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What's New in Iowa Agriculture? "Agro-forestry"

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 By Dick Layman/Eric Mack, Contact
July 11, 2007

Agro-forestry isn't a well known practice in Iowa yet, but it may be soon. It's a system that intentionally combines growing trees and shrubs with growing crops and livestock. Brad Riphagen with Trees Forever says a well-managed agro-forestry system improves soil and water quality, provides living space for animals and reaps economic benefits for the producer.

“It could be an orchard of Chinese Chestnuts that we are raising for the annual crop of the nut. It could be things like planting Dogwood or Curley Willow or those types of things for the flower industry.”

Riphagen notes that it's possible to replace the usual grass buffers between fields and streams with trees that can also be money-makers.

“We could incorporate other plants to serve a similar function to remove nutrients and remove sediment but also be used to garner income for the landowner.”

Riphagen adds that agro-forestry is new, so it may take time for Iowa farmers to feel comfortable putting the practice into action, with confidence they can make a profit. There is a workshop on agro-forestry July 13 at the Iowa Arboretum in Madrid to explain the new industry.

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