the regional assessment authors pertains to the size and commercial intensity of farms. Owners of large, "industrial" farms, small sustainable/organic farms, and part-time or hobby farms each have a different set of priorities for land management. Larger farming operators are more likely to be concerned primarily with short-term profit potential while small farming operators may be more interested in environmental or aesthetic benefits which do not necessarily generate cash returns. Therefore, different agroforestry practices may appeal, for different reasons, to these distinct groups of landowners.

Reasons for Adoption

Economic gain was cited as the most important reason why landowners may adopt an agroforestry practice. Opportunities to profitably produce a marketable product through production-driven agroforestry, to generate income during the early years of a long-term tree rotation, and to diversify farm income with supplemental products are all primary motivating factors.

Government incentive programs to reduce out-of-pocket costs for the establishment of some conservation-oriented agroforestry practices are a major reason for their adoption. The importance of government assistance varies by region and by program. For example, federal cost-share programs are used in almost o­ne-half of all tree planting o­n non-industrial private forestland in the South, while relatively little agroforestry planting has resulted from public cost-share funding in the Northeast. Some states also provide cost-share incentives for particular agroforestry practices.

The need to mitigate an environmental problem (e.g., damaging winds) is another important reason for agroforestry adoption. The underlying motivation may be to increase income by improving the conditions for plant or animal growth, or it may be for the sake of conserving a vital resource (e.g., erodible soil). As a corollary to environmental mitigation, the fear of government regulation, which imposes restrictions o­n land use, may motivate some landowners to adopt them pro-actively.

For some landowners, although certainly not most, the principal reasons for adopting an agroforestry practice may be non-economic. Land uses which provide aesthetic, recreational, environmental and/or domestic use benefits are attractive, particularly to landowners who do not need to earn their entire living from the land.

Constraints to Adoption

Counter balancing the positive reasons that landowners adopt agroforestry practices are a number of negative factors which may discourage adoption. The constraints mentioned in the regional assessments may be categorized within four broad categories: economic, land management, information and technology development, and public policy.

Just as economic factors may be the main reasons for a landowner's decision to use an agroforestry practice, they may be paramount considerations in the decision not to use agroforestry. Other alternative land uses may offer more potential profit with a shorter waiting period and with less risk in established markets than do production oriented agroforestry practices. Reliable farm-level cost/benefit analyses are often lacking for agroforestry. Capital for start-up and operating costs for new or untested practices may be difficult to obtain. The perceived high cost of establishment of agroforestry practices was mentioned by several authors as the over-riding constraint to adoption (e.g., extra irrigation costs necessary to establish trees in a harsh environment). The lack of, or restrictions o­n, government cost-share funding is an important disincentive for conservation agroforestry.

Agroforestry adoption may also be constrained by factors related to land management. Trees and shrubs may be seen to interfere with farming operations (e.g., aerial spraying or equipment movement), to compete excessively with crops for limited resources (e.g., water), or to displace valuable cropland. o­n-farm trials of agroforestry practices may yield disappointing results or prove incompatible with existing cropping patterns, which dissuades the landowner from larger-scale adoption. Land tenure is also an issue because tenant farmers are not likely to be able to invest in practices that take a long time to yield economic or other benefits. Other alternative practices (e.g., residue management or crop rotation) may be seen as more effective than tree planting in improving agricultural productivity and sustainability.

The lack of practical, locally-relevant information o­n the economics and management of agroforestry practices often discourages their adoption. Without printed information, agroforestry-literate extension advice, o­n-farm demonstrations, or experience of other local farmers, many landowners are not convinced that agroforestry is a proven land use option. Agroforestry practices may require unfamiliar management skills, additional labor, or customized services which are not locally available. There may be conflicting or erratic promotion of agroforestry among and within public agencies. With the exception of some growers' associations that produce specialty crops, there is no well-organized, grass roots support or beneficiary group which promotes agroforestry o­n behalf of its farmer-members, as do many commodity-centered farm associations and marketing cooperatives.

Public policy may directly or indirectly affect rural land use, and some policies contain disincentives to agroforestry adoption. For example, forest practice regulations or taxation policies may discourage forest grazing. The current Conservation Reserve Program restricts active management of planted hardwoods, thereby eliminating agroforestry as an option. Rural landowners are also at a disadvantage regarding legislation affecting them due to the concentration of political power in urban areas. As o­ne author noted, institutional policies may discourage long-term interdisciplinary research o­n innovative agroforestry practices.

Needs and Recommendations

The regional assessments identified a variety of needs and opportunities to advance agroforestry research and development. Some needs were voiced by several authors, while others pertain primarily to individual regions. Many general and specific recommendations for action were also proposed. General recommendations are integrated in the following summary of needs and opportunities (refer to the summaries of the individual regional assessments in Section V for more specific recommendations).

Research and Development

There was a unanimous call by the authors for more research o­n agroforestry. To help overcome the information gap in agroforestry, research should be regional and site-specific so that landowners do not have to rely o­n results from other, dissimilar regions. Both applied and basic research are needed, especially programs that extend across a geographic region to show where and under what circumstances particular agroforestry practices are likely to succeed. Given the nature of agroforestry, research needs to be long-term and interdisciplinary. Because the objectives of large corporate farms and small family farms may be different, approaches to research should accommodate those differences. In the Pacific Islands, research is needed that integrates traditional, subsistence agroforestry practices with modern, market-driven practices.

Among specific topics for research, the greatest need is for research which quantifies the direct and indirect economic costs, benefits, and risks of agroforestry practices for specific regions and applications. Research is needed o­n ways that landowners can realize some income from land devoted to conservation-oriented agroforestry. For example, cropping or selective harvesting of trees within riparian buffers may be compatible with maintaining the filtering capability of the buffer strip. Research is needed o­n low-cost, fast-growing windbreaks that displace a minimum amount of cropland but still provide adequate shelter.

For silvopasture, additional livestock management research is needed o­n techniques to reduce the impact of trampling and browsing o­n trees and soils. For alley cropping, research is needed to select crop species which are complementary to the trees, and o­n crop cultural practices that reduce injuries to tree roots or trunks (i.e., which may degrade wood quality). The selection and improvement of plant materials for agroforestry requires long-term work, but is critical to maximizing the potential for economic gain from agroforestry.

Economics and Marketing

Because economic considerations are often the most important consideration leading to landowner adoption of agroforestry practices, most authors placed a high priority o­n farm-level financial and economic studies. Similar to the budgets routinely prepared by extension economists for the production of field and orchard crops, real data are needed o­n the expected costs and returns from production-driven agroforestry practices. More attention should be given to the development of domestic and export markets for agroforestry products, and marketing intermediaries between producers and consumers (e.g., marketing associations representing growers of forest farming products).

For conservation-oriented agroforestry practices, many authors recommended a more thorough accounting of the value of "externalities" of agroforestry practices (e.g., the economic, environmental and social benefits associated with the amelioration of non-point source pollution). These non-product benefits of agroforestry need to be quantified, such as lowering heating and cooling costs, reducing airborne dust and fine particulates from wind-erodible farmland, maintaining water quality, and enhancing wildlife habitat. This information would allow farm managers to evaluate the trade-offs between o­n-farm practices and off-farm effects, and could encourage adoption of some agroforestry practices. It would also help policy makers determine who should pay for, and who gains from, the benefits of conservation practices implemented o­n private lands.

Education and Training

All regional assessments identified a need for training of extension, agency, and technical personnel so they will better understand the potential benefits, costs, and limitations of agroforestry practices, and know under what circumstances to recommend them to landowners. Cooperation among agencies in training workshops is an important element in coordinated efforts aimed toward the goal of increasing landowner adoption. o­ne author suggested that training in sales techniques is needed for extension advisors. College-level course curricula should be developed which covers both theoretical and applied, region-specific aspects of agroforestry.

Information and Technology Development

Coupled with the currently inadequate state of technical assistance in agroforestry, the regional assessments identified the need for quantitative information o­n agroforestry practices that is regionally and locally relevant. Guides to agroforestry information sources, resource packets for libraries and extension offices, and computerized "expert" systems would benefit both landowners and public agency advisors. Beyond printed information, a powerful tool for conveying technical information is o­n-farm demonstration sites. Most authors placed a high priority o­n the development of applied agroforestry demonstrations that can be utilized for field days and seminars. Technology development is aided by "turn-key" custom services (e.g., tree planting) that private entrepreneurs or conservation districts provide for landowners.

Most authors expressed the need to improve communication about agroforestry with farmers, foresters, ranchers and other groups. Many landowners are unfamiliar with the term "agroforestry," and factual information is needed to counter negative perceptions associated with particular practices. Where concrete data are lacking, the authors cautioned that the potential benefits of agroforestry should not be oversold. Partnerships with stakeholder organizations can improve communication about agroforestry and coordinate joint efforts behind informational or demonstration projects. Information o­n suitable agroforestry practices should also be directed toward suburban homeowners (e.g., home or subdivision shelterbelts), and native American tribes (e.g., tree crops for dietary improvement). The rural/urban interface is an ideal location to demonstrate the benefits of agroforestry.

Public Policy and Funding

Public land use policies and the availability of financial incentives can either be a major contributor or deterrent to the adoption of agroforestry. Government regulations and taxation policies that discourage agroforestry need to be examined (e.g., restrictions o­n income from timber crops o­n lands enrolled in CRP). Several authors stressed the importance of federal leadership for agroforestry development through the National Agroforestry Center, specifically including an ecosystem- based approach to land management, coordination of contact points for landowner assistance among different agencies, and establishment of regional research programs. Most authors identified cost-share funding, mainly from federal but also from some state programs, as a critical factor in the establishment of conservation types of agroforestry. However, concern was expressed over the future availability of government cost-share funds for agroforestry, given the current federal budget reallocations. A need was identified for targeted funding to support long-term, interdisciplinary research at land grant universities, and to finance regional small grants programs for agroforestry demonstration and marketing projects.



Region Description

For this report, the Northeast region includes the New England states of Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island; the mid-Atlantic states of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey; and the south-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia (see Figure 1). The assessment focused o­n o­ne representative state within each sub-region; Vermont, New York and Maryland.

The region has a continental climate with relatively homogeneous temperature gradients and no markedly dry season. Some soils are not productive for annual crops, but do support trees. Land use in the Northeast is mainly forest (60%), cropland (13%), pasture (8%) and urban (11%).

Sustainability Issues


Erosion: Soil erosion and sedimentation are important non-point sources of water pollution from agriculture. Cropland erosion is declining due to a combination of improved practices and loss of land in agriculture. The amount of cropland considered highly erodible is also declining.

Water quality: The health of water resources is a prime concern. Agriculture is a major source of sediments, pesticides and nutrients affecting water resources. Rural septic systems are also an important source of pollutants.

Wetlands: There is growing concern over the loss of wetlands that provide fish and wildlife habitat and water quality functions.

Riparian buffers: Some 66,000 lineal miles of riparian streambank in the region are without trees or shrubs. Clearing of riparian vegetation has caused streambank destabilization and erosion.


Farm demographics: Total farmland acreage has decreased in all states, due to the general decline of the agriculture industry in the region. In some areas, agricultural lands are being rapidly converted to metropolitan uses, while in others abandoned agricultural lands are reverting to their former forested status. From 1980-93, average farm size in the region increased and the number of farmers decreased, except in Massachusetts and Vermont where the total number of farms increased.

Suburbanization: The region is more urbanized than the nation as a whole. Development is also increasing in rural areas. However, urbanization creates opportunities for low-volume, high value production for specialty markets in urban and suburban areas. A characteristic urban-rural fringe agriculture is emerging based o­n local production and consumption strategies and dense market networks.

Forestry: Most Northeastern forestland is owned by small private landowners. Amenity values as well as timber potential are important to them. Development pressures o­n rural lands provide a strong incentive to forest landowners to harvest and then sell their land for development.

Agroforestry Practices

Historical: Native peoples in the Northeast practiced nut tree planting, gathering, and shifting cultivation. Woodlots and forest grazing were common practices among the early European settlers. Today, each of the five main agroforestry practices is evident, but most are practiced o­n a limited, spontaneous basis.

Alley Cropping and Intercropping: High value hardwoods for timber may be interplanted with "nurse tree crops" (e.g., black locust), or herb or forage crops during the early years of establishment. Examples are evident of organic fruit and vegetable production within alleys between rows of nut or willow trees. Such operations are small scale and their products destined for local farmers markets. Interplanting of small fruits in orchards or vineyards is not widespread, but has been practiced for many years.

Forest farming: Markets for high value specialty products (e.g., ginseng, maple syrup, and mushrooms) are growing. Development is aided by both marketing and growers associations (e.g., the Vermont Specialty Foods Association, New York State Ginseng Association). Among the five practices this probably has the greatest potential for significant expansion in the region.

Riparian buffers: While riparian buffers have been established o­n o­nly a very limited basis to date, interest in their economic and environmental value is rapidly expanding. Several states in the region have active riparian buffer programs.

Silvopasture: Intensive rotational grazing schemes sometimes incorporate the use of woodlots and abandoned orchards o­n a carefully controlled basis.

Windbreaks: Windbreaks and shelterbelts are generally in a state of decline in the region as landowners continue to invest in their removal. There is some evidence they are being developed or rehabilitated to protect vineyards and alternative livestock operations (e.g., fallow deer, sheep.)

Landowner Adoption

Perceptions of Agroforestry

The authors conducted a survey of 42 resource professionals and landowners regarding the status and potential of agroforestry in the Northeast. They found that while most landowners are not familiar with the term "agroforestry", most resource professionals are. Most resource professional tend to associate agroforestry with a particular application or practice, some of which they may actively discourage (e.g., forest grazing).

Agroforestry is not a widely known or used concept in the Northeast, though interest is growing. It assumes various meanings within different geographic and land use contexts. In Appalachia and New England agroforestry tends to be equated with forest farming, while o­n the Coastal Plains the term more commonly refers to riparian buffer strips. Most agroforestry practices have arisen spontaneously from demographic and market forces that shape land use patterns. Relatively little agroforestry implementation results from public cost-share funding or technical assistance programs.

Public support for agroforestry

Federal: Although federal cost share programs include some agroforestry practices (e.g., CRP, ACP, SIP), the acreage of land o­n which these practices have been implemented using federal cost-share is small.

State: Several state and watershed-level water quality programs support riparian buffer plantings (e.g., the Chesapeake Bay Program, Connecticut River Joint Commission).


Research & Development

Urban-rural interface: Dense networks of mixed urban and rural land uses create the need for "environmentally-friendly" buffering between the two. Strategies for making these protective plantings as productive and profitable as possible should be investigated. The production of willow and poplar for energy biomass presents o­ne under-exploited opportunity.

Understory cultivation: Better information is needed about the site conditions required for cultivating high quality herbs in the forest understory o­n a continuous basis. The potential complementarity between maple syrup and herb production enterprises in parts of Appalachia and New England should be investigated.

Watershed protection: Roles of riparian buffers and forest farming in watershed and wetland protection should be carefully investigated, and public incentive programs to landowners tailored accordingly.

Abandoned land conversion: Silvicultural and economic dimensions of managing the succession of abandoned agricultural land to advance the production of high value timber with low intensity haying or grazing need to be better and more widely understood.

Specialty products: Community supported agriculture and farmer's markets provide opportunities for marketing of agroforestry specialty products. While these products have long been sold in the region, it has been o­n a small scale and limited basis. The domestic and international market potential for woods-grown products of many varieties needs to be more systematically monitored.

Information & Technology Development

Potential: There is significant unmet potential to expand agroforestry knowledge and practice in the region.

Networking: Efforts to coordinate and focus the expanding interest in agroforestry (e.g., the Northeast Agroforestry Consortium) will need at least a minimal level of public financial resources.

Policy & Funding

Tenure and taxes: Important disincentives to the practice of agroforestry fall within the realm of tenure and tax policy. The development of cooperative agreements through collaborative problem-solving among public agency and private interests concerned with sustainability issues can help address such constraints o­n a pilot, demonstration basis. In this context, agroforestry may be more readily viewed as a strategic bridge between conservation and development objectives throughout the region.

Small grants: There is need for a regional small grants program focused o­n agroforestry technology, marketing and policy reform needs, modeled partially after the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE). Unlike the current program, it must provide for multi-year findings and outcomes.

Cost-share: Federal cost share and associated technical assistance programs should be coordinated and reoriented to support integrative approaches to land use.

Leadership: National leadership and financial resources aimed toward sustainable land use practices are needed to advance agroforestry in the region.


Region Description

The South includes the following ten states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee (see Figure 1). The region has a generally moderate climate with year-around precipitation and relatively long growing seasons. Some soils in the region have limitations due to low fertility, shallowness and water logging.

Most of the undeveloped non-federal land is in forest (57%), 22% is cropland, and 14% is pasture. From 1982-87, over two million acres of crop and pasture lands were lost to development. There is a high potential for conversion of land- use between forestry and agriculture. The region's large forest land base is highly productive; over 80% of Southern forest land is capable of growing at least 50 cubic feet of industrial wood per acre annually. Private ownership predominates, with about 70% of commercial timberland owned by non-industrial private landowners.

Sustainability Issues


Soil erosion: Erosion exceeds the national average in 8 of 10 states in the region. Nutrient runoff problems are exacerbated when farmers try to compensate for fertility loss by adding fertilizer. Exposed subsoils often contain toxic elements (e.g., aluminum). Wind erosion problems are local and relatively modest.

Water quality: Non-point source pollution of surface and groundwater from agricultural irrigation activities (e.g., pesticides, nitrates and sediment runoff) is a problem in 8 of 10 states.

Riparian zones: Clearing of riparian zones for farming has increased runoff and sedimentation.

Wildlife: Land-use changes (e.g., agricultural development, forest clearing and urban growth) have contributed to species endangerment.


Growth: The region's population is growing more rapidly and is more rural than the nation as a whole. It lags behind the nation in terms of disposable income, poverty reduction and educational attainment.

Farm demographics: Average farm size in the South is smaller than the national average. From 1990-93, the number of southern farms decreased by about 4% while average farm size increased slightly.

Agroforestry Practices

Historical: The earliest form of southern agroforestry was forest grazing. However, the practice became controversial due to land use conflicts and problems caused by uncontrolled grazing.

Silvopasture: Native forest grazing is the dominant agroforestry practice in the region, mainly loblolly pine-grass-cattle combinations. The South has the greatest potential acreage for forest grazing in the US. Animals other than cattle are used to a lesser extent (e.g., sheep for forest brush control). While some financial evaluations of silvopasture are encouraging, the negative effects of grazing and trampling o­n seedling survival and soil productivity remain a major concern.

Combination of grazing with pecans is intensively practiced in areas where pecan orchards are established (e.g., Louisiana). Although pecan trees are mainly grown for nuts, overmature trees are being harvested for furniture-grade lumber.

Intercropping/Tree-crop and tree-forage: These practices are not as common as forest grazing. Crops such as soybeans or grains are cultivated in plantations of fast-growing hardwoods (e.g., cottonwood or sycamore) early in the rotation.

Landowner Adoption

Survey of public land-use professionals

Reasons for adoption: The most frequently mentioned reasons for adopting agroforestry practices are (in rank order): (1) economic gain, (2) multiple land use management and income diversification, (3) site suitability and erosion control, (4) shortening the wait for and increasing the regularity of income, and (5) consistency with environmental and ecological concerns.

Constraints to adoption: The most commonly noted problems associated with agroforestry practices are (in rank order): (1) negative effects of livestock o­n seedling survival and soil productivity, (2) low productivity or poor economic performance, (3) lack of management skills and technical knowledge, (4) incompatibility between the multiple outputs, and (5) high establishment and annual management costs.

Additional factors affecting landowner adoption

Cost-share: o­ne or more federal forestry cost-share programs were used in 47% of all tree planting o­n non-industrial private forestland (1993). Agroforestry was adopted o­n o­nly 1.2% of the total Stewardship Incentive Program acreage from 1991-95, although there was a sharp increase in agroforestry enrollments during 1994-95. While federal programs predominate, some states (i.e., Mississippi and North Carolina) also provide incentives for tree planting.

Site potential: Land use professionals (survey respondents) placed more emphasis o­n site potential than the innovativeness or technical knowledge of the landowner when selecting situations most appropriate for agroforestry implementation. Silvopasture was recommended by 70% of respondents while 30% recommended tree-crops.

Non-economic values: Results of another recent survey of private forest landowners suggest that opportunities exist for agroforestry practices that provide non-economic benefits (e.g., aesthetic, recreational, environmental and domestic use) at a reasonable cost.


Research & Development

Research priorities: Southern land use professionals identified the following critical research needs for agroforestry (in rank order): (1) improvement of economic returns, (2) enhancing productivity, (3) reducing damage to trees and soils by livestock and farm equipment, (4) quantifying the potential of agroforestry to solve environmental problems, including wildlife impacts, and (5) educating the public and extension personnel about agroforestry.

Marginal lands: Almost 17 million acres of marginal crop and pasture lands in the South could produce higher economic returns if planted to pine. Pine and hardwood tree-crop and tree-forage combinations would generate regular cash flows and encourage the establishment of tree cover o­n highly erodible lands. The soil fertility of marginal lands could be enhanced with legume cover crops or nitrogen fixing trees.

Riparian buffers: Re-establishment of woody vegetation in riparian areas could improve water quality and provide timber production and wildlife habitat. By selectively harvesting timber and maintaining riparian forests in an active growth phase, the buffer's pollution amelioration potential is more fully realized.

Windbreaks and natural barriers: Although not as common as in other regions, windbreaks are needed to protect sandy soils in areas subject to wind erosion (e.g., Southern Mississippi Valley Alluvium, Coastal Plain soils). Windbreaks also protect sensitive crops (e.g., tobacco) from sand abrasion. Windbreaks would improve the efficiency of poultry and pork operations by reducing climatic stresses, and also provide wildlife habitat.

Natural pine management: Livestock grazing can improve the financial returns from natural pine forest management, and thus could affect the current trend towards conversion of native pine forests to plantations after harvest. The availability of shade tolerant forage species is critically important. Pine straw mulch is another potential source of revenue from natural pine forest.

Hardwood plantation-crops: Removal of southern hardwoods is exceeding growth. Intercropping early in the rotation and direct seeding could help offset the relatively high regeneration costs. Black walnut intercropping should be considered o­n abandoned cropland and riparian areas. Increasing stumpage prices for southern hardwoods help to offset the higher establishment costs for hardwood plantations. Production of fast-growing hardwoods like paulownia may become economically feasible if markets develop.

Pine plantation-crops: Harvesting of softwood timber also exceeds growth in the region. Interplanting a crop early in the rotation would improve cash flow.

Specialty products: Production of specialty products is likely to be important for small landowners involved in organic and/or environmentally sensitive types of farming and weekend hobbyists. Suitable niche products include honey, mushrooms, honeylocust, and ginseng.

Education & Training

Training: Southern land-use professionals listed the following needs for improving the capacity of extension personnel in agroforestry (in rank order): (1) distribution of guidelines for recommending livestock and forestry combinations, (2) availability of economic and productivity data, (3) training o­n how to develop demonstration sites, (4) distributing guidelines for mixing crop and forest management, and (5) distributing guidelines for enhancing wildlife management.

Information & Technology Development

Extension: Land-use professionals suggested the following recommendations for improving agroforestry extension (in rank order): (1) expanded training of extension personnel, (2) development of a research base and evaluation guidelines, (3) expanded publicity, (4) development of demonstration sites, (5) improved inter-agency cooperation, and (6) increased numbers of personnel specialized in agroforestry.

Policy & Funding

Cost share: Current federal cost share programs don't always allow for agroforestry practices. Moreover, given current federal budget problems, it appears likely that federal cost-share programs will be reduced or eliminated in the future.

Recommended actions: In the absence of traditional federal cost-share programs to encourage agroforestry, these actions are recommended: (1) lobby for state and regional cost-share programs for agroforestry, including funds for programs involving urban forestry, waste management, and recreation/tourism, (2) initiate demonstration, research and development projects to educate land use professionals and owners about the potentials of agroforestry, and (3) expand funding for economic and social research to document the potential profitability of agroforestry practices beyond their environmental benefits. Landowners need to be assured that agroforestry will produce at least an equal or greater return than alternate land use investments. Reducing financial uncertainty is the "single most important factor" for encouraging agroforestry adoption.


Region Description

The Midwest region encompasses the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri (see Figure 1). The region has a continental climate with temperature extremes and year-around rainfall. Most of the soils are highly productive for agriculture and forestry. The landscape of the Midwest is dominated by agriculture and remaining native hardwood forests.

Sustainability Issues


Erosion: Loss of soil from agricultural operations is the principal environmental problem of the Midwest.

Water quality: Non-point source pollution from agriculture impacts water quality (e.g., sediment, nutrients, pesticides, and animal wastes).

Air quality: Problems include dust and odor from feedlots, compounded by the lack of windbreak protection.

Loss of wildlife habitat: Clearing of native woody vegetation has reduced bird and animal populations.

Riparian devegetation: The clearing and cultivation of riparian corridors has contributed to wildlife habitat loss and water quality degradation.

Surface coal mining: Reclamation of mined lands is a slow and costly process, and failures lead to surface water pollution and erosion problems.

Hardwood forests: Regeneration of fine hardwoods is not keeping pace with harvesting. Regionally-adapted practices that can meet the high demand for hardwoods are needed.


Growth: Continued urban/suburban expansion into rural areas and the conversion of forests to agriculture and urban development has prompted state land use regulations (e.g., "Right to Farm" ordinances) and proposals for similar rules to protect rights to practice forestry. Urban growth has also inflated rural land prices.

Rural economy: In the eastern portion of the Midwest, there has been a shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy. In Ohio, less than 10% of the population is involved in farming, while in Iowa more than 25% are involved in farming. Regional farm income is relatively strong, although the number of people in farming is generally decreasing and average farm size increasing due to consolidation.

Agroforestry Practices

Historical: Early settlers in the Midwest practiced slash and burn agriculture and tended multi-layer home gardens.

Intercropping: Among agroforestry practitioners, agrisilviculture (e.g., alley cropping) is among the most common, followed by mixed systems outside of alley cropping [intercropping], and Christmas trees combined with crops.

Black walnut: Agroforestry management of black walnut for timber, nuts and grazing is gaining interest. The involvement of a commercial company in Missouri (Hammons Products Co.) has played an important role in information and demonstration related to black walnut agroforestry.

Silvopasture: Grazing of sheep and cattle in native hardwood forests and black walnut plantations is common among agroforestry practitioners.

Windbreaks: Windbreaks and boundary plantings are also common among agroforestry practitioners.

Landowner Adoption

Needs identified by field-level professionals and practitioners

Water quality: Major problems result from both agricultural practices and suburbanization. Research is needed o­n the minimum width required for an effective buffer along streams, since streambanks and ditches can be the most productive soils for crop planting.

Landowner education: Farmers and the public need to be made aware of non-point source pollution problems (e.g., from feedlots and lawn fertilization).

Soil erosion: Research is needed o­n improved windbreak designs that are inexpensive, fast-growing and take up as little space as possible.

Rural development: Opportunities for agroforestry adoption are presented by new, small landowners willing to use incentive programs and their own funds to try alternate land uses that do not provide immediate financial benefits.

Training: Training of professionals is needed o­n the use of agroforestry to enhance biodiversity.

Cost-sharing: Stewardship and incentive programs are important to agroforestry adoption; reauthorization of the Farm Bill will influence what takes place o­n the ground. In Missouri, cost- share funding is available for alley cropping through the state Department of Conservation.

Reasons for Adoption

Motivation: It appears that adoption of agroforestry is motivated primarily by income potential and/or aesthetic or hobby reasons. Conservation plays a minor role in adoption except for landowners wishing to promote wildlife.

Farm size: A survey of agroforestry practitioners indicated that the majority of agroforestry in the Midwest is being implemented o­n small tracts where annual income from farming operations may be of lesser importance.

Constraints to Adoption

Policy: Although state programs exist to promote farm tree planting (e.g., windbreaks), restrictions apply which limit their use for other types of agroforestry. The Classified Forest Act (Indiana) provides tax relief to forest landowners, but excludes lands that are grazed.

Cost/benefit data: There is a lack of reliable farm-level cost/benefit data for agroforestry practices in the region. Economic analyses need to internalize the social and environmental benefits and to account for markets and labor availability.

Land tenure: Where the average length of land ownership has decreased in recent decades, long term investment in agroforestry is less feasible.

Political power: The rural population is at a disadvantage regarding legislation that affects rural programs due to the greater political power of urban centers.


Research & Development

Biological process research: There is a lack of fundamental research that extends across the region to show where and when agroforestry practices are biologically and economically effective and where they are not. Current research does not allow applied or basic comparisons among soil types, climate zones, crop mixes, or whole agroforestry systems.

Erosion control: Agroforestry practices can play a major role in the reduction of soil loss (e.g., windbreaks, alley cropping, and riparian buffers).

Wildlife: Agroforestry can contribute to wildlife conservation by creating habitat through the planting of hedgerows, windbreaks, and riparian buffers.

Minelands: Mining reclamation with a mix of grass, crops and trees would provide quick cover and erosion control as well as long term habitat and income.

Specialty Products: Growing specialty products or developing artificial agroecosystems to support recreational activities (e.g., fee hunting) may be part of the forestry enterprise.

Fine hardwoods: Agroforestry with black walnut and other hardwoods can help encourage planting to meet the strong market demand by offsetting initial plantation establishment costs.

Waste application: Research is underway in Iowa o­n applying municipal sludge to woody energy crops in alley cropping.

Biomass and pulp: Agroforestry with fast growing trees (e.g., hybrid poplar) could play an important role in supplying biomass for energy production and paper pulp.

Economics & Marketing

Economic data: A limiting factor for implementation is case-study economic data that landowners can use for decision-making.

Information & Technology Development

Promotion: Agroforestry in the Midwest is still young, and therefore the potential of agroforestry practices (e.g., alley cropping) should not be oversold. Its promotion should progress with "healthy skepticism."

Information: The lack of data o­n biological and economic potentials of agroforestry practices across the region precludes providing proven options to landowners. Most landowners will not be convinced by the inadequate information base for agroforestry that is currently available.


Region Description

The Northern Great Plains includes the states of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska (see Figure 1). The region's semi-arid climate is characterized by low and variable rainfall, temperature extremes, high potential evapotranspiration, periodic drought, and strong winds. Some soil types present conditions difficult for tree establishment (e.g., heavy texture, alkalinity), particularly in areas of rigorous climate.

Most tree planting has occurred o­n land capability class III or better soils; tree planting is unsuitable o­n class VII-VIII soils and poorly suited o­n class VI soils. Major tree planting efforts in the region date from the Prairie States Forestry Project in 1935.

Sustainability Issues


Farm practices: Conventional agricultural practices, such as clean cultivation, stream-side grazing, cropping border to border, chemical use, and cultivation of highly erodible land, are causing "significant damage" to natural resources.

Soil erosion: Wind erosion accounts for 60-70% of gross cropland erosion in the region. Water erosion above tolerable levels occurs o­n 10% of regional cropland. The off-site costs of erosion (e.g., sedimentation)may be as significant to society as losses in crop yields.

Water quality: Non-point source pollution from agriculture impacts both surface and ground water in the region. Sedimentation severely affects waterways, reservoirs and canals, and also riparian and fisheries habitats.

Air quality: Air quality is periodically impaired by agricultural operations. While the impacts can be severe for short periods, they are not long-lasting.


Economy: Agriculture has the greatest promise for future improvement in the region's economy, but there is the need to better protect natural resources. Recreation, tourism and industrial development are other important components of regional economic sustainability.

Agroforestry Practices

Farm tree plantings in the Northern Great Plains are primarily for conservation and protection: 30% are field windbreaks, 38% are farmstead/feedlot windbreaks, 29% are wildlife plantings, and 3% are for other purposes (e.g., living snowfence, Christmas trees, etc.).

Windbreaks: Reducing soil loss is the most commonly accepted reason for tree planting in the region. However, 50% of current windbreak plantings are functioning below their potential and need renovation.

Riparian buffers: No states in the region have significant plantings of artificially established woody buffer strips, but interest appears to be growing.

Intercropping: No operational examples were found.

Landowner Adoption

Future trends in US agriculture: Like elsewhere in the US, agriculture is undergoing dramatic changes in the region, and the trend is towards "mass-industrialization." Modern agriculture is more specialized, labor efficient and capital intensive than the diversified, non-intensive agriculture of 60 years ago for which windbreaks were originally designed. About 50,000 large farms, franchises and co-ops will be responsible for 90% of commercial production in the US by next century, and the remainder of the agricultural sector will comprise about 1.5 million small, part-time and hobby farms.

Different approaches to the development of sustainable practices are required for large industrial farms and small family farms. While emphasis o­n agroforestry's multiple benefits may serve well for smaller farmers, larger farmers are likely to be more interested in short-term economics. Therefore, the potential for agroforestry to have significant impact depends o­n the structure of the agriculture community in the future.

Agriculture must adopt environmentally-sound practices to achieve long-term sustainability while also maintaining productivity. The threat of government regulation may compel adoption of new practices. Nevertheless, a survey of agency staff suggested that crop diversification, residue management and crop rotation would be more effective than tree planting in improving agricultural productivity and sustainability in the region.

Constraints to Adoption

Cost: Due to harsh climate and soil conditions, tree establishment is difficult and therefore costly. High cost and difficulty are also impediments to windbreak renovation.

Interference: Interference with and from agricultural operations constrains tree planting (e.g., herbicide use in small grains production).

Markets: There is a lack of reliable markets for farm-grown wood products in the region. Production of market-based agroforestry products is unlikely due to geographic dispersal, lack of strong market demand, and difficult tree growing conditions.

Conventional wisdom: Many landowners believe that the costs associated with windbreaks exceed their potential benefits. Also, many believe that residue management alone is sufficient for erosion control.

Promotion: There is erratic promotion and/or discouragement of agroforestry among and within public agencies.


Research & Development

Sustainability: Research should address the most important sustainability issues for cultivated cropland: erosion, salinity, and water quality.

Windbreaks: The highest priority is research and development leading to the renovation or replacement of field windbreaks, focusing o­n their economic benefits. Energy conservation with farmstead/feedlot windbreaks is a high priority for research.

Riparian buffers: Riparian restoration and buffer planting are also high priorities.

Other practices: Improvement of wildlife habitat and living snowfences are important in the region. However, other agroforestry practices (e.g., fuelwood, alley cropping, and silvopasture) are likely to have limited potential in the region.

Education & Training

Training: There is a need for resource managers and technical advisors who are knowledgeable in agroforestry. Salesmanship training is also important.

Information & Technology Development

Promotion: "Realizing significant gains in the incorporation of trees and shrubs o­n agricultural land would require very aggressive and extended promotion."

Target audience: The primary target audience for agroforestry information are landowners and producer groups. Landowner initiative and contact with other landowners are important factors in decision making.

Services: Tree establishment and maintenance "turn key" services by Conservation Districts and individual entrepreneurs, and the increased use of weed-barrier fabrics in drier regions, would facilitate tree planting o­n farmland.

Demonstration: More demonstration projects (e.g., North Dakota's "Project Renovate") and windbreak education are needed.

Policy & Funding

Cost-share: Tax incentives and cost-share are the most important means to reduce establishment and maintenance costs. Increased cost-share funding would provide the greatest opportunities for agroforestry expansion.

Agency coordination: Public agencies should coordinate among themselves to agree o­n which agroforestry practices are most needed.


Region Description

The Southern Great Plains includes the states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas (see Figure 1). Moisture and heat stress due to the semi-arid climate in much of the region are limiting factors o­n plant growth. Most of the soils have good agroforestry potential. About 40% of all non-federal land is crop or pasture land, 51% is range and 7% is forest.

Sustainability Issues


Water quality: Non-point source pollution from farmland, pasture and feedlots impacts surface water quality.

Groundwater: Contamination of drinking water supplies by nitrate and pesticides is a concern. Irrigation pumping has significantly lowered water tables, leading inevitably to the reduction in irrigated acreage and a return to dryland farming o­n many lands.

Erosion: Wind erosion is severe o­n 12 million acres in the region, and annual rates are higher than the national average.

Air quality: Dust, spray drift, and odor from agricultural operations, particularly large feedlots, impact air quality.

Riparian zones: Irrigation diversions, stream channelization, over-grazing, and land clearing have severely affected riparian areas.

Playa lakes: Farming impacts o­n playa lakes (which dry up in summer) include devegetation from grazing and clearing, loss of wildlife habitat from disking and burning, feedlot runoff, and increased sedimentation and organic nutrients.

Wildlife and Fisheries: Intensification of agriculture in the region has reduced wildlife and fish habitat. Restoration of riparian zones and playa lakes could be the best means of improving wildlife habitat.


Sustainability issues: Agricultural sustainability concerns in the region include: (1) creating healthy local economies that withstand climatic extremes and economic boom/bust cycles, (2) ensuring continued soil productivity o­n cropland enrolled in CRP, (3) farmworker health, (4) food safety, (5) energy cost and availability, and (6) declining groundwater aquifers.

Agroforestry Practices

Windbreaks: Windbreaks are commonly used in the region to protect soil, crops and livestock. Plantings of field windbreaks decreased from 1982-87. There is substantial potential to use feedlot windbreaks for livestock protection.

Riparian buffers: While incipient riparian management may be occurring, there are few concrete examples of deliberate riparian restoration or agroforestry practice in the region. The best example of coordinated efforts at wetland and riparian management is the Wetlands and Riparian Areas Project (WRAP) in Kansas.

Intercropping: There is no evidence found of intercropping in the Southern Great Plains.

Landowner Adoption

In the region, "there is little purposeful agroforestry in which tree and agricultural components are deliberately managed together." The o­nly common agroforestry practices are windbreaks and cattle grazing with trees.

Constraints to Adoption

Lack of quantitative agroforestry research: Research is needed o­n many topics, including genetics, site adaptation, and economics.

Externalities: There is a need for research to analyze the economic, environmental and social costs, and the thresholds of erosion, non-point source pollution, and other environmental consequences of agriculture. This research would allow farm managers to evaluate trade-offs between o­n-farm practices and off-farm effects, and thus may lead to increased adoption of agroforestry.

Lack of institutional structures: Being interdisciplinary, agroforestry in the US lacks established institutional structures to support needed research and development. Technical advisors do not have adequate knowledge to assist producers with the implementation of agroforestry practices.

Lack of public understanding of agroforestry: Public awareness of agroforestry was found to be very low within the region.


Research & Development

Highly erodible cropland: There is substantial potential to use agroforestry practices such as windbreaks and intercropping to protect highly erodible land.

Riparian buffers: Riparian vegetative buffer strips are the "highest priority need." An important research topic is the design of agroforestry practices in the riparian zone that optimize crop mixes while maintaining adequate buffering capacity.

Grazing: Grazing is important in the region and the potential to increase grazing of forests, red cedar, pecan, and fodder trees should be studied.

Intercropping: Research is needed to document the potential benefits of intercropping.

Economics & Marketing

Marketing: Marketing frameworks that provide intermediaries between agroforestry producers and consumers may facilitate access to larger markets.

Education & Training

Extension: Training for extension personnel is needed so they will recognize the potential of agroforestry practices and be able to provide technical assistance to landowners.

Information & Technology Development

Information: "Significant adoption of agroforestry practices will not occur until additional quantitative information and demonstration sites are available and economic incentives change. This will require both substantial public investment and fundamental reforms in academic institutions and government agencies."

Policy & Funding

Institutional: Overcoming the constraints to adoption of agroforestry requires: (1) earmarked funds for research, (2) revitalized leadership infrastructure, and (3) modified public agency perspectives.

Policy: Incentives must be provided to landowners for them to reasonably consider agroforestry. Allowing for income opportunities o­n CRP lands while meeting erosion control requirements would protect more acres in the long-term.


The Intermountain region includes Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah (see Figure 1). The climate is highly variable and strongly influenced by elevation. Arid lowlands support shrub and grass vegetation while rainfall at higher elevations is sufficient to support dense forests.

Sustainability Issues


Water cost and availability: While most water is now used for agriculture, increasing demand for residential and in-stream (e.g., fish and wildlife) uses could lead to restricted supplies and higher costs for irrigation.

Loss of biological resources: Habitat destruction resulting from traditional land uses and urban growth have threatened fish and animal species.

Energy: Energy conservation continues to be a long-term concern for the region.


Growth: The region's population is highly urbanized and rapidly growing. The Intermountain states are among the top six fastest growing states in the nation. Growth is rapidly altering the region's economy and established land uses.

Farm economy: There has been a decline both in the number of farms and per-acre values from 1985-92.

Declining natural resource-based industries: Prices of agricultural and mineral commodities have declined (1975-88), seriously impacting rural economies. Although timber prices have increased over the same period, supplies from national forests in the region have dropped dramatically and there is o­nly a limited amount of private timber land that can realize the potential gains from higher stumpage prices.

Demographic changes: Rapid urban growth, declining resource-based economies and limited rural employment opportunities, have fueled urban migration and eroded the stability of rural communities. Urban/wildland interface issues have become more critical.

Global economy: NAFTA and global trade will affect the profitability of new and existing land uses, which in turn will affect rural economies and demographics.

Agroforestry Practices

Windbreaks: Windbreaks are the o­nly common agroforestry practice in the region, and they are extensively used o­nly in Colorado. The Field Windbreak Campaign has actively promoted windbreak planting in Colorado. The Idaho Agroforestry Coalition involves public agencies and private groups to promote agroforestry practices.

Other practices: Other agroforestry practices that are less common in the region include field windbreaks, living snowfences, and riparian buffers.

Landowner Adoption

Constraints to Adoption

Economic: The restricted availability of capital and limited agroforestry markets, services and supplies for agroforestry affect its adoption in the region.

Environmental: Harsh environmental conditions for tree establishment in the Intermountain region increase the costs of tree establishment (e.g., irrigation requirement).


Research & Development

Priorities: An assessment by NRCS foresters concluded that all states could benefit from more field windbreaks. In all states except Utah, the establishment of riparian buffers is a priority. Living snowfences are a priority for Colorado and Idaho, farmstead windbreaks are priorities in Nevada and Utah, and Christmas trees are recommended for Utah.

Goals: The region needs agroforestry practices that (1) provide economic opportunity in rural areas (e.g., Christmas trees, specialty products); (2) enhance energy efficiency and the livability of human environments (e.g., residential windbreaks); and (3) improve water quality and wildlife habitat (e.g., riparian buffers).

Tribal lands: Characterized by marginal productivity, high unemployment, and subsistence use, tribal lands need windbreaks and multipurpose trees.

Urban/Suburban: Agencies should expand their programs to embrace this non-traditional, yet politically powerful constituency. o­ne way would be to encourage residential windbreaks for energy conservation, aesthetics and wildlife.

Site-specific: Research from other regions has limited application to the Intermountain states. Therefore, research should be specific to the region's conditions and needs (e.g., windbreak design and effects o­n crops). Suitable species for agroforestry in the region need to be identified.

Economics & Marketing

Rural economic opportunities: Opportunities exist to increase markets for Christmas trees, specialty products, and trees for production landscaping.

Education & Training

Training: Educational opportunities should be expanded in three critical areas: (1) training for extension, agency and technical personnel; (2) training opportunities for landowners; and (3) agroforestry college courses at the region's Land Grant universities. Improved employment opportunities in agroforestry are needed to continue university programs.

Information & Technology Development

Demonstration: Demonstration sites are needed to foster awareness and improve region-specific technical information.

Policy & Funding

Coordination: Better coordination between agencies, universities and the private sector is needed. Working partnerships between government and the private sector are needed to establish demonstrations and create new markets and services.

Incentive programs: Existing federal cost-share programs (e.g., SIP and ACP) should be expanded. Funding programs for water quality could be used to encourage establishment of riparian buffers and shelterbelts. Land trusts and conservation easements could also be used to promote agroforestry.

Federal leadership: The region's large federal land ownership makes federal leadership important in the adoption of agroforestry practices. Ecosystem management should be viewed as an opportunity to expand agroforestry.


Region Description

The Pacific Northwest, which includes (for this report) northern California, Oregon and Washington, is a region of dramatic physical and environmental contrasts (see Figure 1). The principal north-south mountain ranges divide two distinct climate zones: the western coastal portion with higher rainfall and more even, moderate temperatures, and the drier and colder eastern interior. The region contains highly productive forest, range and farmland.

Sustainability Issues


Soil erosion: Farmland erosion is a serious regional problem. Although water erosion in Oregon and Washington decreased from 1982-92, the rates are still above the national average. Wind erosion in Washington during that period increased, counter to the national trend. Erosion of range and riparian areas is due to over stocking and poor management. Forestland erosion is the result of logging road construction, recreational use, fire, and timber harvesting.

Water quality: Runoff of sediment, nutrients, and chemicals from farmland leads to pollution of surface waters. Improper use of household chemicals and septic systems o­n rural/suburban acreages should not be overlooked.

Riparian degradation: Riparian areas in the region are subject to flooding and erosion, both inherently and through human activity. Devegetation of riparian areas harms fish and impoverishes habitat for other animals.

Fish and Wildlife: Fragmentation and loss of wildlife habitat o­n farm, range and forestlands are affecting fish and wildlife populations, particularly migratory species.


Growth: Rapid population growth is creating intense pressure for the development of forest, farm and rangelands.

Public lands: A high percentage of land in the region is publicly owned. There are conflicting views, from diverse groups, o­n desirable objectives for public land management. Decisions o­n the management of public lands also affect private landowners and rural dwellers (e.g., reduced harvesting of federal timberland and proposed changes in grazing of public land).

Rural economy: Rural communities are severely impacted by declining timber harvests and changing agricultural economics, resulting in reduced educational opportunities and social services.

Agroforestry Practices

Silvopasture: Combined timber and pasture production is still rare in the Northwest, but it has "excellent prospects" based o­n the early results of trials in western Oregon.

Windbreaks: Windbreaks are sometimes used to protect crops and livestock in the region. More may be planted by new rural dwellers seeking privacy, beauty and energy conservation. Many of the older windbreaks have deteriorated or been removed. Interest in wildlife may help spur more windbreak planting.

Riparian buffers: "Of all agroforestry practices, woody riparian buffers is the o­ne with the greatest future importance due to the extraordinary economic and environmental costs of not improving the region's watersheds." Caution should be used in extrapolating recommendations for riparian buffers from other regions.

Landowner Adoption

Constraints to Adoption

Obstacles to adoption include the high cost of establishment, insufficient financing and lack of technical assistance.


Priorities to advance agroforestry in the Northwest include better coordination among multiple contact points for technical assistance, training for technical assistance personnel, clarifying financial assistance options, and improving the research base.

Research & Development

Site-specific: Research o­n agroforestry practices must be regional and site specific. Commercial trial plantings to demonstrate ecological and economic performance are needed.

Economics & Marketing

Economics: Develop real data o­n costs and returns for marketable products from agroforestry practices. Market development for new agroforestry products is often neglected.

Externalities: It is difficult to identify the external (e.g., environmental) cost savings of agroforestry and to fairly allocate these savings between those who pay and those who gain.

Opportunity cost: It is important to weigh the establishment and management costs of proactive agroforestry practices (e.g., riparian restoration, erosion control) against the costs of not doing so.

Information & Technology Development

Information: There is inadequate technical assistance o­n agroforestry in the region, largely because the relevant research base is weak and demonstration sites are lacking.

Planning: The objectives of an agroforestry practice must be made explicit as it is designed, implemented and evaluated. Knowledge limits must be recognized and the potential benefits not over-sold if agroforestry is to become more accepted.

Ecosystem management: While the goals of ecosystem management are admirable, they will be difficult to implement. Small-scale, short-term actions are needed to incrementally improve ecosystem sustainability "while learning to think, plan and act o­n broader geographic and temporal scales."

Policy & Funding

Funding: Private funding for agroforestry research is scarce when there is no direct commercial interest involved. Since agroforestry lacks a well-organized beneficiary group, it does not fare well in competition for funding with other worthy land-use research needs.


Region Description

For the purpose of this assessment, the Southwest region includes southern and central California, Arizona and New Mexico (see Figure 1). The region's climate is generally semi-arid, with variable rainfall and temperature regimes. Arizona and New Mexico receive some rainfall year-round while California receives rain o­nly in winter. The better soils are devoted to agriculture, although soil-related problems such as salinity and waterlogging limit their capacity for tree growth.

Highly productive irrigated farmland is found in California and Arizona, and the mountains of all three states support extensive native forestland. All three have large federal ownerships of timberland, and tribal lands are important in Arizona and New Mexico.

Sustainability Options


Soil erosion: Water erosion has resulted from poor grazing, logging and development practices. Some areas are subject to wind erosion.

Water quality and availability: Fertilizer and pesticide application in farming areas has contaminated ground and surface waters. In several areas of irrigated farmland, inappropriate water management has led to salinization and water-logging of the soil. The availability of surface and ground water has been altered by pumping for irrigation, damming, stream channelization and invasive phreatophytic weeds.

Air quality: Dust generated from abandoned or fallowed farmland without windbreaks leads to health problems and highway accidents in all three states. In desert areas, blowing sand creates a physical problem encroaching o­n highways, housing and farmland.

Wildlife habitat: Little undisturbed habitat, including wetlands, riparian zones and old growth forest, remain in the Southwest. While attention has focused o­n individual rare and endangered species, ecosystem protection may be essential for species protection.

Non-native plants: Competitive, invasive weedy species of Mediterranean origin have a negative impact both o­n agriculture and native plant communities.

Pest management: Monocultural crop systems are more vulnerable to pests than complex systems.


Development: In the Southwest, land is rapidly being converted to urban and suburban uses. Development of 5 to 20 acre ranchettes are fragmenting many areas of farm, range and timberlands.

Public health: Diabetes is endemic in the Native American communities of the Southwest as a result of dietary changes. Fine particulates and fungal spores in blowing dust lead to lung disease and Valley Fever disease.

Economics: The marginal economics of rural resource management have led to the conversion of forestlands to brush and the abandonment of cropland. Poverty is a severe problem in many rural areas.

Agroforestry Practices

Historical: The native peoples of the Southwest were skillful "applied ecologists" who planted and tended trees for food and other needs. The early settlement period was characterized by rapid resource extraction.

Windbreaks: Field windbreaks are common, and are still being planted to protect high value row, vine and tree crops. Windbreaks are also used to shelter highway and railroad lines from blowing sand.

Intercropping: o­ne commercial example of intercropping is dates interplanted with citrus in the Coachella Valley of California.

Riparian buffer strips: The planting of riparian filter strips has not been widely adopted or promoted in the Southwest. However, riparian and wetlands restoration projects are underway in Arizona and California.

Landowner Adoption

Constraints to Adoption

Economics: "Farmers are reluctant to adopt agroforestry practices until their profitability is demonstrated."

Emphasis o­n technical rather that socio/political issues: Land tenure, a hopeful view of the future, and absence of crippling farm debt are necessary ingredients for successful agroforestry development. The importance of women in resource management is often overlooked.

Subsidies and distorted markets: "Economic considerations are the most critical factor in the adoption of agroforestry and sustainable resource management. People can rarely be encouraged to do something that is ‘right' if it is not also economically advantageous." Accounting for external costs, i.e., environmental degradation, will be a key to agroforestry development. Tax, regulatory and institutional policies may discourage the adoption of agroforestry practices.

Ignorance: "Simple ignorance is probably the most serious impediment to agroforestry development in the Southwest." Relevant information o­n agroforestry is difficult to find, and most of it is poorly indexed and distributed.

Over-specialization: The narrow focus of education and research in US academic institutions contributes to the lack of information and expertise in agroforestry. Specialization also makes it difficult to get funding for innovative research.

Separation of knowledge and experience: Basic and applied research are often separated in the US. There is a need for more "hands-on" and problem-based learning and research.

Limited time, vision and commitment: Short-term funding cycles are incompatible with agroforestry research that may take 10 or more years. Differing priorities among agencies in the US affect how well agroforestry practices are promoted. Many public agencies are crippled by funding cutbacks and hiring freezes.

Emphasis o­n publications: Short-term theoretical or laboratory studies are often favored over applied, long-term interdisciplinary projects. Current academic reward systems in US universities favor publications rather than achieving practical solutions to problems.


Research & Development

Wild harvest: Special forest products are the most immediate option for new job creation in the region. A wide variety of specialty products could be collected or cultivated, including mushrooms, pinyon pine nuts, berries, mesquite pods, and acorns. Traditional medicinal plants could also help reverse the incidence of diabetes in Native Americans.

Tree crops o­n cropland: New specialty crops could be produced for the growing Asian and Latin American markets. In California, fast growing hardwoods such as paulownia could be grown profitably. The use of wastewater to reduce irrigation water costs could be useful in establishing and maintaining agroforestry trees.

Windbreaks: Greater use of windbreaks could be expected if their economic benefits are quantified and training and extension materials are improved. Specific benefits that need study include the potential health care savings as a result of dust control, and reduced vehicle fuel use and accidents o­n windbreak-sheltered highways.

Ground and drainwater management: An estimated 7.5 million trees o­n 25,000 acres would be required for regional ground water management in central California.

Tree fodder: The use of trees for fodder (e.g., poplar, willow, and leucaena) may be less environmentally costly and more profitable than alfalfa.

Coppice crops: Coppice is promising as a means to produce fuelwood, fodder and craft materials, and to provide environmental protection in the Southwest.

Trees o­n range and pasture: The most important agroforestry development o­n rangeland is likely to be shade and shelter for livestock. Fast-growing timber trees or nut trees could be planted in pastures to serve as shelterbelts. Other research needs include living fences, native hardwoods, and economical means for the reconversion of brushlands to productive use.

Forest gardens: Research and development trials are needed to suggest urban forestry designs for energy conservation, food, medicine, etc., appropriate for low income and farmworker housing, suburban homes, parks and rural ranchettes.

Filter and buffer strips: Filter strips are needed to reduce erosion and water pollution from irrigated cropland in California and Arizona. Live cuttings (e.g., willow) could also be used along streambanks to control erosion.

Biodiversity: Windbreaks, filter strips and tree plantations will also provide needed wildlife habitat, thereby improving biodiversity.

Other research priorities: Cooperative research o­n agroforestry practices should be started with Native American farmers. An inventory of useful trees and agroforestry practices appropriate for the Southwest and its climatic analogs worldwide should be undertaken. Research is needed o­n traditional medicinal plants.

Economics & Marketing

Cost/benefit analyses: Detailed economic analyses of the costs, benefits and risks associated with agroforestry practices are needed for specific sites and applications, watersheds and regions.

Import/export: Evaluate the potential for substitution of tree crops in import/export markets for the nation, states and regions.

Policy & Funding

Ecosystem: "Approach all land management issues from an ecosystem perspective."

Regional centers: The establishment of regional agroforestry research centers and the support of partnerships with private non- governmental organizations are needed. Interagency working groups focused o­n agroforestry should be created.

Forest policy: Obstacles to agroforestry in forest policy and practice regulations should be reviewed and removed.

Tax and regulatory policy: There is a need to assess tax and regulatory policies that provide economic disincentives to practicing agroforestry.

Dust Buster: Review policy to determine if a Dust Buster program is needed, similar to the Swamp Buster and Sod Buster programs.

Funding: Develop funding for long-term, interdisciplinary research involving basic and applied topics.

Education & Training

Extension: Develop agroforestry extension programs for farmers, foresters, and homeowners. A key step would be to prepare a guide to sources of agroforestry information.

Education: Interdisciplinary agroforestry curricula and course materials adapted for the Southwest region are needed. Alternatives to current reward systems in academia should be investigated (i.e., that foster long-term interdisciplinary research).

Literacy requirement: Ecological and cultural literacy requirements should be developed for new academic positions, with hands-on training to improve skills.

Information & Technology Development

Demonstration: Establish regional and local agroforestry demonstration sites with regular tours, workshops, etc. Research plots with small landowners could also serve for demonstration. Large-scale demonstration projects could be developed o­n abandoned agriculture land.

Technical information: Develop manuals o­n agroforestry for specific user groups in different bioregions and climate zones. Distribute agroforestry information to libraries, including key agroforestry journals.

Expert systems: Develop a "smart system" to identify appropriate agroforestry practices and predict probable costs and profits.


Region Description

The Pacific Islands region includes the Hawaiian islands and US affiliated islands in Micronesia, Polynesia and Samoa (see Figure 1). The area has a tropical climate, characterized by high rainfall and humidity, and warm temperatures year-round. The soils are mainly of volcanic origin, and their agricultural fertility is dependent o­n maintaining vegetative cover and preventing erosion, particularly o­n steep slopes.

Sustainability Issues


Soil erosion: Erosion is a serious problem resulting from the cultivation of crops o­n steep land under heavy precipitation. Erosion also results from fire and land clearing activities.

Water quality: On atoll islands, pumping for irrigation and domestic use can lower the ground water table, thereby causing salt water intrusion. o­n larger islands, fertilizer and pesticide runoff from farmlands have contaminated ground water.

Rare and endangered species: The Pacific Islands are home to a rich variety of endemic plants and animals. Loss of habitat through clearing for agriculture and development, along with the introduction of damaging, non-native plants and animals, threatens the indigenous biodiversity.


Health problems: Many of the native inhabitants of Pacific Islands suffer from diabetes and heart disease, largely as a result of a shift from their traditional diet to imported, processed food.

Rural economy: Some of the Pacific Islands (e.g., Micronesia and Palau) are undergoing a transition from a subsistence to a cash economy. Economic development is made more difficult by their isolation, small size and dependency o­n natural resources (e.g., fisheries) which have an uncertain future. Rural poverty has fueled a trend to urban migration. Farm income is often insufficient to pay for investment in conservation practices.

Agroforestry Practices

Several agroforestry practices used in the Pacific Islands are found no where else in the US. They take advantage of the tropical climate and the rich diversity of useful plants available.

Shifting cultivation: "Swidden" agriculture has been practiced since the earliest settlers. It is sustainable when the fallow period is long enough (e.g., 15-25 years) to renew soil organic matter and fertility.

Multilayer tree gardens: This common agroforestry practice typically consists of three layers: (1) a permanent  overstory of trees (e.g., breadfruit, coconut, forest species), (2) a lower canopy of fruit and multipurpose trees, and (3) an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants. It produces a variety of products both for subsistence and commercial sale.

Windbreaks: Field windbreaks are common in locations subject to persistent trade winds, and are used to protect crops, orchards and pastures.

Intercropping: In Samoa, the N-fixing legume Erythrina is interplanted in gardens and banana plots. Coffee plantations in Hawaii may be established with an intercrop of sorghum; elsewhere mature coffee is interplanted with bananas and shade trees. Taro is of great importance o­n many islands, and patches of taro may be intercropped between tree gardens.

Alley cropping: Alley cropping o­n sloping land between parallel hedgerows of nitrogen fixing trees planted o­n the contour is being demonstrated, but so far few landowners have adopted this practice.

Silvopasture: Local people have used plantations to graze livestock. Research in Hawaii has been conducted o­n using cattle, sheep and goats under macadamia, guava and banana plantations.

Landowner Adoption

Constraints to Adoption

Changing interests: o­n many smaller islands, there is a greater interest in modern rather than traditional lifestyles, particularly among young people. This has resulted in a declining number of young people involved in farming. Some agroforests are left unharvested and unmanaged due to the lack of available labor.

Technical simplification: The focus o­n short-term income from agriculture and shorter periods of average land tenure have led to shorter rotation lengths and cultivation of fewer crops at o­ne time compared to traditional agroforestry practices. There is also a loss of indigenous knowledge of agroforestry practices as generations change.

Rural Economics: Inter-island markets for agroforestry products are hampered by isolation, high transportation costs, infrequent shipping schedules and quarantines. Smaller islands may not be able to economically compete with developing (Asian) countries in the production of export crops due to higher costs of land, labor, production and shipping, and inexperience in meeting quality standards. High-value crops are also subject to theft o­n some islands.


Research & Development

Integrated research: Although agricultural research in the Pacific has often been separated between "traditional" and "modern" practices, there is a need for applied research which integrates both approaches through agroforestry. Research should be aimed to serve farmers’ current needs (for cash, etc.).

Plant materials: Farmers need access to high quality  planting materials of selected species and improved cultivars through local nurseries.

Economics & Marketing

Markets: Efforts should be directed to: (1) develop markets for existing agroforestry products, (2) add marketable cash crops to traditional agroforestry practices, and (3) develop high-value, lightweight, non-perishable agroforestry products for export.

Tourism: Agroforestry is a visually attractive land use and, by reducing erosion, it protects marine resources which attract tourists. Traditional farms with agroforestry can also be promoted as tourist attractions, and agroforestry products can be marketed directly to tourists.

Cattle grazing with Acacia koa: This is an economically promising land use for existing pastures, which combines grazing with high-value hardwood production. Grazing improves the early cash flow and may reduce property taxes.

Economic value: The economic values of agroforestry practices and products need to be quantified.

Education & Training

College forestry: There is a critical need for college-educated, native foresters in Samoa and Micronesia. A college degree program in forestry is being considered at the University of Hawaii.

Training: Training in agroforestry practices is needed for local extension staff, especially outside Hawaii. Also, better extension material and operations funding is required.

Information & Technology Development

Women: The traditional role of women in farming o­n Pacific islands should not be overlooked in extension efforts.

Extension: A forestry extension specialist at the University of Hawaii is needed to disseminate information generated by research. A national forester or agroforester for the Federated States of Micronesia is also needed.

Public education: An objective explanation of the benefits and a fairly specific definition of agroforestry are needed to overcome misunderstanding of the term "agroforestry". Enthusiasts have tended to oversell the potential benefits of agroforestry. In Hawaii, it had been identified with particular practices that are the subject of controversy (e.g., unmanaged grazing or plantation silviculture).

Diet: Public campaigns to encourage consumption of traditional agroforest foods (e.g., the "Waianae diet" in Hawaii) also promote agroforestry.

Policy & Funding

Land Tenure: The impact of land tenure o­n agroforestry needs examination. For example, in Hawaii, concentration of private ownership in relatively few, large holdings has  limited the access of smallholders to land for long-term investment in horticulture. Property taxation also influences land use (e.g., grazing is usually taxed lower than forestry in Hawaii).

Federal funding: Grants from the USFS support operating budgets for agroforestry nurseries, training, demos and extension in Samoa and Micronesia, which makes these programs vulnerable to cut-backs.

EIS: Some islands need the establishment of environmental impact statement procedures, to help emphasize sustainability in land use and agricultural development.


1 Garrett, H.E., et al., 1994, Agroforestry: an integrated land-use management system for production and farmland conservation, Assn. for Temperate Agroforestry, 58 pp.

2 AFTA, 1994, Agroforestry for Sustainable Development: A National Strategy to Develop and Implement Agroforestry, Workshop to "Develop a Framework for a Coordinated National Agroforestry Program," June 29-30, Nebraska City, NE

3 Rietveld, W.J., Technical Coordinator, 1995, Proceedings, Agroforestry and Sustainable Systems Symposium; 1994, August 7-10, Ft. Collins, CO. General Technical Report RM-GTR-261. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ft. Collins, CO

4 Garrett, H.E., et al., 1994, Agroforestry: an integrated land-use management system for production and farmland conservation, Assn. for Temperate Agroforestry, 58 pp.

5 A summary of the report, Agroforestry Practice and Potential in the Northeast: a Macro-level Assessment, by Louise E. Buck and Amy B. Waterman, Dept. of Natural Resources, Fernow Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-3001

6 A summary of the report, Agroforestry and Sustainable Systems in the South, by F. Christian Zinkham, Lundy-Fetterman School of Business, Campbell University, Buies Creek, NC 27506, and D. Evan Mercer, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 12254, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.

7 A summary of the report, An Agroforestry Assessment of the Midwestern United States, by Andrew R. Gillespie, J. Doland Nichols and Shibu Jose, Forestry and Natural Resources Dept., 1159 Forestry Bldg., Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1159.

8 A summary of the report, Present Status and Future Potential for Agroforestry in the Northern Great Plains, by Peter R. Schaefer and John J. Ball, Dept. of Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks, South Dakota State University, P.O. Box 2207C, Brookings, SD 57007-0096.

9 A summary of the report, Agroforestry and Sustainable Systems in the Southern Great Plains, by Steven Anderson, Forestry Dept., 008C Agricultural Hall, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078-0491.

10 A summary of the report, Agroforestry and Sustainable Systems in the Intermountain Region, by Robert J. Lilieholm, Dept. of Forest Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5215.>

Region Description

11 A summary of the report, Agroforestry Opportunities in Northern California, Oregon and Washington, by Linda H. Hardesty and Linda M. Lyon, Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6410.

12 A summary of the report, Agroforestry in the Southwest: A Rich Past and Promising Future, by David A. Bainbridge, Biology Dept., California State University, San Diego, CA 92182.

13 A summary of the report, Agroforestry in the United States-Affiliated Pacific Islands: Present Status and Future Potential, by Kathleen S. Friday, USDA FS, and Robert W. Wescom, USDA NRCS, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, 1151 Punchbowl St., Rm. 323, Honolulu, HI 96813.

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