One thing leaders at the National Agroforestry Center in Lincoln, Nebraska will tell you is that the idea of agroforestry sticks, just not always the name. The same is true in the islands, even though farmers and landowners there have been practicing agroforestry for centuries – eons, maybe. No one knows. It’s part of the way they manage their land, not just an efficient practice for maximizing yield.
“They don’t use the word agroforestry,” says NRCS Assistant Director of Field Operations Bart Lawrence. “It’s tree planting for them.”
Agroforestry is defined as the combination of agriculture and forestry to create integrated and sustainable land-use systems. In Guam it commonly consists of using multi-story cropping as a form of windbreak. Landowner Bernard Watson has installed more than 60,000 linear feet of perimeter and in-field windbreaks to help manage his 30-acre parcel. Watson divided his fields with secondary windbreaks, all designed to NRCS specifications, and was able to secure funding through EQIP.
Lawrence says that landowners use windbreaks to help protect against strong tradewinds that can be incredibly damaging to field crops. “We have a lot of plants that have adapted to prevailing winds that get up to 20 miles per hour,” he says. “The windbreaks help all the way around.”
Landowners like to incorporate breadfruit trees with regular fruit-bearing crops like banana and papaya, and sometimes with citrus plants mixed in. Island resource leaders are currently trying to save ironwood, a primary tree species used in windbreaks. A virus or bacteria has impacted the ironwood population drastically in recent years. If there is an upside, however, it’s that landowners are now using more native trees for windbreak projects.
For more information about agroforestry, and different types of practices, visit the National Agroforestry Center’s website at http://nac.unl.edu.