Forestry and Agroforestry
Forestry and Agroforestry: Southern Region Resources on Sustainable Woodland Management and Land Use Conservation
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the Southern region has over 200 million acres of forestland, with nearly 90 percent of it privately owned. Forestland in the South is some of the most dynamic, diverse and productive in the nation, and is a major agricultural revenue driver for many Southern states, contributing $200 billion annually to the nation's economy.
Forestland is a significant family asset, with timber harvesting (mainly from monoculture pine plantations) dominating commodity practices. However, many private landowners and farmers are recognizing other forestland amenities, such as recreational value, aesthetic enjoyment, wildlife conservation and water quality. There has been a shift away from a commodity-oriented approach to a more biocentric approach with woodland and forest management. A survey conducted in a Southern SARE grant-funded project (LS01-129), found that the most cited reason for owning land was "as an asset for my children/heirs." Sustainably growing, managing and harvesting the land to meet the needs of current and future generations is becoming more important. Implementing best management practices, particularly in abandoned or underutilized forestland, also enhances wildlife habitat, reduces soil erosion, and maintains or improves water quality.
Private landowners, farmers, researchers and educators have learned more about profitable and sustainable land use through Southern region SARE grant projects that not only improve land management skills and boost conservation efforts, but also broaden profit-making options. Many forestland owners assume timber harvesting is the only way to make money from their land. But non-timber products, such as pine straw, hunting leases and agroforestry, serve as additional revenue streams.
Agroforestry, in particular, is growing in popularity with both landowners and farmers interested in sustainable agriculture. Agroforestry is a sustainable land-use system that involves the intentional integration and management of trees, crops, and/or livestock in a single management unit. Agroforestry optimizes the benefits of integration, offering diversified income opportunities and value-added products, promoting a sound environment, and creating appealing scenery, thereby promoting a whole systems approach.
The Association for Temperate Agroforestry categorizes agroforestry into five basic types: windbreaks, alley cropping, silvopasture, riparian buffers and forest farming. Within each is a host of options available to landowners and farmers.
The Southern region has a great potential for developing various agroforestry practices because of the region's suitable environment to support all components of the system. Through Southern region SARE grant-funded projects, landowners and farmers have been adopting more agroforestry practices and increasing their knowledge of systems application through research and Extension education opportunities.
This topic room includes a collection of educational materials developed out of SARE-funded forestry and agroforestry research for those interested in sustainable ag practices of forest and woodland management, and the integration of forestland with crops and livestock.
Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region. This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.