Much of the beauty in American agricultural landscapes is complemented by the trees in those landscapes. We depend on these tree’s products every day–from the paper our children use in school, to many of the fruits we eat, the wood burning in our fireplaces, and the wildlife habitat created by those trees and forests.
Forests are vital to our economy, as well. Trees are part of forest ecosystems that play a critical role in our livelihoods, providing environmental, economic and social values. Agroforestry practices support agricultural production and help improve water quality and air quality, soil health, and wildlife habitat. These working trees can also grow fiber, food, and energy. And with the U.S. Census Bureau projecting a population surge to nine billion by 2044, forests and agroforests can help meet the growing demands for food, shelter, medicine, and recreation. Read more »
Pablo Chacón, a Guatemalan farmer, takes notes at the CATIE dairy farm and research center in Turrialba, Costa Rica, where he is studying agroforestry on an FAS-funded scholarship.
Pablo Chacón, a young Guatemalan farmer who is studying agroforestry at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Turrialba, Costa Rica, can now show the people in his home community how livestock grazing and hardwood forests can co-exist and prosper. Earlier this month, he told me and other Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) visitors to CATIE that the education he gained from his FAS-funded scholarship to CATIE has equipped him to be a change maker.
“CATIE’s research in the tropics shows that degraded lands can be restored using combined forest and pastoral production systems,” Chacón said. “The benefits of trees in pastures are clear: The shade helps reduce stress in animals during the dry season, keeps moisture in the soil and retains the strength of pastures during the dry season.” Read more »
Potato production is an important part of the Black Brook Watershed’s landscape. Photo credit: J. Owen /Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
When thinking about how to reduce run-off from potato fields in New Brunswick, Canada, researcher Josée Owen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada turned to a tool created by Mike Dosskey, a U.S. Forest Service researcher at the USDA National Agroforestry Center.
With others at the University of Kentucky and the Forest Service, Dosskey created AgBufferBuilder, a GIS-based computer program used for designing vegetation buffers around agricultural fields. Soil can erode, and fertilizer and pesticides off of fields while suspended in water. Buffers with trees, shrubs and other plants help to filter this water by trapping sediment and nutrients. Read more »
Workshop participants examine forest grown lion’s mane mushrooms. (Photo credit: Ken Mudge / Cornell University and Allen Matthews / Chatham University)
Helping landowners care for their forests and strengthen local economies is an important goal of the U.S. Forest Service, USDA National Agroforestry Center and their partnering organizations.
According to Ken Mudge of Cornell University, any farmer with a woodlot and the drive to diversify should consider forest-cultivated shiitake mushrooms. They are well suited to the increasing demand for locally produced, healthy foods.
With a retail price of $12 to $20 per pound, the demand for shiitakes is considerable throughout the Northeast. As an added benefit, growing mushrooms encourages landowners to learn more about managing their forests. Read more »
Day and night, pollinators are at work all around us—and it’s not just honey bees. Did you know that pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we eat? If you’d like to learn more, we’ve pulled together five blogs from 2015 highlighting some surprising facts about these busy helpers and the many ways different USDA agencies, farmers, ranchers and other partners are working to keep all pollinators healthy. Read more »
Blueberry bushes provide food for both bumblebees and people. (Photo credit: Nancy Adamson/ National Agroforestry Center.)
Today, farms in the U.S. are larger and have less nearby habitat to support bees than in the past, yet the need for pollinators in rural landscapes has never been greater. In light of concerns over pollinator declines, a Memorandum was released by President Obama on June 20, 2014, Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Pollinators. Since the release of this Memorandum, USDA agencies have been taking additional steps to support pollinators.
One question many people are asking is: how can we incorporate more pollinator habitat into our communities, agricultural lands, and forests? Read more »