The ecological services that trees provide:Quiet Push for Agroforestry in U.S. – NYTimes.com

Posted by Trish Riley, November 26, 2011

On a forested hill in the mountains north of Montana’s capital, beneath a canopy of pine and spruce, Marc and Gloria Flora have planted more than 300 smaller trees, from apple and pear to black walnut and chestnut.

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Beneath the trees are layers of crops: shrubs like buffalo berries and raspberries, edible flowers like day lilies, vines like grapes and hops, and medicinal plants, including yarrow and arnica.

Turkeys and chickens wander the two-acre plot, gobbling hackberries and bird cherries that have fallen from trees planted in their pen, and leaving manure to nourish the plants.

For the Floras, the garden is more than a source of food for personal use and sale. Ms. Flora, an environmental consultant and former supervisor for the United States Forest Service, is hoping it serves as a demonstration project to spur the growth of agroforestry — the science of incorporating trees into traditional agriculture.

The extensive tree canopy and the use of native plants, she says, make the garden more resilient in the face of a changing climate, needing less water, no chemical fertilizers and few, if any, pesticides. “It’s far more sustainable” than conventional agriculture, she said.

via Quiet Push for Agroforestry in U.S. – NYTimes.com.