Farm Forestry / Agroforestry: What Is It?
Note number: AG 0790
Published: January 2002
Reviewed: September 2007
This is the management of trees for a specific purpose within a farming context.
Typically this is timber plantations on private land. However it can be applied to a range of enterprises utilising different parts of the tree and managed in a variety of ways.
This is the combining of agriculture and tree growing so as to produce both agricultural products and tree products on a commercial basis.
The purpose of this is to gain positive interactions between the two systems at both the paddock level and the enterprise level. The two systems may be fully physically integrated, or treated as separate entities within a single business enterprise. It is therefore ideally suited to the
landholder seeking to enter farm forestry on a small scale, whilst maintaining an existing agricultural enterprise.
Farm Forestry can produce multiple benefits for the farm, the environment and the community.
Figure 1. Farm forestry windbreaks provide protection for livestock, crops and pastures.
Figure 2 Trees lower watertables – this helps to combat a salinity problem.
Benefits to the landholder include:
- shelter for stock, pasture and crops (Figure 1)
- additional and diversified earnings
- improved living environments
- a buffer against the cyclical downturns in prices and drought, frost and flood events.
- improvement and maintenance of soil and water health through watertable reduction (Figure 2).
- increases in capital value
Other benefits to the environment and community are:
- the creation of new jobs and industries
- sustainable management of natural resources
- increases in biodiversity
Other advantages of farm forestry are:
- that it is an industry that easily fits around the activities of most agricultural enterprises.
- prices of wood products are relatively stable compared to most agricultural products.
- long term productivity is not weather dependant.
Products & species
A diverse range of products and species is currently present in farm forestry in Australia. However, only a few of these will be suitable for you. Determining which ones are most appropriate for your situation will involve careful study of a number of points.
- The available markets. Their distance, accessibility and potential returns.
- Your current enterprise. What type of farm forestry would best compliment it? Which locations would give the best result?
- The physical attributes of the site. That is the average rainfall, soil profile, drainage and exposure.
Popular products in Victoria are veneer, particle board, sawn timber of various standards, firewood, posts, pulpwood, brush fencing, Christmas trees, and cut flowers.
Species commonly used for commercial plantations in Victoria are Eucalyptus globulus (Victorian/Tasmanian blue gum), Pinus radiata (radiata pine), and E.cladocalyx (sugar gum).
There are basically four strategies for fitting trees into the farm.
- Plantations : Large scale (> 20 hectares) planting where the emphasis is usually more on forestry than agriculture and the aim is large volumes of product.
- Woodlots : Small opportunistic planting of any shape for a wide variety of purposes. Such as triangles in paddock corners, circles for mid paddock shelter and fire wood blocks near the house.
- Belts : Linear planting of one or more parallel lines.
Can be either straight (as along a fence), curved or irregular (as along a stream).
- Wide spaced : Scattered trees either singly or in small groups established several or more metres apart from the onset.
Before making changes in business direction or investing in a new enterprise, it is important that you consider a few other things first. To begin make sure you have a thorough understanding of your current situation and aspirations. Then conduct a comprehensive study of the new enterprise and determine how it will compliment your current enterprise and assist in you achieving your primary goals.
Completion of a Whole Farm Planning course is strongly recommended. This will help you determine the physical attributes of your land and the best way to realise its capabilities.
There are numerous publications on the topics of farm forestry and agroforestry. A selection of which have been listed below. Technical advice is also available from a range of sources including DPI, Greening Australia, Australian Forest Growers and a range of commercial tree growing companies.
In some parts of the state interested landholders have joined together to form “Agroforestry Networks”. One of the key roles of these networks is to assist landholder access to information and assistance. Typical activities of these groups include the distribution of technical information, conducting field days and seminars, and providing input to the Department’s Farm Forestry Program at a local level.
For additional Information Notes covering other aspects of farm forestry, visit the Private Forestry website at: http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/forestry/private-land-forestry
Australian Forest Growers (AFG) PO Box E18
Kingston ACT 2604
Ph. 02 6285 3833
Bird P.R. Farm Forestry in Southern Australia – a focus on clearwood production of specialty timbers (2000) ISBN 0 7311 4685 9
.Reid R & Stehen P The farmers forest – Multipurose
Forestry for Australian Farmers ISBN 0 642 58352 8
RIRDC/LWRRDC/FWPRDC Joint Venture Agroforestry Program (1997) Design Principles for Farm forestry: A guide to assist farmers to decide where to place trees and farm plantations on farms.
This Information Note was originally developed by Charles Hajek, Wangaratta. January 2002.