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Multi-story Cropping

Figure 9: Multistory Cropping — Examples of multistory cropping systems.


Plantings consisting of an overstory of trees or shrubs with an understory of specialty or agronomic crops or forage. Tree-to-tree distance is wide enough to let sufficient light through to understory crops or forage. "Forest Farming" is a form of multistory cropping. Tree canopies of native forests would be managed to allow the production of such crops or forage.

Some Primary FOTGPractices for this System:

  • Multi-story Cropping (379)
  • Tree/Shrub Establishment (612)
  • Conservation Crop Rotation (328)
  • Residue Management (329, 344)
  • Access Control (472) or Prescribed Grazing (528)
  • Pasture and Hay Planting (512)
  • Nutrient Management (590)
  • Pest Management (595)
  • Irrigation System (441), Irrigation Water Management (449)

Primary Purposes:

  • 1) To produce wood or tree products in addition to agronomic crops or forage, 2) To improve crop or forage quality and quantity by enhancing microclimatic conditions, 3) To improve utilization and recycling of soil nutrients for crop or forage use, 4) To reduce excess subsurface water or control water table depths, 5) To provide favorable habitat for species beneficial to crops or forage.

Key Design Elements:

  • Trees are planted or native forests managed at a sufficiently wide spacing to allow adequate light to the understory crops or forage and permit passage of the widest field equipment width. Generally, mature tree canopy ranges from 5 to 40 percent crown cover.

Tree/Shrub Species Requirements:

  • High value species adapted to the soil/climate of the planting site.
  • Low to moderate root and crown spread to minimize competition with understory crops.
  • Tolerance of agricultural fertilizers and traffic on surficial root.
  • Resistance to pests and herbicides.
  • High resistance to stem and branch breakage from high winds, ice and snow as applicable to the site.