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Scientists find that evergreen agriculture boosts crop yields
Date:11/1/2010

rom the air and transfer it to the soil through their roots and leaf litter, replenishing exhausted soils with rich sources of organic nutrients. The trees bolster nutrient supply, increase food crop yields, and enhance the production of fodder, fuel and timber. These systems also provide additional income to farmers from tree products, while at the same time storing much greater amounts of carbon than other agricultural systems.

For example, farmers in Malawi have increased their maize yields by up to 280 percent when the crop is grown under a canopy of one particular fertilizing tree, Faidherbia albida. Unlike most other trees, Faidherbia sheds its leaves during the early rainy season and remains dormant during the crop-growing period. This makes it highly compatible with food crops because it does not compete with them for water, nutrients, or lightonly the bare branches of the tree's canopy spread overhead while crops of maize, sorghum, or millets grow to maturity below. The leaves and pods also provide a crucial source of fodder in the dry season for livestock when nearly all other plants have dried up. The trees may continue to provide these cost-free benefits for up to 70 to 100 years.

In Niger, there are now more than 4.8 million hectares of millet and sorghum being grown in agroforests that have up to 160 Faidherbia trees on each hectare.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already noted that transforming degraded agricultural lands into agroforestry has far greater potential to store carbon than any other managed land use change.

Researchers suggest that integrating agroforestry into farming systems on a massive scale would create a vital carbon bank. The IPCC estimates that a billion hectares of developing country farmland is suitable for conversion to carbon agroforestry projects.

A broad alliance is now emerging of governments, research institutions, and international and local developm
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Contact: Megan Dold
mdold@burnesscommunications.com
301-280-5720
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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