Hesperian Health Guides

Planting Trees and Crops Together

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 15: Sustainable Farming > Planting Trees and Crops Together

When land is scarce, some farmers cut down trees in order to plant crops. But planting trees and crops together (agroforestry) can make farmland more productive and provide more and different crops.

Agroforestry requires care in choosing trees and in planting them where they will be of most use. Some farmers use these guidelines:

  • Trees should not compete with crops for water, sunlight, or space.
  • Each tree should provide for more than one need, such as food, fodder, medicine, shade, firewood, thatch, or lumber.
Illustration of the below: a landscape of farmland with different contours and various trees and crops.
Planting trees and bushes on contours and high on
slopes saves soil
and water.
Trees planted apart from each other around the farm can provide lumber, fruit, fodder, and other products while letting sunlight reach crops.
Trees planted in rows on the windy side of crop or pastures land can provide a windbreak.
Trees in pastures provide shade, fodder, and homes for the birds and insects that eat pests.
Plant crops that need a lot of sun with trees still too young to shade the crops. Planting a new section each year allows both crops and trees to be harvested each year.
Mixing trees that grow at different heights, such as coffee, coconut, and cacao, increases the variety of crops.