Agroforestry-The next step in sustainable and resilient agriculture

Matthew Heron Wilson, Sarah Taylor Lovell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Agriculture faces the unprecedented task of feeding a world population of 9 billion people by 2050 while simultaneously avoiding harmful environmental and social effects. One effort to meet this challenge has been organic farming, with outcomes that are generally positive. However, a number of challenges remain. Organic yields lag behind those in conventional agriculture, and greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient leaching remain somewhat problematic. In this paper, we examine current organic and conventional agriculture systems and suggest that agroforestry, which is the intentional combination of trees and shrubs with crops or livestock, could be the next step in sustainable agriculture. By implementing systems that mimic nature's functions, agroforestry has the potential to remain productive while supporting a range of ecosystem services. In this paper, we outline the common practices and products of agroforestry as well as beneficial environmental and social effects. We address barriers to agroforestry and explore potential options to alter policies and increase adoption by farmers. We conclude that agroforestry is one of the best land use strategies to contribute to food security while simultaneously limiting environmental degradation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number574
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 18 2016


  • Agroecology
  • Agroforestry
  • Alley cropping
  • Forest farming
  • Organic agriculture
  • Riparian buffer
  • Silvopasture
  • Windbreak

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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