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Overstory #39 - Agroforestry Resources for the Practitioner

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Overstory #38 - Live Fences

Editor's Note

The Overstory #32 covered multipurpose boundary planting which are used for wind protection. In this edition of The Overstory, special guest authors Stefan D. Cherry and Erick C.M. Fernandes summarize strategies for boundary plantings that can serve as live fences.

Live Fences

Live fences can be divided into two basic categories; live fence posts and live barriers or hedges. Live fence posts are widely spaced, single lines of woody plants that are regularly pruned back and used instead of metal or wooden posts for supporting barbed wire, bamboo or other materials. Hedges are thicker, more densely spaced fences that generally include a number of different species and usually do not support other fencing materials.

The primary purpose of live fences is to control the movement of animals and people, however, they have proven to be extremely diverse, low risk systems that provide farmers with numerous benefits. Besides their main function living fences can provide fuelwood, fodder and food, act as wind breaks or enrich the soil, depending on the species used.

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Overstory #37 - Trees/Livestock Examples

Editor's Note

This is the third in our series on animals in agroforestry. The first (#35) covered the advantages and disadvantages of integrating animals with agriculture and forestry. The second (#36) introduced the practice of silvopasture, integrating livestock in forestry system. In this edition of The Overstory, special guest authors Dr. Ross Gutteridge and Dr. Max Shelton summarize examples of several important agroforestry systems which incorporate animals Productivity of Animals in Agroforestry Systems.

Plantation crop systems

The principal plantation crops where integration of livestock is possible are rubber, oil palm and coconuts. In the past, most attention has focused on the integration of cattle with coconuts and this system has the greatest potential for further development. The unique quality of coconuts, compared to most other plantation crops, is the relatively constant and bright light environment over the life of the crop (60-80 years). Consequently, understorey pastures can be grazed on a semi-permanent basis. Liveweight gain potential can be quite high and is influenced by a number of factors but particularly light level. Improvement is possible through the use of shade-tolerant pasture species.

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Overstory #36 - Silvopasture: An Agroforestry Practice

Editor's Note

The last edition of The Overstory introduced the integration of animals as a key component in forestry and agroforestry systems. This edition introduces the specific case of integrating livestock and forestry, called "silvopasture." The following article has been adapted from a technical note published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agroforestry Center. Further information and references are found following the article.


Silvopasture as an agroforestry practice is specifically designed and managed for the production of trees, tree products, forage and livestock. Silvopasture results when forage crops are deliberately introduced or enhanced in a timber production system, or timber crops are deliberately introduced or enhanced in a forage production system. As a silvopasture, timber and pasture are managed as an integrated system.

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Overstory #35 - Animals in Agroforestry

Most modern systems of raising animals separate animals from their natural environment. In these systems, many of the cycles of nature which are beneficial to both animals and their environment are broken.

The use of animals can be a controversial topic. In many situations, especially in the tropics, animals such as cattle, goats and sheep are associated with ecological degradation and deforestation. There is no doubt that the inappropriate use of animals and poor management leads to many environmental problems. However, this does not necessarily have to be the case.

If planned and managed properly, appropriate kinds of animals can be key components in sustainable farming systems. Agroforestry systems that incorporate animals with tree crops can enhance important cycles of nature such as nutrient cycling and balancing of insect populations while reducing energy intensive management techniques. The key is to integrate the natural needs, behaviors, and products of animals with the environment provided by the agroforestry system in a way that maximizes the benefits to the animals and to the system as a whole.

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Overstory #34 - Forest Islands, Kayapo Example

Editor's Note

Indigenous knowledge of nature and agriculture represents hundreds or even thousands of years of accumulated knowledge and experience. Indigenous peoples can teach us effective models for sustainable resource management. The following study of the Kayapo Indians gives an exciting account of how people developed knowledge of complex ecosystems, and worked with nature to meet their needs. Readers may recognize some of the principles practiced by the Kayapo have been adapted for modern use elsewhere in some permaculture and agroforestry settings.

Kayapo Indians: experts in synergy

Indians are thought of as merely exploiters of their environments--not as conservationists, manipulators, and managers of natural resources. Researchers find however, that presumed "natural" ecological systems in Amazonia are, in fact, products of human manipulation. Old agricultural fallows are extensive and reflect human-engineered genetic diversity. In the formation of "islands of forest" (Apêtê) in the "campo-cerrado" in Brazil, for example, the Kayapo were found to have concentrated plant varieties collected from an area the size of Western Europe into a 10 hectare plot.

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