A Future for Agroforestry
By College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
First posted on 09-12-2014
by Kyle Spradley
Biodiversity is becoming a key topic for landowners to consider. With onslaughts of invasive pests such as emerald ash borer and the spread of detrimental diseases such as SDS in soybeans, many producers should be looking at ways to add variety to a land management plan.
“Without biodiversity you could be setting yourself up for failure if all your eggs are in one basket,” said Shibu Jose, director of the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri. “With multiple species and crops you have a good safety net — a backup plan — if something comes through and affects the things you grow for economic benefit, especially on a small farm.”
Jose has been preaching agroforestry, a land management strategy, for more than two decades. With agroforestry, multiple species and different types of plants and even animals are incorporated into the landscape. Managed in a sustainable way, these systems diversify farm income and are designed to fit specific niches within the farm to meet various objectives.
“One of the best examples in the world of a true temperate agroforestry working farm is the Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center,” said Jose, of the 700-acre center in New Franklin operated by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri. “There also is a lot of research here working towards improving certain species to be more beneficial in systems for landowners.”
Jose recently took over as superintendent of the Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center (HARC). He joined the CAFNR faculty in 2009 after 12 years at the University of Florida and earning masters and doctorate degrees from Purdue University. He will welcome guests to the center for its annual Field Day, scheduled for Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The free educational event features sessions are geared toward landowners looking to implement new agroforestry practices or updates on past research. On the nut and fruit side, specialists will talk about crop production of chestnuts, black walnut, pecan and grapes. A tour of the silvopasture studies, in which trees are combined with forage and livestock production, will be offered along with information on how to get high-value sawlogs at the same time providing shade and shelter for livestock.
Researchers also will share information about their pine straw production and biofuel trials.
“We are most excited about having a commercial chestnut harvester demonstration,” said Jose. “This is a first in the area for this new technology. If you are looking at getting into chestnuts, this could be your harvester that makes it all worth the time and investment.”
Other than agroforestry, several of HARC’s studies have included analyzing certain species and management practices for heavy water events in the center’s Flood Tolerance Laboratory. Tours of the area and information about recent findings will be presented.
“These research fields are quite incredible,” added Jose. “We also are close to unveiling a new drought simulator that will allow us to research the effects of drought on crops and other plants. This puts HARC as one of the few places on earth that can do both drought and flood research at field scale.”
Following lunch, tours of the center’s Thomas Hickman House will be provided. The historic home has been restored to its former glory as one of the oldest brick homes in Missouri.
Jose welcomes any landowners — whether be a big farm to manage or small acreage — to come out to learn more about these practices.
“Even on large farms you always have an area that is not as productive and you could look at adding switchgrass in a riparian zone or a few row trees such as pawpaws to help control runoff,” said Jose. “The great thing about agroforestry is that it is still evolving. We still have a lot to learn and a lot to share with people out there.”
HARC sits at the interface of the loess hills and Missouri River bottom and provides a scenic, historic and scientific setting for development of horticultural- and agroforestry-related studies. Interdisciplinary cooperation allows researchers from multiple disciplines, including entomology, plant pathology, horticulture, agronomy, animal science and agroforestry, to combine research efforts to address an array of issues. Integrated studies of crop, livestock and forestry practices are occurring, as is the development of superior lines for timber and nutmeat production.
The center is located at 10 Research Center Road, just on the outskirts of New Franklin. From Interstate 70, take Exit 101 and head north on Highway 40 for 5 miles. Turn left onto Highway 5 to head north towards New Franklin. At the stop sign turn left onto Broadway. Approaching the high school, veer towards the left onto Broadway and continue for a half mile. The center will be on the right, marked with a large sign.