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With Agroforestry, Woodlands Can Also Yield Crops

April 30, 2012

With Agroforestry, Woodlands Can Also Yield Crops

From the Washington Post

Forest farming can be an attractive option for property owners who want to earn more from their land without cutting timber.

It generally involves thinning existing woodlots to leave the best canopy trees for wood production while opening the forest floor to understory crops — things like mushrooms, blackberries and ginseng.

The combination of those products with timber “is a real winner,” said Kenneth Mudge, an associate professor of ornamental horticulture at Cornell University. “It’s a good way to get some early returns while waiting for your trees to grow large enough to be processed into lumber.”

The potential is huge, said James Chamberlain, a non-timber forest products technologist with the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station, at Blacksburg, Va.

There are about 53 million acres of family-owned forest in Appalachia alone, Chamberlain said. “Much of that area has habitat for growing herbaceous plants that can be harvested.”

Almost any shade-tolerant plant or fungus will grow in a wooded setting.

“I recommend native plants, though, that are attuned to the area you’re interested in,” Chamberlain said.

The costs of producing non-timber products in forest farm setups can vary dramatically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

“Maple syrup or woods cultivated for ginseng production may need an investment of several hundred dollars or more to purchase the necessary equipment to get started,” the agency said in a fact sheet. “On the other hand, craft materials, leeks, native fruits and nuts that are already growing on a site may not require any out-of-pocket costs other than containers to gather the products while harvesting.”

There’s a difference between forest farming and “wildcrafting,” which is gathering and processing naturally occurring forest products on private or public lands.

“Advantages forest farmers have over wild harvesters is they can produce large volumes of the product that is in demand, their product will be more uniform and they can provide quality control,” said Jeanine Davis, an associate professor at North Carolina State University’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, at Mills River.

Read the full article here

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 30, 2012 10:08:55 pm

    Cheers for this post. Not too sure what native things we could grow in our mini teatree garden area but a great idea anyway. Cheers for these really informative posts and moreso, for pointing me in the right direction for hours of information gleaning from other sits. I am off to hunt the Department of Agriculture fact sheet site right now. Thanks Spencer for all of the work that you do to share this valuable information with us almost every day, you are very much appreciated 🙂

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