AgroFlorestry or Syntropic Agriculture

All this information is second had. Unlike my other posts which have all been through personal experience. This post is a collection of information from books, videos and internet, in order to set up my own forest garden in the future.

How to Put Together a System

  1. Draw land to scale on graphed paper
  2. Decide what trees you want to plant
  3. Figure out all the fully grown canopy size of all trees to scale on paper
  4. You can leave a bit of space between the full grown canopies or the forest will be very difficult to navigate. Or you can leave them together for a dense forest. This is more important in a temperate climate such as the UK where there is not enough energy from the sun and a closed canopy would make anything under the tree level a lot more difficult to grow
  5. Fill the spaces between trees with edible bushes and other crops

Three Key Principles

  1. You need perrenial plants (plants which grow for more than one year). Because they grow for more than one year, they tend to reach deep down with their roots to access water and recycle nutrients
  2. It must be a polyculture – many different species of plants growing together. Use plants with different shapes and sizes to work them at the same time
  3. A forest garden becomes a model ecosystem. The plants need connection and to work together. The bees birds, insects and microbes come together.

Specifics

  • Fruit trees
    • Need potassium for flowering
    • If in a windy area, will be much more productive if they are sheltered from the wind
    • Think about the shelter first before planting
  • Tubers
    • Dig some each year then leave the rest to regrow, so no need to replant anything
  • Potatoes
    • You cant so easily leave them int he ground to regrow the next year as they are more prone to disease
  • Cumfry
    • Rich in potassium. Has very deep tap roots which can go down metres and bring up potassium from deep in the soil. When planted next to a tree the roots can work in the same space as the trees roots will work more horizontally. The cumfry can then provide the tree with potassium that it could not have otherwise got

Resource partitioning

Careful planning is required, taking into account the soil, climate, crops, and varieties. It is particularly important not to have crops competing with each other for physical space, nutrients, water, or sunlight. Examples of intercropping strategies are planting a deep-rooted crop with a shallow-rooted crop, or planting a tall crop with a shorter crop that requires partial shade.

Forgard2-003

Mutualism

Planting two crops in close proximity can especially be beneficial when the two plants interact in a way that increases one or both of the plant’s fitness (and therefore yield). For example, plants that are prone to tip over in wind or heavy rain (lodging-prone plants), may be given structural support by their companion crop. Climbing plants can also benefit from structural support. Some plants are used to suppress weeds or provide nutrients. Delicate or light-sensitive plants may be given shade or protection, or otherwise wasted space can be utilized. An example is the tropical multi-tier system where coconut occupies the upper tier, banana the middle tier, and pineapple, ginger, or leguminous fodder, medicinal or aromatic plants occupy the lowest tier.

Intercropping of compatible plants can also encourage biodiversity, by providing a habitat for a variety of insects and soil organisms that would not be present in a single-crop environment. These organisms may provide crops valuable nutrients, such as through nitrogen fixation.

Pest management

There are several ways in which increasing crop diversity may help improve pest management. For example, such practices may limit outbreaks of crop pests by increasing predator biodiversity.[5] Additionally, reducing the homogeneity of the crop can potentially increase the barriers against biological dispersal of pest organisms through the crop.

There are several ways pests can be controlled through intercropping:

  • Trap cropping, this involves planting a crop nearby that is more attractive for pests compared to the production crop, the pests will target this crop and not the production crop.
  • Repellant intercrops, an intercrop that has a repellent effect to certain pests can be used. This system involved the repellant crop masking the smell of the production crop in order to keep pests away from it.
  • Push-pull cropping, this is a mixture of trap cropping and repellant intercropping. An attractant crop attracts the pest and a repellant crop is also used to repel the pest away.[6]

The degree of spatial and temporal overlap in the two crops can vary somewhat, but both requirements must be met for a cropping system to be an intercrop. Numerous types of intercropping, all of which vary the temporal and spatial mixture to some degree, have been identified.[7][8] These are some of the more significant types:

  • Mixed intercropping, as the name implies, is the most basic form in which the component crops are totally mixed in the available space.
  • Row cropping involves the component crops arranged in alternate rows. Variations include alley cropping, where crops are grown in between rows of trees, and strip cropping, where multiple rows, or a strip, of one crop are alternated with multiple rows of another crop. A new version of this is to intercrop rows of solar photovoltaic modules with agriculture crops. This practice is called agrivoltaics.[9]
  • Temporal intercropping uses the practice of sowing a fast-growing crop with a slow-growing crop, so that the fast-growing crop is harvested before the slow-growing crop starts to mature.
  • Further temporal separation is found in relay cropping, where the second crop is sown during the growth, often near the onset of reproductive development or fruiting, of the first crop, so that the first crop is harvested to make room for the full development of the second.

Limitations

Intercropping to reduce pest damage in agriculture, has been deployed with varying success. For example, while trap cropping has reduced pest densities at a commercial in experiments, it often fails to decrease pest densities deployed in large scale commercial landscapes.[10] Furthermore, increasing crop diversity through intercropping does not necessarily increase the presence of the predators of crop pests. In a systematic review of the literature, in 2008, in the studies examined, predators of pests tended only increased under crop diversification strategies in 53 percent of studies, and crop diversification only led to increased yield in only 32% of the studies

 

  • SesbaniaGliricidiaTephrosia, and Faidherbia albida are known as fertilizer trees. They have deep roots that bring up nutrients that the other crops cannot reach, they then shed these nutrients as their leaves fall and they are pruned, fertilizing the soil around them.
  • Sesbania
    • Grandiflora – It is a fast growing tree with pinnate mimosa like foliage. It produces the most spectacular beak shaped yellow flowers when mature, each around 6 to 10 cm in diameter, which are pollinated by hummingbirds.  Flowers are eaten as a vegetable and the young seed pods can also be eaten. Grows to a height of around 3 to 8 meters. Tolerant of waterlogged soil and flooding. Frost tender, minimum recommended temperature around 10°C. Blooms from June to frost. Easy to grow. Bark, fruits and roots used for medicinal purposes
  • Gliricidia
    • Tree from Mexico and South America that is used both to provide shade to chocolate trees and also enrich the soil; hence the common name meaning “mother of cocoa.” The wood is durable and useful for posts and railway ties.  This legume is a deciduous tree to 30′ with mimosa type foliage. Grown as a shade tree for both coffee and cacao plants but also seen as a “living fence”. Both seeds and bark are poisonous if eaten. Arid/tropical. Growing Instructions & Tips: Plant at a depth of 3/4″ using well draining soil mixture. Keep mooist ( not wet ) and warm. Requires bright light.

Here are the best videos I have found, particularly relating to Syntropic Farming Theory from Ernst Gotsch.

 

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