March 28, 2023

What is an agroforestry system

Agroforestry systems . In recent years, agroforestry systems have been successful in becoming widely accepted in many tropical countries. The main reason for this acceptance has been its high adaptability to different environmental and socioeconomic conditions, a flexibility of strategies and practices, and its direct orientation towards solving problems. In the case of Cuba , agroforestry systems constitute viable alternatives for the rural scenario, with a view to satisfying in a sustained manner the basic food needs and the living conditions of the population, through different forms of adoption according to the characteristics of the ecosystem where they are located. implant.


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  • 1 General concepts and definitions
  • 2 Agroforestry
  • 3 Classification of agroforestry systems
    • 1 Agroforestry systems (trees with crops)
    • 2 Silvopastoral systems (trees with livestock)
    • 3 Agrosilvopastoral systems (trees with crops and livestock)
  • 4 Other classifications
    • 1  Systems Taungya
    • 2 Mixed or traditional home gardens
    • 3   Trees in association with perennial crops
    • 4  Shifting cultivation with intervention or management of improved fallows
    • 5 Trees in association with annual crops
  • 5Fuente

General concepts and definitions

The serious effects that natural resources have had, in general, and the current economic and social crisis that various countries are going through, have revitalized interest in achieving an accelerated and sustained development of agriculture, which will only be achieved to the extent that that production strategies are consistent with the rational use of the ecosystem. In this context, visualizing agricultural activity in agroforestry systems constitutes a valid, necessary and current approach in research and training for livestock development in the tropics.

Agroforestry production systems are defined as a series of systems and technologies for land use in which trees are combined with agricultural crops and/or pastures, depending on time and space to increase and optimize production in a sustained manner. . These systems can contribute to solving problems in the use of natural resources due to the biological and socioeconomic functions they fulfill.

From a biological point of view, the presence of trees favors production systems in aspects such as the maintenance of nutrient cycling and the increase in species diversity. In addition, due to the vertical structure provided by trees and other woody species, plants and crops with different light requirements can coexist; Likewise, the trees protect the soil from the effects of the sun, the wind and the heavy rains that characterize the tropics.

The use of agroforestry practices can also provide economic and sociocultural benefits, among which we can mention the reduction of economic risks due to the diversification of production and the creation of new jobs in nursery tasks, planting, maintenance of areas, etc.

The first attempts to define agroforestry date back to 1977 -[[1979. They defined it as “a set of land management techniques that involve the combination of forest trees, either with livestock or with crops.”

However, the word Agroforestry came to the Spanish language from the English agroforestry , so in recent years various criteria have been expressed about the true definition of this concept. The words agro-silvopastoral, agrosilvopastoral systems, agrodasonomy and agroforestry, among others, have been used interchangeably.


Over the years, numerous definitions of agroforestry or agroforestry systems have been given.
It is defined as:
“ Sustained land management system that increases its total yield, combines crop production with forest and/or animal species, simultaneously or sequentially on the same land surface, and applies management practices that are compatible with the cultural practices of the local population ”.

  • “ only in those cases where trees and shrubs, as well as agricultural crops and grazing animals, are found together on a given plot of land, in such a way that a mutual ecological influence can be demonstrated”.

  • a form of multiple cultivation in which three fundamental conditions are met: 1) there are at least two types of plants that interact biologically; 2) at least one of the components is a woody perennial and 3) at least one of the components is a plant managed for agricultural purposes (including pastures) ”.
  • Conceptualizing the term in question and emphasizing some of its characteristics and advantages, it is considered that agroforestry:
  1. It is a collective name for systems that involve the use of trees with crops and/or animals on the same unit of land.
  2. Emphasizes the use of indigenous and multiple-use trees and shrubs.
  3. Combines multi-output production with protection of the resource base.
  4. It is very suitable for low input conditions and fragile environments.
  5. It is structurally more complex than monoculture.
  6. It involves the interaction of sociocultural values ​​to a greater degree than most other land use systems.

Classification of agroforestry systems

agroforestry system

The classification of agroforestry systems is necessary in order to provide a conceptual framework that allows evaluating them and developing action plans for their improvement.
Agroforestry systems have been classified in different ways: according to their structure in space, their design over time, the relative importance and function of the different components, production objectives, and prevailing social and economic characteristics.
The classification is also based on the products that can be obtained and the type of combination between the components. Other classifications are based on the scale and objectives of production: commercial, subsistence and intermediate systems.
A classification is recommended that takes structural and functional aspects into account as a basis for grouping systems into four large groups:

Agroforestry systems (trees with crops)

  • Crop in alleys (alley cropping)
  • Shade trees over perennial crops
  • Homegardens
  • improved fallows
  • Windbreaks and protective fences
  • Systems Taungya
  • Mixing perennials with other crops
  • Agroforestry for the production of firewood

Silvopastoral systems (trees with livestock)

  • live fences
  • pastures with trees
  • protein banks
  • Integration of animals with wood production

Agrosilvopastoral systems (trees with crops and livestock)

  • home gardens with animals
  • Rows of bushes for animal feed, soil conservation and compost
  • Integrated production of crops, wood and animals

Other classifications

There is a classification based on the type of component included and the association between the components. Thus, the agroforestry systems described are:

  1. Sequential agroforestry systems, where there is a chronological relationship between annual harvests and tree products, that is, crops and tree plantations follow one another over time. These include:
  • Forms of migratory agriculture with intervention or management of fallows.
  • Systems Taungya.
  1. Simultaneous agroforestry systems, which consist of the simultaneous and continuous integration of annual or perennial crops, timber, fruit or multiple-use trees and/or livestock. These encompass:
  • Associations of trees with annual or perennial crops.
  • Mixed home gardens.
  • Agrosilvopastoral systems.
  1. Agroforestry systems of living fences and windbreaks.

These consist of rows of trees that determine a property or serve as protection for other components or systems.
According to the type of associated crop, the main function of the forest component and its distribution in space and time, a multiple and complicated arrangement of agroforestry systems is reached, which include;
A. Forestry systems

  1. Taungya systems or agroforestry
  2. Trees of value in crops
  3. Fruit trees in crops
  4. Trees that produce shade in crops and/or improve soil fertility
  5. live fences
  6. windbreaks
  7. Crops in strips or alleys
  8. Multiple agroforestry systems
  9. Homegardens
  10. Agrosilvopastoral systems
  11. Simultaneous crops and livestock in plantations.
  12. Trees associated with crops and livestock.
  13. Living fences around rural communities.
  14. Silvopastoral systems
  15. Grazing (or fodder production) in forest plantations.
  16. Grazing (or fodder production) in secondary forests.
  17. Timber trees in the pastures.
  18. Service trees in pastures.
  19. Fruit trees in the pastures.
  20. Fodder trees.
  21. Live fences.
  22. Windbreak curtains.

Agroforestry systems are basically a combination of forestry practices with agriculture and/or grazing on the same surface unit.

The growing pressure of the population for new farmland and greater food production is forcing the replacement of some production systems with more stable and productive ones.

Such is the case of agroforestry, since it provides great environmental and socioeconomic benefits and compared to monoculture production systems, agroforestry systems offer farmers several advantages, for example:

  1. It directly increases the income of the peasant family, combining crops with more balanced production cycles.
  2. Reduces agricultural production costs.
  3. In the medium and long term, the income from the production of wood and non-timber products, such as rubber, fruits, dyes and honey can be important.

Agroforestry is not a new practice, it has prevailed for centuries in many parts of the world, especially under subsistence, traditional, peasant or indigenous farming conditions.

Agroforestry systems can contribute to the reduction of rural poverty thanks to the increase in production on farms and family income, and at the same time that productivity and product diversity increase through agroforestry, it contributes to improving the health and nutrition of the rural poor.