Senior Extension Officer, Department of Conservation and Environment. Beechworth, Vic
Agroforestry is a land use practice where agriculture and forestry are combined and managed to produce both commercial forest products and agricultural produce.
Any discussion on agroforestry usually involves considerable debate on What's Agroforestry? and not on What Opportunities? This can often occur to the detriment of the real issue, that of the opportunities emanating from agroforestry.
The definition chosen presents in a clear, concise way the key elements of agriculture and forestry being combined and managed to produce both forest products and agricultural produce.
The key opportunities available from agroforestry systems are:
1. Economic and Other Benefits
- There is a need to understand that the benefits ensuing from properly integrated shelter can result in a net production benefit on the farm.
- There is a range of agroforestry configurations compatible with the Whole Farm Planning process.
- Australian native species are under-valued and under-used. Tremendous opportunity exists in developing a better understanding of the use of these species in agroforestry.
4. Value Adding
- A wide range of opportunity exists in the area of on-farm value adding by addressing factors such as proper marketing, farm milling and silvicultural management practices.
1. Economic And Other Benefits
Benefits of properly integrated shelter on properties include:
- increased crop and pasture production;
- increased liveweight gain in cattle and sheep with associated increases in milk and wool production;
- reduced stock mortality rates;
- provision of timber for farm use or local industry;
- assistance in providing wildlife habitat, fire protection(1), and reducing land degradation.
These benefits are brought about because the provision of shade and shelter leads to reductions in wind speed which in turn reduces heat stress or cold stress on plant and animals.
Figure 1 illustrates an example where livestock show an increase in liveweight when sheltered compared with an unsheltered situation(2).
Figure 2 illustrates an increase in crop yield with effective shelter
In summary, properly designed shelter in a farm situation can increase production from livestock because of an increase in pasture volume and a reduction of environmental effects(3).
Rod Bird, in his paper "Trees for Shelter on Farms"(4), suggests that, using a model farm, if at least 5% of a farm is made up of shelter, financial gains can be expected. With 10% devoted to shelter in the right situation, gains could still be made.
With 20% of the property in shelter, the situation can still be economic in some circumstances.
This is repesented in Figure 3.
2. Agroforestry Configurations
Configurations need to be looked at in terms of a Whole Farm Plan and not just in isolation. In simple terms, agroforestry can be looked at as a series of shelterbelts integrated into the Whole Farm Plan where the intention is to manage components of the shelterbelts for timber production or a combination of other forest produce.
Figures 4 and 5 illustrate examples of agroforesty layouts.
Systems involve 1-3 rows where management is carried out for timber production on one or more rows.
2.2 Timber Belts(5)
Systems involve multi-rowed shelterbelts where some species are grown and managed for timber production as well as the normal benefits obtained from shelterbelts.
2.3 Stock Havens
Systems involve the establishment of woodlot for the prime purpose of protecting stock, e.g. off shears sheep or an area for stock to retreat to or be contained in extreme weather conditions (heat or cold). Species are usually chosen for timber production and are managed accordingly.
2.4 Remnant Tree Stands
Existing tree stands on properties are often neglected when, with little extra management, wood products could be a proposition. Agricultural production can be included provided the perpetuation of the stands is not compromised.
Areas are specifically set aside for timber production. On their own, these could not be considered an agroforestry system because of the absence of an agricultural component.
3. Agroforestry Species
While radiata pine has a legitimate place in agroforestry the challenge lies in utilising more effectively indigenous species or selection of native species suitable for your area. Some work has been done in the collection of select seed stock (CSIRO) and in the breeding of improved native species (CSIRO, APPM and Alcoa).
The Department of Conservation and Environment, North East Region, in addition to establishing a seed bank(6) to encourage the use of indigenous species, has undertaken collections of local species that show outstanding form and superior growth characteristics. These selections are being trialled by the Department to compare them with selections of the same species from similar climatic zones in other States.
- Seed sources - seed sources of select stock are limited. CSIRO can provide some material and Departments such as Conservation and Environment may have limited stocks. There is a need for individuals and groups to include collection of select stock as part of their revegetation programs.
- Plant material - limited supplies of cloned or improved material are available in respect to radiata pine and a few native species such as E. camaldulensis and E. globulus are becoming available. More work needs to be done in relation to the major native species.
- Why native? - native species are well adapted to Australian conditions particularly the more arid areas. Natives also fulfil many other revegetation requirements such as assisting with flora and fauna values, genetic diversity, etc.
There is a need to concentrate on a small number of species in order to maximise research and trial work. The species listed are all considered suitable for agroforestry in Victoria. A great number would also be suitable for many areas of NSW.
High Rainfall Species: 750 - 1000 mm
Eucalyptus obliqua Messmate
Eucalyptus regnans Mountain Ash
Eucalyptus nitens Shining Gum
Eucalyptus globulus spp globulus Southern Blue Gum
Eucalyptus globulus spp bicostata Eurabbie
Eucalyptus camaldulensis River Red Gum
Acacia melanoxylon Blackwood
Acacia dealbata Silver Wattle
Casuarina cunninghamiana River She Oak
Pinus radiata Radiata Pine
Lower Rainfall Species: 450 - 750 mm
Eucalyptus camaldulensis River Red Gum
Eucalyptus polyanthemos Red Box
Eucalyptus sideroxylon Red Ironbark
Eucalyptus macorhyncha Red Stringybark
Acacia implexa Lightwood
Callitris columellaris White Cypress Pine
Other Species Worthy of Consideration
Eucalyptus maculata Spotted Gum
Grevillea robusta Silky Oak
Other Acacia species
Other Casuarina or Allocasuarina species
4. Value Adding
In order to maximise returns from the tree/shrub component of agroforestry, a range of aspects needs to be considered.
For example, if we consider the economics of an enterprise based on standard royalty rates, the enterprise may not be highly profitable.
Standard royalty rates for native species in Victoria would range from $20 - $80/m3 in the paddock. In this situation the landholder is not really involved in the process except as a provider of the product.
If we consider the economics of the same enterprise, based on a value added situation, the price range could then be expected to rise, depending on species, from $600 - $1500/m3.
Areas to consider in this field include:
- Consider niche marketing either in Australia or overseas.
- There is a real need to promote the value of Australian native species. Australian species generally speaking are undervalued.
- Consider direct selling of the product to manufacturers.
- Value added by managing timber stands on the property, i.e. thinning and pruning to produce a higher value product.
4.2 Farm Sawmilling
- Consider milling on the farm.
- Consider contract milling or cooperative milling as a group of farmers.
- For a small proportion of landholders, turning the timber into products may be an option. Some farmers are direct selling products such as furniture.
Opportunities do exist in agroforestry to improve and diversify farming enterprises if we look at integrating agroforestry into the Whole Farm Plan process.
Much needs to be done by industry, landholders and government departments in continuing and increasing research development and extension in agroforestry. A major area largely neglected is the quantification of the effects of shelter on livestock and pasture/crop productivity.
Other priorities include evaluation and development of silvicultural practices, value adding and marketing, true to type selection, agroforestry configurations, and increasing the awareness of the role of Australian natives in agroforestry.
1. Martin, D.F. (1988). "The Use of Trees as Fire Breaks". Effective Fire Control Field Day. Rutherglen Research Institute.
2. Burke, S., Campbell, A. and Robertson, D. (1988). "Shelterbelts". Conservation, Forests and Lands and Potter Farmland Plan.
3. Bird, P.R. (1988). "Financial Gains of Trees on Farms Through Shelter". Volume 11. Proceedings of papers: The International Forestry Conference for the Australian Bicentenary.
4. Bird, P.R. (1988). "Trees for Shelter on Farms - An Economic Assessment". Rural Quarterly, Volume No. 3.
5. Garrett, B.K. at al. (1991). "Whole Farm Planning". Principles and Options. Conservation and Environment.
6. Martin, D.F. (1990). "Revegetation Extension Strategies and Techniques, North East Region of Victoria". 5th Australian Soil Conservation Conference, Retention and Replacement of Vegetation Workshop.