Agroforestry systems, a way to boost bio-economy

ProPopulus Team

In early December Madrid will be hosting the XXV Conference of the Partiesof the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. With regard to the so-called Climate Summit, one should remember that one of the main problems we face when addressing global warming and subsequent climate change is the economic system in which we currently move.  The need to switch to a more sustainable economic system is undeniable when seeing the damage that the current fossil fuel-based system is causing on the planet.

In this context, boosting circular bio-economy is one of the ways to help combat global warming and its consequences: climate change, biodiversity loss, increased forest fires, etc. Of course, it is important to generate less waste and recycle the waste we produce, but since most fossil fuel products can be obtained from biomass, it seems obvious that society should be moving in that direction.

Thus, the agroforestry industry can become a great ally to transform the economy and make it more environmentally friendly. Also moving toward a green economy presents huge opportunities for the agroforestry industry. There are many bio-based products that are not new, such as paints, dyes or solvents, which were commonly used until the industrial revolution, when cheaper but less sustainable alternatives began to be made.  In addition, thanks to scientific research and innovation, new bio-based products such as biodegradable polymers, or super-resistant woods constantly appear.

Within the various agroforestry systems — defined as those in which tree planting is combined with agricultural crops or pastures to increase and optimize production in a sustainable way—agro-selviculture, includes various forms of integration of trees and crops, such as crops interspersed between rows of trees, between scattered trees or in forests. In Spain, projects such as Agropoplar seek to encourage agroforestry, in this case combining planting of poplars with agricultural crops.

Many products of biological origin can be obtained from agro-selviculture. With remains from pruning and felling, for example, biomass is produced and that can be used as a biofuel, or for compost or mulch material. Trees, once they are ready for cutting down provide wood for construction, or for other uses, as well as textile fibres and various derivatives. In addition, planting trees helps restore biodiversity in agricultural landscapes and increases soil fertility.

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