Essential concepts, terms, and phenomena from the static part of the UPSC-CSE syllabus
The Word: Agroforestry
Subjects: Geography and Ecology
What is agroforestry?
Agroforestry is defined as the cultivation and use of trees and shrubs with crops and livestock in agricultural systems. It aims at achieving a more ecologically diverse and socially productive output from the land than is possible through conventional agriculture. Agroforestry seeks positive interactions between its components and is also known as ‘social forestry’. Simply put, it involves raising trees and agricultural crops either on the same land or in close association in such a way that all land including the waste patches is put to good use. It applies agricultural practices that are compatible with the cultural patterns of the local population and has many benefits.
What does history tell us about agroforestry?
The modern concept of agroforestry emerged in the early 20th century. But history tells us that the woody perennials were used in agricultural systems in Roman times. So one can say that integrating trees with crops and animals is a long-standing tradition in the world.
What are the benefits of agroforestry?
Agroforestry is a practical and low-cost means of implementing many forms of integrated land management. Therefore, it seeks to reduce human impact on the land. Importantly, it contributes to a green economy. It promotes long-term, sustainable, and renewable forest management, especially for small-scale producers.
Agroforestry is applied to a variety of landscapes like a field, farms, watersheds etc., in different ecosystems and cultures. It has the potential to improve livelihoods through enhanced health and nutrition, increased economic growth, and strengthened environmental resilience and ecosystem sustainability. Agroforestry systems are also beneficial as they are important for long-term carbon sequestration, soil enrichment, soil moisture conservation, biodiversity conservation, air- and water-quality improvements, protection of arable land from wind and water erosion, etc.
One of the benefits of agroforestry is that it derives from the interactions between trees and shrubs and crops and livestock. In the process, it optimizes positive interactions, such as mutualism and commensalism. It minimizes predation on crops and livestock and competition within and between species. Positive interactions may reduce stress on plants and animals, enhance yields, retain soil, and capture water. For example, the moist shaded microclimate under certain crop trees is beneficial for shade-tolerant crops such as turmeric or pineapple.
Agroforestry enables the farmer to get food, fodder, fuel, fruit, and timber from his land. The land becomes fit to give maximum production and provides employment to rural masses.
In India, The Indian Council for Agricultural Research and Forestry Department jointly undertake agroforestry research. It strives to develop suitable systems of land management. It seeks to integrate the integration of silviculture, with horticulture, agriculture and animal husbandry.
Point to ponder: What may be the negative effects of agroforestry? What have been the efforts of the Indian Government for promoting agroforestry?
Terms you should look for: mutualism, commensalism, silviculture, horticulture