Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Everyone seems to acknowledge the importance of trees in our lives. Yet very few of us actually do something about it. While city folks living in apartments and small houses have a valid reason – a lack of space – farmers and people with larger pieces of land have no excuse, except an absolute lack of understanding of how trees can benefit us. If you are not sure about why trees are important as an economic activity, you need to read this.
When we started developing our farm, we were quite clear about what we wanted – a small forest of our own. We started with one tree, so we had a pretty clean slate to start with.
To achieve a healthy balance of soil nutrition, resistance to pests and disease, and long term water security and sustainability on a farm, you need a large a variety of species of vegetation.
The first task was to water harvest all 6 acres, so any rain falling on the land could not flow out. There is a 16 feet gradient between the highest and lowest point of our farm, so we had to break it up with bunds and trenches, to keep water where it fell, and not let it flow.
The most important part of planting a tree farm is to choose the tree varieties carefully. You definitely don't want monoculture (planting a single species of trees) although this seems to be the accepted norm among farmers to maximise return on investment. This is also the surest way to kill biodiversity of the land as only a limited number of birds, animals and insects will come to inhabit the land.
So why is biodiversity important? Isn't farming an economic activity where our objective should be to increase profitability? The fact is, you can't eat money. To achieve a healthy balance of soil nutrition, resistance to pests and disease and long term water security and sustainability on a farm, you need a large a variety of species of vegetation.
This is not to say that we don't plant financially lucrative trees. 40% of the trees on our farm are timber – teak and mahogany. The rest 60% are mixed forest trees – from flowering and fruiting trees to those that have no economic purpose – except to increase biodiversity.
In the last 7 years since we moved to the farm, this approach towards water management and biodiversity has not only raised the ground water level at our farm but has also created a mini forest thriving with insects, birds and animals of all kinds, holding and enriching our soil quality.
So if you are thinking pomegranate, mango or plantation crops, set aside space for forest trees in between. You won't regret it.