- Written by Christine Nieman
AFTA’s winter conference was offered December 6th-9th, 2020, in conjunction with the Savanna Institute’s Perennial Farm Gathering (Figure 1, from 2019), an annual event that brings together agroforestry researchers, practitioners, and enthusiasts from throughout the Midwest. This year’s event was held entirely online and sought to make connections among agroforestry researchers and practitioners through engaging, participatory presentations and other community-building events.
Natural climate solutions are conservation, restoration, and improved land management practices that increase carbon storage or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in forests, agriculture, wetlands, grasslands, and urban areas. As concerns about the current and future impacts of climate change mount, natural climate solutions are of great interest as a climate mitigation strategy. A 2017 study reported that natural climate solutions have the potential to provide up to 37 percent of the emissions reductions and carbon sequestration needed to keep global temperature increase under 2 degrees Celsius by 2030 (Griscom et al. 2017). Large-scale tree planting programs, in particular, have been the focus of many natural climate solutions initiatives and have garnered international interest and financial support. Tree planting is prominent in several federal policy proposals in the United States, including the Trillion Trees Act (2020), the Biden Climate Plan (2020), proposed COVID-19 economic stimulus packages, as well as in the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis and the Climate Change Reports from the House Select Committee.
Field-edge perennial hedgerows can provide significant environmental benefits to farms and their surrounding environments, including natural pest control and pollination services, improved soil health, water quality buffers, and carbon sequestration (Long et al. 2017, Smukler et al. 2010). However, hedgerows of native perennials can be costly to install and maintain during the first few establishment years, with installation costs typically running from $3,000 to $4,000 per 1,000 linear feet for 10-ft wide hedgerows in California. Although state and federal programs provide cost-share incentives, hedgerows still appear relatively infrequently on intensive, high-value agricultural landscapes like those in the Central Valley of California.
Mesquite is a valuable multi-purpose tree crop well suited for agroforestry in the American Southwest (Bainbridge et al. 1990; Felger 1990). The pods are edible (Meyer 1984) and useful for fodder (Silber 1988). Mesquite was a critical food for native people and they planted seeds and transplanted seedlings (Shipek 1989; Bell and Castetter 1937). The flower is a yellow inflorescence with many spikes favored by bees. The hardwood is suitable for many purposes and excellent for charcoal (Bainbridge 1986).