Silvopasture is the most commonly practiced form of agroforestry today, covering 1.1 billion acres worldwide. The theory is simple: Combine trees or woody shrubs and pasture grasses to foster greater livestock yields. What happens if you intensify the process? Add more animals, plant different types of trees, and rotate the herd more quickly? It seems counterintuitive that it could have a beneficial effect on land and climate, but it does.
Developed by ranchers, intensive silvopasture is practiced today on more than 500,000 acres in Australia, Colombia, and Mexico. Most systems use a quickly growing, edible, leguminous woody shrub: Leucaena leucocephala. Planted 4,000 per acre, it is intercropped with grasses and native trees. Trees keep the wind in check and improve water retention, which causes increases in biomass. Livestock move through rapid rotational grazing. Species biodiversity doubles, stocking rates nearly triple, and animals gain more weight.
Sound too good to be true? In a five-year study of intensive silvopasture in which trees were incorporated with grasses and Leucaena leucocephala, the rate of carbon sequestration exceeded 10 tons per acre. That makes it one of the most effective means known to sequester carbon.
Technical summaries for each solution will be available May 1, 2017.