#17 Tree Intercropping

This is part 4 of my series looking into the top 20 climate change solutions drawn from Project Drawdown.

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The researchers behind Project Drawdown revealed tree intercropping to be the 17th most effective solution to reverse global warming. This is what I liked most about the Drawdown initiative. It exposes powerful ideas that are not getting attention to match their effectiveness.

The authors begin with the following explanation:

There are two ways to farm. Industrial agriculture sows a single crop over large areas. Regenerative practices such as tree intercropping use diversity to improve soil health and productivity and align with biological principles.

The authors point out that it is rarely undertaken as a climate change solution, but out of the economic self interest of the farmers as it is a technique that increases the productivity of the land. The carbon storage is merely a by-product.

Let’s look into the figures which have allowed tree intercropping to make it into the top 20. The research revealed that tree intercropping could reduce CO2 by 17.2 gigatons, for a net cost of $147 billion, but produce $22.1 billion in net savings. These are powerful numbers.

The authors make clear that: “to be successful at tree intercropping, a landholder has to carefully assess and know the land, soil type, and climate at hand.”

There are a number of varieties of tree intercropping. There is alley cropping, which involves trees or hedges being planted in closely spaced rows to fertilise the crops grown between.

There is a parkland system which involves a discontinuous cover of scattered trees, which provide fodder for livestock.

Both of these systems have been found to increase yields by a factor of 3, without any chemical or outside inputs.

The authors finish with a powerful statement that:

Displaced and plowed under the during the twentieth century to make room for industrialised methods of farming, tree intercropping is one of dozens of techniques that can create an agricultural renaissance, a transformation of food-growing practices that are better at bringing people, regeneration, and abundance back to the land.

What you need to know

This article looked into tree intercropping as a climate change solution.

It comes across as a solution that works with nature instead of against it. If successful it makes both business sense and environmental sense which is important for any solution that wants to scale and go global.

What is clear is that it is an opportunity with the potential to store massive amounts of carbon. This allowed it to make it into the Project Drawdown top 20.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of tree intercropping as a climate change solution?

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I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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