Prospect of Agroforestry in India

K. Prasad 1


Trees and forests were always considered as an integral part of the Indian culture. Planting of trees was regarded as noble acts during the ancient times. Now, due to increasing population and huge gap between demand and supply, forests were ruthlessly exploited to meet the increasing demand of fuel, fodder and timber. Hence, in the light of ever increasing demand, concept of multiple use of land with multipurpose tree species has become immensely important. In this context, agroforestry, which is a form of multiple land use system, should be adopted and encouraged. Different workers at various places have reported the beneficial effect of agroforestry. Most of the findings were in favour of this system with increased productivity and improved soil conditions. Growing of trees and fodder crops, including fodder trees were more economical in marginal lands, where as in hot arid and semi-arid areas tree species such as Prosopis, Albizia, Zizyphus and Acacia provide many times more returns per unit of land than agriculture, under such conditions. Eucalyptus in agroforestry has been found more profitable than pure agriculture in Haryana state.

The present paper envisaged, significance of this land use system with number of tangible and intangible benefits including review of some Indian literature with appropriate recommendations for promotion of agroforestry according to the National Agriculture Policy (2000) of India. The justification for adopting agroforestry in the state of Uttar Pradesh has been emphasized with proper tree crop combinations for different agroclimatic regions.


Trees and forests were always considered as an integral part of the Indian culture. The ancient scriptures and historical records amply support this. The best of Indian culture was born in the forests. The Aryan civilization was started in our forests and our Rishis who evolved the Hindu religion, lived in forests in complete harmony with nature. The ashrams were the centers which harmonized agriculture and pasture with trees, animals and birds. It was widely believed that destruction of forests and cutting of trees created famine conditions, where as planting and maintaining trees were regarded as noble acts. In fact, so much has been written in our ancient literature that individuals on their own agricultural fields were doing planting tree in ancient times.

Gradually, during recent periods because of increasing population and huge gap between demand and supply, forests were ruthlessly exploited to meet the increasing demand of fuel, fodder and timber. To overcome this huge burden upon our existing forests, some alternative steps have to be taken to meet the increasing demand of forest produce i.e. production of such items have to be carried outside the forest areas as well. Hence, in the light of ever increasing demand, concept of multiple use of land with multipurpose tree species has become immensely important. In this context, agro forestry, which is a form of multiple land/use system, should be adopted and encouraged. The reasons for higher production under agro forestry system include:


Agro forestry is not a new system or concept. The practice is very old, but the term is definitely new. Agro forestry means practice of agriculture and forestry on the same piece of land. Bene et al. (1977) defined agro forestry as a sustainable management system for land that increases overall production, combines agricultural crops and animals simultaneously. Nair (1979) defines agro forestry as a land use system that integrates trees, crops and animals in a way that is scientifically sound, ecologically desirable, practically feasible and socially acceptable to the farmers. Another widely used definition given by the International Center for Research in Agro forestry (ICRAF) Nairobi, Kenya, that, "agro forestry is a collective name for all land use systems and practices where woody perennials are deliberately grown on the same land management unit as agricultural crops or animals in some form of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence" (Nair, 1983).


Higher yields of crops have been observed in forest-influenced soils than in ordinary soils. In the Tarai area of Uttar Pradesh, Taungya cultivators harvested higher yields of crops such as maize, wheat, pulses etc. without fertilizer. Approximately, 20% higher yields of grains and wood have been reported in agro forestry areas of Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh than from pure agriculture (Dwivedi and Sharma, 1989). Experiments conducted at IGFRI, Jhansi indicate that the total yield of fodder is more when fodder grasses are grown with fodder trees than pure fodder grass cultivation. Leucaena leucocephala intercropped with agricultural crops and fodder grasses increase the total yield of food grains, fodder and fuel (Pathak, 1989).

Nitrogen fixing trees grown in the agro forestry systems are capable of fixing about 50 -100 Kg N/ha/year (Tewari, 1995). Experience in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and some parts of the southern states indicate that a tree and agriculture crop production system is more productive. The total production and value of fuel, fodder and small timber in degraded lands are reported to be many times more than the coarse grains usually produced on them (Gupta and Mohan, 1982). Sanchez (1987) stated that, " appropriate agro forestry systems improve soils physical properties, maintain soil organic matter and promote nutrient cycling". Nitrogen fixing trees are mentioned as one of the most promising component of agro forestry system. The leaf litter after decomposition forms humus, releases nutrients and improves various soil properties, it also reduces the fertilizer needs.

Growing of trees and fodder crops (including fodder trees) is more economical, particularly on marginal lands. Observations taken in hot arid and semi-arid areas of Rajasthan indicate that marginal lands are incapable of sustaining stable and dynamic cultivation of agricultural crops. Silvipasture consisting of growing trees such as Prosopis, Albizia, Zizyphus and Acacia species may provide many times more returns per unit of land than agriculture under such conditions (Gupta and Mohan, 1982). Eucalyptus in agro forestry has been found to be more profitable than pure agriculture in Haryana. Populus deltoides increases the farm return by 50% in Tarai region of Uttar Pradesh (Chaturvedi, 1981).


After creation of Uttaranchal state in the year 2000, the tree cover in Uttar Pradesh has reduced to only 4.46% where as, the State Forest Policy 1998 envisaged that one third of the total geographical area should come under forest/tree cover. Hence, agro forestry is now the only option to increase the desired tree cover of 33%. In Uttar Pradesh, practices of agro forestry vary considerably according to the agro climatic zones, socioeconomic conditions and site-specific tree species.

The benefits of agro forestry is better understood by the farmers in western region of the state, this may be attributed, to the assured market of agroforestry produce because of flourishing wood based industries in the region. Eucalyptus and Poplar are preferred species in the western region, whereas, Shisham and Teak is preferred species in eastern region. Fruit trees also have considerable share of agro forestry particularly in western part of the state.

Hence, to workout suitable agro forestry models with preferred timber, fodder, fuel and fruit tree species for different agro climatic zones of U.P. a state level workshop was conducted by the research circle of U.P. forest department at Kanpur. The aim of the workshop was to bring together different workers including forest officers, scientists, subject matter specialists and NGOs working in the field of agro forestry at different places. Suitable recommendations for tree-crop combinations in four different agro climatic zones of the state viz. tarai region, western plain gangetic region, eastern plain gangetic region and vindhya and bundelkhand region have been made. The outcome of the workshop held on dated 5-6th May 2001 was published and circulated under Lab to Land leaflet series entitled "Significance and use of Agro forestry System". The tangible and intangible benefits of agro forestry as suggested in the leaflet are mentioned below:


The National Agriculture Policy, (2000) clearly states, "Agriculture has become a relatively unrewarding profession due to generally unfavorable price regime and low value addition, causing abandoning of farming and increasing migration from rural areas." Hence the Policy stresses, "Farmers will be encouraged to take up farm/agro-forestry for higher income generation by evolving technology, extension and credit support packages and removing constraints to development of agro forestry".

Rural people have been practicing tree planting in their farms and homesteads to meet household requirements of fuel, poles, timber and medicinal plants. With the advent of social forestry, diversification in agriculture was encouraged to generate high income and minimize risks in cropping enterprises.

Planning Commission, GOI, 2001 for promoting agro forestry, has recommended the following: -


Anonymous, (2001). Report of the task force on greening India for livelihood security and sustainable development. Planning commission, GOI.

Bene, J.C. Bealt, H.W. and A. Cole (1977). Tree, Food and People, IDRC Ottawa.

Chaturvedi, A.N. (1981). Poplar for planting. Uttar Pradesh Forest Department Bull. No. 50, Lucknow, 27 pp.

Dwivedi, A.P. and Sharma, K.K. (1989). Agro forestry: its potential. Paper in Seminar on Eucalyptus, FRI, Dehradun.

Gupta, T and Deepinder Mohan, (1982). Economics of trees versus annual crops on marginal agricultural lands. Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. New Delhi, 139 pp.

Nair, P.K.R. (1979). Agro forestry Research: A retrospective and prospective appraisal Proc. Int. Conf. International Cooperation in Agro forestry. ICRAF Nairobi, pp. 275-296.

Nair, P.K.R. (1983). Some promising agro forestry technologies for hilly and semi-arid regions of Rwanda. Sem. Agr. Res., The Hague.

Pathak, P.S. (1989). Management of subabul for optimizing production. In production of fodder and fuel wood trees (Eds. N.G. Hegde and Others), BAIF Publications, Pune.

Prasad, K., Kumar Ashwani, Dubey, P., Mishra, C.M. (2002). Significance and Use of Agro forestry system. Lab to Land leaflet No. 10 pp. 50.

Sanchez, P.A. (1987). Soil productivity and sustainability in agro forestry systems. In: Steppler, M.A. and Nair, P.K.R. (Ed.,) Agro forestry: a decade of development. ICRAF, Nairobi.

Tewari, D.N. (1995). Agro forestry for increased, productivity, sustainability and poverty alleviation. International Book Distributors, Dehradun.

1 Principal Chief Conservator of Forests
Training And Research, U.P., Lucknow, India