Reductions in water, soil and nutrient losses and pesticide pollution in agroforestry practices: a review of evidence and processes

Abstract

Background and aims

Agroforestry systems combining trees with crops or pastures have been widely used to reduce water, soil, and nutrient losses and associated water pollution from agricultural lands in both temperate and tropical regions. However, reviews on improvement/efficiency and the scope of such reductions by soil, management, climate, and hydrological processes are limited.

Methods

This paper synthesized the available evidence on the reduction in surface runoff, soil erosion, nutrient, and pollutant losses (e.g., herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics) to quantify the effectiveness of agroforestry systems on water quality improvement based on published studies.

Results

On average, agroforestry systems reduced surface runoff, soil, organic carbon, and related nutrient losses by 1–100%, 0–97%, –175–92%, and –265–100%, respectively, with average values of 58%, 65%, 9%, and 50%, respectively. They also lowered herbicide, pesticide, and other pollutant losses by –55–100% (49% on average).

Conclusions

Reduction efficiency of agroforestry systems is site-dependent and varies widely depending on different biophysical factors. A comprehensive science-based review is needed to generalize agroforestry design and site adaptability for water and soil conservation where climatic, geographical, ecological, and socio-economic conditions are relatively similar in the world.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their pertinent and constructive comments. The authors would like to thank Dr. Sissou Zakari and Ashutosh Kumar Singh for reviewing and improving the manuscript prior to submission. We thank the Central Laboratory of XTBG for their help. We also thank the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31570622 and 41701029), the Natural Science Foundation of Yunnan Province (2014HB042), and the Chinese Academy of Sciences 135-Program (2017XTBG-F01).

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Zhu, X., Liu, W., Chen, J. et al. Reductions in water, soil and nutrient losses and pesticide pollution in agroforestry practices: a review of evidence and processes. Plant Soil 453, 45–86 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-019-04377-3

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Keywords

  • Agroforestry practice
  • Nutrient capture
  • Root system
  • Soil erosion
  • Water contamination