Why We Need To Bring Back Silvoculture

We live in a time when our brightest minds are racing to develop mind-boggling technology, which they hope will steer humanity in a positive, climate-friendly direction.

And while technology and future thinking are powerful, they’re incomplete without peering into the wisdom of the past.

The issue we’re facing

A couple hundred years of industrial agriculture has reached its peak in terms of effectiveness: what used to be wildly helpful is now causing degradation instead of improving Earth’s vitality.

The case for bringing back silvopasture

Before industrial agriculture, there was “plain,” old, experience-informed, Earth-balanced agriculture – and that was a good thing.

Many ancient agricultural systems were very successful—sustaining lives and balancing biodiversity for hundreds or thousands of years.

And when it comes to time-tested agricultural systems, silvopasture nears the top in terms of benefits for people, animals, and the Earth.

  • Silvopasture is the ancient farming practice of raising animals, growing trees, and having pasture on the same land.

Benefits of silvopasture

  • A system that’s greater than the sum of its parts. The trees feed and shade livestock while their manure fertilizes the trees.
  • Cuts costs via symbiotic relationships. Trees can protect birds from prey, cool and shade overheated cattle, or provide pest and weed management for vineyards.
  • A climate solution with big potential. A pasture with trees has the ability to sequester five to 10 times as much carbon as a similar-sized pasture without trees.
  • Enhanced biodiversity. Biodiversity is key to ecosystem health and food nutrition.

TapFarm practices silvoculture techniques in the UK.

How to get it right, now

Silvopasture is more complicated than just setting livestock loose in the fields or woods. To do it right requires deep knowledge when choosing which trees and forage are the best fit in the local climate.

This is knowledge that our ancestors developed over hundreds of years, which they gained through trial, error, and shared experiences.

And their long journey to knowledge is a gift: we can use their hard-won wisdom to inform how we move forward.

Weaving ancient practices with modern advancements is a potent tool for optimizing all levels of agriculture.

Dig deeper

  • Check out this story about how farmers in the USA are reintroducing silvopasture techniques.
  • Check out this video from our partners at Verge Permaculture that discusses silvopasture techniques.

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