Some considerations on agroforestry in livestock production systems.

in ecoTrainlast year (edited)
Dear readers, the search for ecological and economic alternatives that reduce the negative effects of agricultural activities, has allowed the development of more integrated livestock systems, among these alternatives are agroforestry systems, which according to Moreno and Diaz (2008), these well-managed systems allow the production of agricultural products and protect biodiversity, also contribute to soil protection and promote important products such as firewood, timber, shade, windbreaks and even agroecotourism options to improve the landscape.

Design by @amestyj with an image of his property captured in a farm in Sur del Lago de Maracaibo.

In this sense, Ojeda (2003), pointed out that agroforestry systems (AFS) are a substantial part of the process of change in livestock farming towards systems that are more friendly to nature. These systems offer a sustainable alternative to increase animal and plant biodiversity, and to increase animal production levels with reduced dependence on external inputs. In the same vein, Mahecha (2002), stated that there are several reasons to consider agroforestry as a viable alternative in agricultural production systems.

Among the reasons or advantages of integrating trees to the agro-ecosystem is the adaptation of a microclimate, which brings multiple benefits such as the contribution of organic matter to the soil through its leaves, helps reduce erosion, in addition to this, some plants such as legumes help fix nitrogen to the soil, improve soil structure thanks to the depth that may have the root system.

On the other hand, when referring to livestock systems, there are alternatives to associate trees with pastures, generally the trees used belong to the leguminous family, which is a multifunctional plant that generates shade for animals which is beneficial to reduce heat stress, its biomass contains adequate percentages of protein which benefits the diet of cattle and besides that the plants in their root systems have the possibility of carrying out the process of symbiosis with some microorganisms such as bacteria of the genus rhizobium.

Bovines ruminating under the shade of a tree

Design by @amestyj with an image of his property taken at the Doña Cleofe estate

Some researchers mention that nitrogen fixation in legume symbiosis is estimated to average about 200 kg N/ha/year in the tropics, and the root system of trees and shrubs tends to be deeper, which can help extract nutrients and water from deeper soil layers to more superficial areas. Also, the high leaf production makes the leaves that fall to the soil available organic matter for soil mycoorganisms favoring the biological activity of micro, meso and macro fauna, which help the decomposition of organic matter transforming them into inorganic components that can be easily absorbed by plants.

Dear readers, as I have mentioned in different articles, agricultural production is very complex, there is no systematic recipe for food production, we must take into account that they are natural ecosystems and therefore we must respect the processes that occur to achieve sustainability in the production of healthy food.

Bibliographic references
Mahecha, L. (2002). Silvopastoralism: a production alternative that reduces the environmental impact of cattle ranching. Colombian journal of livestock science, 15 (2). 226-231.

Moreno, F. and Díaz, L. (2008). Sustainable agriculture for the tropics. San Cristóbal: Autores.

Ojeda, P. (2003). Silvopastoral systems. An option for sustainable livestock management [Libro en línea]. Accessed on 20-08-2021 at: http://www.agronet.gov.co/www/docs_si2/2006102417332_Sistemas%20silvopastoriles%20sustentable%20ganaderia.pdf