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Qualities needed for agroforestry trees

Tips for choosing trees to grow with crops

2005 Available in English and French

Pillars magazines on a desk

From: Pillars guides

Practical, discussion-based learning on community development for small groups

  • The best trees to grow together with crops are those with deep roots so they do not compete with crops for water and nutrients.
  • They should allow light through their leaves to allow crops to grow.
  • They should survive regular pruning and cutting back.
  • They should add nutrients to the soil.
  • Their leaves should provide either animal fodder or soil mulch.
  • They should have uses that help the farm family.
  • What local trees may have these qualities? How could you find out more? Do you know of any local trees which make the soil nearby good for crops?
  • What exotic trees do you know which have these qualities?


  • If possible examine some examples of good agroforestry trees such as leuceana, cassia, prosopis, calliandra, acacia, sesbania and moringa. Do participants agree that they meet the suggested qualities for agroforestry trees?
  • Examine their leaves, the way in which they grow and the amount of shade they give. If possible, dig up a young tree and examine the root structure.
  • Compare examples of good agroforestry trees with trees such as mango and eucalyptus, which do not allow crops to grow nearby.
  • Remember that the trees you decide to select need to provide the benefits agreed as priorities in an earlier discussion.
Illustration of a tree full of leaves

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