Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 38, Issue 1–3, pp 223–246 | Cite as

Directions in tropical agroforestry research: past, present, and future

  • P. K. R. Nair


Reflections on the past two decades of organized research in tropical agroforestry raise several issues. Research efforts started with an inductive and experiential approach but have subsequently followed a deductive and experimental approach that includes hypothesis testing and the development of predictive capability; agroforestry research is thus being transformed into a rigorous scientific activity. The research agenda, so far, has given high priority to soil fertility and other biophysical interactions, less priority to anthropological and sociological aspects, and little priority to evaluating costs and returns, pests and diseases, and the so-called non-timber forest (tree) products. Moreover, larger-spatial-scale issues, such as carbon sequestration, water quality, and biodiversity conservation, have been neglected because of the emphasis on field- and farm-scale studies.

Overall, the high expectations that were raised about the role and potential of agroforestry as a development vehicle have not been fulfilled. In order to overcome this, it is imperative that research be focused on the generation of appropriate, science-based technologies of wide applicability, especially under resource-poor conditions and in smallholder farming systems. Future research agendas should entail a judicious blending of science and technology. Applied research should build upon the findings of basic research to generate technologies for application at the farm, regional and global levels. Such research should place increased focus on previously neglected subjects, for example, the exploitation of indigenous fruit-producing trees, the agronomic components of agroforestry systems, and the global issues mentioned above. Furthermore, an appropriate methodology that embodies economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits needs to be developed to realistically assess the impacts of agroforestry, and an enabling policy environment that will facilitate agroforestry adoption needs to be made available.

Agroforestry research of the 21st century should strive to build bridges from the inductive phase of the past, through the deductive phase of the present, to the future phase of harnessing science and generating technologies for the benefit of the land and its present and future users.

deductive research inductive research science technology 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Avery ME, Cannell MGR and Ong CK (eds) (1990) Biophysical Research for Asian Agroforestry. Oxford Press, New Delhi, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  2. Beer JW, Muschler RG, Kass DCL and Somarriba EJ (1997) Shade management in coffee and cacao plantations. Agroforestry Systems 38: 139–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blair HW (1991) The uses of political science in agroforestry. In: Burch RB Jr and Parker JK (eds) Social Science Applications in Asian Agroforestry, pp. 85–109. Winrock International, Arlington, VA, USAGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown S, Hall CAS, Knabe W, Raich J, Trexler MC and Woomer P (1993) Tropical forests: their past, present, and potential future role in the terrestrial carbon budget. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 70: 71–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cadish G and Giller KE (eds) (1997) Driven by Nature: Plant Litter Quality and Decomposition. CAB International, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar
  6. Cannell MGR, van Noordwijk M and Ong CK (1996) The central agroforestry hypothesis: the trees must acquire resources that the crop would not otherwise acquire. Agroforestry Systems. 34: 27–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coe R (1994) Through the looking glass: 10 common problems in alley-cropping research. Agroforestry Today 6: 9–11Google Scholar
  8. Cooper P and Buresh RJ (eds) Proceedings of the Improved Fallows Workshop. Agroforestry Systems (Special Issue) (In press)Google Scholar
  9. Current D, Lutz E and Scherr S (eds) (1995) Costs, Benefits, and Farmer Adoption of Agroforestry. The World Bank, Washington DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  10. De Jong W (1996) Swidden-fallow agroforestry in Amazonia: diversity at close distance. Agroforestry Systems 34: 277–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dixon RK (1995) Agroforestry Systems: sources or sinks of greenhouse gases? Agroforestry Systems. 31: 99–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. FAO (1995) FAOSTAT-PC, on diskette. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  13. FAO (1996) FAO Production Yearbook, 1995. FAO, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  14. Follis MB and Nair PKR (1994) Policy and institutional support for agroforestry: an analysis of two Ecuadorian case studies. Agroforestry Systems 27: 223–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gallina S, Mandujano S and Gonzales-Romero A (1996) Conservation of mammalian biodiversity in coffee plantations of Central Veracruz, Mexico. Agroforestry Systems 33: 13–27Google Scholar
  16. Garrity DP (ed) (1997) Agroforestry innovations for imperata grassland rehabilitation. Agroforestry Systems 36 (Special Issue)Google Scholar
  17. Grainger A (1993) Controlling Tropical Deforestation. Earthscan, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  18. Gregory PJ (1996) Approaches to modelling the uptake of water and nutrients in agroforestry systems. Agroforestry Systems. 34: 51–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. ICRAF (1997) ICRAF Medium-Term Plan, 1998–2000. International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, Nairobi, KenyaGoogle Scholar
  20. Johnson TR (1994) Agroforestry Performance Evaluation. MS Thesis, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USAGoogle Scholar
  21. Kang BT (1993) Alley cropping: past achievements and future directions. Agroforestry Systems 23: 141–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kang BT, Reynolds L and Atta-Krah AN (1990) Alley farming. Advances in Agronomy 43: 315–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kass DCL (1996) Letter to the editor. Agroforestry Systems 33: 101–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kiepe P and Rao MR (1994) Management of agroforestry for the conservation and utilization of land and water resources. Outlook on Agriculture 23: 17–25Google Scholar
  25. Lal R (1989) Agroforestry systems and soil surface management of a tropical alfisol. Parts I–VI. Agroforestry Systems 8(1): 1–6, 7–29; 8(2): 97–111, 113–132; 8(3): 197–215, 217–238, 239–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lawrence DC (1996) Trade-offs between rubber production and maintenance of diversity: the structure of rubber gardens in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Agroforestry Systems 34: 83–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lawson GT, Crout NMJ, Levy PE, Mobbs DC, Wallace JS, Cannell MGR and Bradley GR (1995) The tree-crop interface: representation by coupling of forest and crop processmodels. Agroforestry Systems 30: 199–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leakey RRB and Newton AC (eds) (1994) Tropical Trees: Potential for Domestication and the Rebuilding of Forest Resources. HMSO, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  29. Leakey RRB, Temu AB, Mclnyk M and Vantomme P (eds) (1996) Domestication and Commercialization of Non-timber Forest Products in Agroofrestry Systems. Non-Wood Forest Products No. 9. FAO, Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  30. Leakey RRB and Simons AJ (1997) The domestication and commercialization of indigenous trees in agroforestry for the alleviation of poverty. Agroforestry Systems 38: 165–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Leakey RRB, Temu AB and Melnyk M. (eds) (1996) Domestication and Commercialization of Non-Timber Forest Products for Agroforestry. FAO (Non Wood Forest Products 9), Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  32. MacDicken KG (1994) Selection and Management of Nitrogen-Fixing Trees. Winrock International, AK, USAGoogle Scholar
  33. Menz KM and Grist P (1996) Increasing rubber planting density to shade Imperata: a bioeconomic modelling approach. Agroforestry Systems 34: 291–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mercer DE and Miller RP (1997) Socioeconomic research in agroforestry: progress, prospects, priorities. Agroforestry Systems 38: 177–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morgan RPC (1995) Soil Erosion and Conservation, 2nd ed. Longman, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  36. Nair PKR (ed) (1989) Agroforestry Systems in the Tropics. Kluwer, Dordrecht, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  37. Nair PKR (1990) The Prospects for Agroforestry in the Tropics. Technical Paper No. 131, The World Bank, Washington, DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  38. Nair PKR (1991) State-of-the-art of agroforestry systems. In: Jarvis PG (ed) Agroforestry: Principles and Practice, pp 5–29. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  39. Nair PKR (1993) An Introduction to Agroforestry. Kluwer, Dordrecht, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  40. Nair PKR (1994) Agroforestry. Encyclopedia of Agricultural Sciences 1: 13–25. Academic Press, New York, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  41. Nair PKR (1996) Agroforestry directions and literature trends. In: McDonald P and Lassoie J (eds) The Literature of Forestry and Agroforestry, pp. 74–95. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  42. Okafor JC and Fernandes ECM (1987) Compound farms of southeastern Nigeria: a predominant agroforestry homegarden system with crops and livestock. Agroforestry Systems 5: 153–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ong CK (1994) Alley cropping — ecological pie in the sky? Agroforestry Today 6(3): 8–10Google Scholar
  44. Ong CK, Black CR, Marshall FM and Corlett JE (1996) Principles of resource capture and utilization of light and water. In: Ong CK and Huxley PA (eds) Tree-Crop Interactions: A Physiological Approach, pp 73–158. CAB International, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar
  45. Ong CK and Huxley PA (eds) (1996) Tree-Crop Interactions: A Physiological Approach. CAB International, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar
  46. Raintree JB (1987) The state-of-the-art of agroforestry diagnosis and design. Agroforestry Systems. 5: 219–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rao MR and Coe R (1992) Evaluating the results of agroforestry research. Agroforestry Today 4(1): 4–9Google Scholar
  48. Rao MR, Nair PKR and Ong CK (1997) Biophysical interactions in tropical agroforestry systems. Agroforestry Systems 38: 3–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sanchez PA (1995) Science in agroforestry. Agroforestry Systems 30: 5–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sanchez PA (1996) Letter to the editor. Agroforestry Systems 33: 106–108Google Scholar
  51. Schroeder P (1993) Agroforestry systems: integrated land use to store and conserve carbon. Climate Research 3: 53–60Google Scholar
  52. Schroeder P (1994) Carbon storage benefits of agroforestry systems. Agroforestry Systems 27: 89–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schultz RC, Colletti JP, Isenhart TM, Simpkins WW, Mize CW and Thompson ML (1995) Design and placement of a multi-species riparian buffer strip system. Agroforestry Systems 29: 201–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Simpson RD (1997) Biodiversity prospecting: shopping the wilds is not the key to conservation. Resources for the Future 126 (Winter 1997): 12–15Google Scholar
  55. Singh KD and Marzoli A (1995) Deforestation trends in the tropics: a time-series analysis. In: Conference on Potential Impact of Climate Change, San Juan, Puerto Rico, pp 8–9. FAO Rome, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  56. Smith NJH, Williams JT, Plucknett DL and Talbot JP (1992) Tropical Forests and Their Crops. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, USAGoogle Scholar
  57. Southgate D (1992) Policies contributing to agricultural colonization of Latin America's tropical forests. In: Sharma NP (ed) Managing the World's Forests; Looking for Balance Between Conservation and Development, pp 215–235. Kendall/Hunt Pub, Dubuque, Iowa for the World Bank, Washington DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  58. Tejwani KG (1994) Agroforestry in India. Oxford & IBH, New Delhi, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  59. Tejwani KG and Lai CK (1992) Asia-Pacific Agroforestry Profiles. FAO, Asia-Pacific Agroforestry Network Field Doc. 1. FAO, Bogor, IndonesiaGoogle Scholar
  60. Turnbull J (ed) (1987) Australian Acacias in Developing Countries, ACIAR Proceedings 16. Austr Cent for Int Agri Res, Canberra, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  61. United Nations (1996) 1994 Demographic Yearbook. UN, New York, USAGoogle Scholar
  62. Van Noordwijk M, Lawson G, Soumare A, Groot JJR and Hairiah K (1996) Root distribution of trees and crops: competition and/or complementarity. In: Ong CK and Huxley PA (eds) Tree-Crop Interactions: A Physiological Approach, pp 319–364. CAB International, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar
  63. Van Noordwijk M and Purnomosidhi P (1995) Root architecture in relation to tree-soil-crop interactions and shoot pruning in agroforestry. Agroforestry Systems 30: 161–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. von Carlowitz PG, Wolf GV and Kemperman REM (1991) Multipurpose Tree and Shrub Database: An Information and Decision Support System. ICRAF, Nairobi, Kenya & GTZ, Eschborn, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  65. Vosti SA, Witcover J, Oliveira S and Faminow M (1997) Policy issues in agroforestry: technology adoption and regional integration in the western Brazilian Amazon. Agroforestry Systems 38: 195–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Webster's Dictionary (1997) Merriam Webster Inc., Springfield, MA, USAGoogle Scholar
  67. WRI (1996) World Resources 1996–1997. World Resources Inst, Washington DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  68. Young A (1989) Agroforestry for Soil Conservation. CAB International, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar
  69. Young A (1997) Agroforestry for Soil Management. CAB International, Wallingford, UKGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. K. R. Nair
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Forest Resources and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations