In the age of conventional agriculture, the value of forest land has rarely been appreciated. Farmers value clear land so that they can maximize the amount of crops they are able to grow and sell. However, decades of evidence is beginning to show that the conventional system is highly flawed, leading to decreased soil fertility, increased costs, less nutritious foods and damage to the environment, leading us towards climate crisis.
In sustainable agriculture, we recognize the importance of reforestation not only for the ecology and environment, but also for the benefits it can offer our farms. Permaculture systems incorporate this into farm design as Zones 4&5, while Biodynamic certification bodies actually require that 10% of the land be dedicated to biodiversity reserve. Let’s examine a few of these benefits.
Home for Predators
The conventional system is very prone to outbreaks of pests, due to monocropping, poor plant health, and most importantly, no more habitat for predatory animals. Pests multiply endlessly due to food abundance, but the predators who normally feed on them cannot establish because their natural habitat is destroyed.
Forested areas, Wild grassland, Ponds and other nature reserves are valuable habitats for beneficial animals like birds, praying mantises, spiders, dragonflies and more that serve to reduce pest populations in a natural way.
Home for Bacteria
Natural areas are the best breeding grounds for soil bacteria. Forest soil contains trillions of good bacteria which are needed for soil to restore itself and for organic material do decompose. Having natural areas around your farm give these bacteria safe havens to reproduce without fear of being tilled or damaged.
I have found that adding a few shovelfuls of forest soil to my plots helps quite a bit, possibly due to the healthy ecosystem in it. Do ensure that it is a natural forest, and not a mahogany “forest” which lines many farms. Soil and leaves from mahogany can be harmful to your soil.
Trees break down things like rocks, and their roots go very deep into the soil and bring up minerals that otherwise be unavailable. These become biomass in the form of leaves which you can then use as composting materials.
Trees also maintain your groundwater which makes it easier for you to source water via deep well.
Finally tree roots hold the soil in place, stopping erosion. This makes them very important for sloping farms especially. When farming in upland regions.
Creates Microclimate and Protects from Storms
Forested areas can form protective barriers that shield your farm from storms and strong winds that can otherwise do devastating damage to your crops.
They also help to create a microclimate, which is more humid and cool than surrounding areas. This helps to keep your soil moist and plants healthy.
Can Provide Valuable Produce as Well
Forests can include food crops and trees for lumber. These are a long-term investment but also need relatively less maintenance costing less over time. Lumber trees can be highly valuable either sold or used for construction. Fruit trees, once they begin bearing in 5-10 years are a constant source of food and produce that even your children can inherit.
Due to the fact that some trees are shade-tolerant, or require shade so you can even do two levels of planting, for example mango and cacao trees.
We must not forget the importance that trees have to the environment! After all, we are all in this together. Farmers and everyone else will suffer if this climate emergency is not addressed. Trees play a big part in reducing carbon emissions due to their biomass and continuous growth.
Tree Species That Can be Used
Kamagong, Yakal, Magkuno, Mango, Marang, Madre De Cacao, Santol, Rambutan, Coconut and Tamarind are some trees you can use in your forest area.