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Agroforestry: new findings by the University of Illinois

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Researchers at the University of Illinois have warned about hasty farming. Over 30 percent of the global land area is used for food production. A lot of sacrifices are made in the process, deforestation being one main issue. To remedy the situation, scientists from the University of Illinois are promoting a new alternative called agroforestry. This unconventional form of agriculture combines agriculture and forestry to create integrated and sustainable land-use systems. Agroforestry takes advantage of the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock, according to the National Agroforestry Center.

In total five methods of agroforestry exist, but no matter which method is being applied, biodiversity in agroforestry systems is typically higher than in conventional agricultural systems. With two or more interacting plant species in a given land area, it creates a more complex habitat that can support a wider variety of birds, insects and other animals. Agroforestry can also be beneficial in other ways. It can control runoff and soil erosion, be maintained more favorably, reduce insect pests and associated diseases, beemployed to reclaim eroded and degraded land and augment soil water availability. Agroforestry is also favorable to the local economy. It can provide a more diverse farm economy and stimulate the entire rural economy.

European farmers are ahead of their U.S. counterparts in terms of their adoption of agroforestry practices. As laid out in Phys™ , agro-ecologist Sarah Taylor Lovell explains, "It's very common in Europe. A lot of farmers are already doing hedgerows, which are similar to windbreaks, as part of their agroforestry systems, and even more integrated systems are fairly common”. According to the scientists from the University of Illinois, unlike in Europe, in the States there are still some mentality barriers. Farmers as well asthe way the laws are set make it less favorable for agroforestry. This is a method that should be more encouraged according to the team from Illinois.



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