Assessing Agroforestry’s Role in Supporting Insect Pollinators

Plant pollination by animals is a critical ecosystem service and an estimated 85% of the world’s flowering plants depend on animals, mostly insects, for pollination (Ollerton et al. 2011). Insect pollination is essential to food security and roughly 35% of global crop production is dependent on pollination by animals (Klein et al. 2007; Eilers et al. 2011). Globally, insect pollinators are in decline, with some estimates that 40% of invertebrate pollinator species may be at risk of extinction worldwide due to threats such habitat fragmentation and loss, use of pesticides, and diseases and parasites (IPBES 2016). By adding structural and functional diversity to agricultural landscapes, agroforestry may be able to support pollinator conservation and pollination services.

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The Future of Wild-Simulated Ginseng

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is arguably the most valuable non-timber forest crop in Eastern North America. For three hundred years, this native understory herb has been harvested and sold to East Asia for use as medicine. As wild American ginseng plants do not replace themselves until they have reached an average age of ten years or older (McGraw 2017), centuries of harvest have left us with fragmented wild populations. Today, the vast majority of American ginseng on the market is cultivated in farm fields under shade cloth or in tilled garden beds underneath the shade of a forest canopy. However, this high-density production is unnatural and stressful for ginseng, resulting in outbreaks of fungal pathogens that kill the plants. Even with regular applications of fungicides and pesticides, plants rarely survive more than a few years, and the subsequent organic value of the ginseng root is then compromised.  

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Near Surface Soil Temperature and Moisture Dynamics in an Alley Crop-Based Agroforestry System

Agroforestry is defined as the integration of trees and agricultural crops or animals in a single unit of land for the effective and efficient utilization of natural resources. Agroforestry systems have been considered as a sustainable and resilient alternative agriculture practice to ameliorate soil conditions and enhance crop productivity. Soil temperature and moisture influence many soil physical, chemical and biological processes that occur in soil. These processes include infiltration, hydraulic conductivity, greenhouse gas production, soil microbial activity, seed germination, and plant growth. Agroforestry systems can influence soil temperature and moisture by altering microclimate conditions such as light, temperature, wind speed and relative humidity. Plant size, architecture, row width, and orientation can cause spatial and temporal variations in soil temperature and moisture in agroforestry systems due to shading effects (Horton et al., 1984; Horton, 1989; Ham and Kluitenberg, 1993; Colaizzi et al., 2010; Pieri, 2010; Mittelbach and Seneviratne, 2012). Furthermore, soil temperature and moisture fluctuations in an agroforestry system can be complicated due to the various components in a single system such as deep tree roots, shallow roots of crop species, and complementarity and facilitation effects among the crops (Niether et al., 2017). Knowledge of the near surface spatial and temporal variations in soil temperature and moisture in agroforestry system can potentially enhance our understanding of soil’s physical, chemical, and biological processes in these systems.

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