By Kiah Easton

What is agroforestry, and why is it important? When described by the USDA, “Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits.”According to the Savannah Institute home page, agroforestry is one of the top ten natural climate solutions. They have also created an informative video addressing how agroforestry helps draw down carbon, while creating income opportunities for farmers.

On their website, the Climate Institute explained that the practice is known for increasing crop productivity, creating and changing microclimates, improving nutrient cycling and more. They describe three approaches to agroforestry, including alley cropping, the growing of annual and perennial market crops between rows of nut trees; silvopasture, the practice of combining pasture or livestock grazing areas with trees; and forest farming, which is the growing of shade-tolerant crops in the understory of a managed forest.

Due to its carbon sequestration potential, which in turn reduces climate impacts, agroforestry has been considered a leading agricultural practice for reducing climate impact.

“In agricultural systems, carbon is stored in above- and below-ground biomass, and in soil,” the Climate Institute said, noting that research has shown that long-term agroforestry systems store equivalent or higher amounts of soil organic carbon (SOC) than neighboring natural forests. Agroforestry can also help prevent erosion and soil nutrient drainage while simultaneously increasing biodiversity and a farm’s profitability.

In our region, The Southern Ohio Chestnut Company (SOCC) is practicing methods of agriculture in Southeast Ohio through chestnut orchards on area farms, including the Woodcock Nature Preserve and Sugarbush Valley Farm (SVF). The Asheville Nuttery is also working with native tree crops throughout the region.

Both the Asheville Nuttery and SOCC have articles in this issue with updates.