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How Farms and Forests Can Coexist | Hot Mess 🌎


Deforestation is a big problem for the climate. This kind of land use releases more carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere than any single country, besides the United States or China. And most of the deforestation in the world
today happens because people want to put farms where forests are. So, figuring out how to farm with trees instead
of just chopping them down could help us fight climate change. About 10,000 years ago, some of the world’s
first farmers grew crops inside the forest, and a lot of small farmers still do that today. What if they’re onto something? What if we saw trees as a benefit to farming
rather than an obstacle? [OPEN] Hey ya’ll – I’m Talia. When we stopped hunting and gathering and
started farming, it was a game-changer for human civilization, since it let us settle
in one place and feed much larger communities. The most popular type of farming has typically
involved planting a single crop on the same land year after year. This approach has reigned for a long time
because the plants grow fast, and it’s easy to scale up. But growing a single crop in the same place
every year pulls nutrients from the soil, so today, farmers have to use fertilizers
to replenish it, which can pollute nearby waterways. What’s more, you’re basically putting
all your eggs in one basket, so farms of this type can be more vulnerable to diseases, pests
and drought. And, importantly, they completely replace
whatever plants, like trees, were growing there before. We farm like this in most places, so we’ve
chopped down a TON of trees. These days farms are spreading faster in the
tropics than any other place else on Earth. That’s where we’re chopping down the most
forests. Last year, we turned nearly 50,000 square
miles of tropical forest into farmland — that’s enough to cover all of England (which, fun
fact: used to be mostly covered with trees). Trees are great at storing carbon, but when
they’re cut down or burned, they release it back into the atmosphere, causing 4 billion
tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s around 10 percent of global greenhouse
gas emissions. Soooo… it would be great to figure out how
to farm without chopping down so many trees. Modern farming has resulted in using more
fertilizers, labor, and tractors to increase the harvest on the fields we already have. In theory, getting more food out of the same
piece of land should reduce the need for deforestation. But for a variety of economic reasons, farms
have kept expanding anyway, at the expense of forests. But that’s not the only way to farm! There’s also another farming technique called
agroforestry. For thousands of years, farmers have grown
crops and livestock among trees, and over a billion people rely on this form of farming
today. Some of them grow grains in alleys between
rows of trees, some grow shade-tolerant crops like coffee and cocoa under a partial forest
canopy, and some graze animals beneath trees. And there are lots of reasons agroforestry
is catching on. Trees block the wind, so they can help keep
soil from blowing away or losing too much water, which improves the yield of nearby
crops. And because a lot of these trees add nitrogen
to the soil, they can allow farmers to use less fertilizer. Also, since trees have deep roots, they’re
able to survive droughts better than crops, so they provide a reliable supply of nuts,
fruit, and firewood from year to year. In agroforestry, crops are the main game,
trees are the side hustle. And what’s more, those trees are good for
the climate. They’re not as good as just leaving the
forest untouched, but agroforestry is a way to meet the needs of farmers while helping
farms act a little more like a forest than a wide-open field. And it’s keeping 750 million tons of CO2
out of the atmosphere each year. That’s as much CO2 as Germany emits annually. Agroforestry’s impact could be even greater,
because, while it’s mostly been practiced in the tropics, where it has the clearest
benefits to farmers, we can do it in other places too. In fact, agroforestry can store just as much
carbon in temperate regions as in tropical ones, so if we practiced it throughout the
world, we could take around 4 billion tons of CO2 per year out of the atmosphere. That’s enough to balance out the emissions
from deforestation. So, it’s pretty exciting that governments
around the world, like in India, Kenya, Guatemala, and the European Union, are introducing policies
that encourage farmers to plant trees on their land. And farmers are branching out, away from a
method of farming that replaces trees, towards one that sees the forest for the trees, for
the crops, and, for the climate.

99 Comments

  1. Zom Bee Nature Author

    You say "forest" when you actually mean "trees". I spend a lot of time in forests to record videos for my channel. Just walking thru an actual forest damages the plants. So farming is not compatible with forests. But planting trees and farming between the trees would be a great thing to do. Just blocking the wind in an area would stop the soil from blowing away. And the shade that trees provide would cool the plants for part of the day so they are not so stressed.

    Reply
  2. Noah Evans Author

    Permaculture and ecological agriculture techniques often include "food forests," stands of trees under which grow shaded food crops that naturally occur in forests. By clearing a crescent of the forest, you can create temporary shaded areas to grow light- or heat-sensitive crops that would wilt and burn up in direct, all day sunlight!

    Reply
  3. Redpandaflying Author

    Agroforestry is great and should be encouraged, but it almost always means less yield on the same amount of land. This video is a bit misleading in that it fails to mention the downsides/why agroforestry isn’t the standard practice.

    Reply
  4. Nicolas Reinaldet Author

    For me. Let they chop down the trres BUT they would need to plant and grown only native plants there, nothing of soy of livestock only native plants.

    Reply
  5. Stephen Shanahan Author

    2:07 "Trees are great at storing carbon, but when they are cut down or burned they release it back into the atmosphere"

    Burned, I understand…but how does a tree that is only cut down release carbon? It is no longer absorbing carbon, sure. but wouldn't a cut tree just be biomass? do the bacteria that cause decomposition produce CO2? Does a cut down tree actually just release carbon?

    Reply
  6. Tonytruand09 Author

    0:32 ⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️ or we could simply consume a plant based diet so we stop asking for animal products…. why?
    Simply because meat, dairy and egg require enormous amount of land to grow crops that would feed all the TRILLIONS of animals WE breed into existence for their flesh and secretions……………… TRILLIONS of animals EACH YEAR!!!!!!

    Do the math people. Stop looking for convoluted solutions when we currently have an easier one that most of us could apply RIGHT NOW with a bit of education (education that is FREE on the internet).

    Reply
  7. Nicolas Reinaldet Author

    The leading candidate in Brazil elections this year thinks that all that of climate change is bullshit and that enviromental agencys are terrorist organizations so….
    Ps: Brazil have the biggest part of the biggest rainforest in the world.

    Reply
  8. Yakov Kosharovsky Author

    Or humanity could stop raising so much animals, that eat like 6/7 of all the food raised at those farms that couse deforestation.. I wonder what would be the carbon impact of that?

    Reply
  9. Tam McD Author

    Trees fix carbon from the air, not nitrogen (that task is performed by mycorrhizal fungi) — hence the C:N ratio of wood ranges up to 400:1. Dead trees store already-assimilated carbon, but cannot assimilate more. Etc. Unfortunately +Argamis (Silver Comet) needs a refresher course.

    Reply
  10. Tyler Peterson Author

    It's that 'shade-tolerant crops' part that trips everyone up. Shade-tolerant crops can't grow as much food for the simple reason that they don't collect as much energy. For an agroforestry operation to be successful, the trees must provide enough goods to compensate for the reduced yield of the shaded crops.

    Reply
  11. Argamis (SilverComet) Author

    Agroforesty is as dumb as "hybrid" electric vehicles [increased complexity by arranging non-synergetic systems working side-by-side]; with lesser energy/mass conversion "efficiency" and "storage" for both . . .
    -> If the problem "solved" by trees is adding nitrogen to the soil from the air and sunlight (instead from refining fossil fuels); then machines powered by solar panels could do the same [the only "apparent" advantage is that "trees work by themselves" totally unnatended and without any "input" from the landowners… (this is simply not true)].

    Also, it is NOT true that "trees store carbon". A single tree may "contain" some while it is still alive, but as soon as it dies it begin releasing it again [either by fire ot biological decomposition].
    The only way a dead tree can "secure" carbon is when it gets somehow isolated from bacteria (usually underwater); but even then it is just "temporary" [years? decades?]; unless it is "protected" by getting buried deep underground [at this point it is just another vein of carbon in progress].
    -> The only way to get "rid" of carbon in the atmosphere is to "seal" it deep on Earth´s crust; or "banish" it to outer space [just like you do with any other demon].

    Reply
  12. Hot Mess Author

    CORRECTION: We showed a map of the United Kingdom when we said England. Apologies for the error! Especially to our friends in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. We’ll rewatch CGP Grey’s video and never make this mistake again 🤓

    Reply
  13. Kevin Vandel Author

    Great video, as always! 🙂
    But like most non-Americans, I have absolutely no idea what "50,000 square miles" is… Next time could please also use units from the International System ?

    Reply
  14. My Miscellany Author

    I found this channel and subscribed because of PBS Space Time. I was like one of the first 50 subscribers to the channel and I was excited about it as climate change isn't necessarily a topic I know much about and I definitely want to learn more about it.

    I've been continually disappointed by the lack of rigorous information in this series. It's always such surface level information about the subjects. The videos feel watered down and I rarely get the feeling I'm really learning when I watch them. When I watch Space Time, they really go pretty deeply into detail, and when they don't, they tell you they're leaving out information. This makes the channel feel super honest and informative. I don't feel that way for this channel. I would have loved if for this video you had included the specific academic papers you were citing. And also I really do feel like it was dishonest to present agro forestry as this cure all when there are definitely very straight forward disadvantages to it. Also as other people mentioned, there's some misleading/wrong stuff in the video. And you compare the total carbon saved to the total carbon emitted by Germany, when Germany is one of the most environmentally friendly nations. That's straight up misleading if you don't know that.

    I don't feel like the cause of solving climate change is helped by overly simplifying the problem and not actually addressing why climate change is deeply hard to solve. It will never get solved if that isn't acknowledged.

    This video wasn't particularly offensive compared to others but I've sort of realized there isn't going to be rigorous information presented here so I'm unsubscribing. Good luck in all future efforts!

    Reply
  15. Henry Ginn Author

    What if we just didn’t do anything to stop climate change and learnt to deal with its effects? It might sound like a stupid question, but would it be better to have better hurricane and storm defences and things like that, while things like fusion reactors and better fuel sources are developed.

    Reply
  16. Pomo Dorino Author

    I love Talia Buford's voice. Many other hosts have a totally unnatural cadence and some women have the exact pitch that resinates with you eardrum transmitting vibration to the trigeminal nerve inducing acute molar pain that results in excruciating headache.

    Reply
  17. cryptkeeper08 Author

    What she is talking about is bad farming techniques, most whom are not practiced by resource savoy farms. Single crop farming is bad, you should always rotate and fallow your fields.

    Reply
  18. taibhsear71 Author

    This would have been great, 30 years ago. Now it's just a pipe dream. We are so far passed reduction that nothing short of complete ceasing of CO2 will help.

    Reply
  19. Minute brain person Author

    I know the creators of this video are well-meaning, but I feel it is going wrong in exactly the same way a lot of other videos on this channel are: It focuses heavily on the qualitative aspects of the problem, but barely, if anything, on the quantitative aspect. In this case, I see no reason why it should be left unsaid that the global production of food already far exceeds the demand for food. However, due to the anti-distributive nature of capitalism, this food is wasted in rich countries rather than exported to poor countries, as it is more profitable to have them starve. If we turned that around, there would be no need to expand agriculture (quite the opposite, in fact).

    Reply
  20. Unnjit Author

    Love your channel, it has prompted me to be more environmentally conscious. I'm going into mechanical engineering and wondering about the different types of career paths that could help fight climate change?

    Reply
  21. Christian Lassen Author

    This channel is really going downhill. More problems than I can respond to in this video. So many wrong "facts" given, so many misleading statistics. So much wrong biology used.

    "For economic reasons" the amount for farmland is still growing. Yeah, because people need food, not shade.

    Agroforestry is neat, but incredibly inefficient, you can't drive a harvester through those farms, which means your food has to be harvested by slower means and will cost more and require more resources to move it.

    The most productive farmlands in the world are often located in areas that didn't have to be cleared of trees in the first place, they were already grasslands, and now we're growing cereals and grains similar to those grasses. Examples of this are just about all of California's farmland, just about the entire central US, etc.

    What about all the irrigation we've created in the western US and are now growing more plants than could've grown there naturally? Or the orchards (trees!) we are planting for our fruits and nuts where no trees could grow before.

    What about the areas that grow back into forest on their own? We criticize slash and burn agriculture even though it's been done since prehistoric times, and guess what, the trees in those tropic and temperate climates grow back, on their own, and humans are usually helping them grow back! We clear an area, farm it for a season or two, and move onto the plot next door for several years, and cycle through the land. Yes we're clearing land, and we're letting it grow back.

    Like others, it's time for me to unsubscribe and move on. This channel isn't scientific in the slightest and is hurting it's cause by being so wrong.

    Reply
  22. Junk Mail Author

    I can't believe how stupid this vid is. Our large automated farms are optimized for exceptionally high yield, and optimized in highly technical ways. Now if you want to optimize potato growth by 150% by growing them in individual buckets (Yes proven) then take an extra week to harvest by hand, w, ell you're down to one tenth or even one one hundredth the yield of the mass production optimized farms, well you've got half the population starving in the streets, and the top one percent eating caviar in their gated communities…. WAKE UP FOR GOD'S SAKE WAKE UP.

    Reply
  23. angelindenile Author

    Can there be a video about how much effort goes into raising cattle and other farm raised animals, including but not limited to how much water and air goes into it? I watched a documentary on Netflix called Cowspiracy and it listed 600 gallons of water go into a single 1/3 lbs patty of beef, and was wondering how accurate that was (that included the water to raise the grain to feed the beef, not only the beef to drink water). It also said that farming was the biggest influx of CO2, not only due to deforestation for their grain but because of how many animals we 'harvest' and their grazing lands. I would love to know what you guys at Hot Mess think of these numbers, and especially what you think of Cowspiracy, if ever you get the chance to watch it.

    Reply
  24. Noukz Author

    There's a even simpler solution to having more yield AND more forests.
    Step 1 – Finish your plate
    Step 2 – Don't buy products that have palm oil
    Step 3 – Stop eating beef
    Step 4 – Go vegan

    Reply
  25. Niall O'Toole Author

    England is not England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland!
    Also how can you talk about deforestation and not talk about animal agriculture and palm oil? Talk about missing the point.
    Monocultures, large portions of which is feed for animal agriculture!
    We grow more than enough food to feed humans but we use large portions to feed animals to indirectly feed humans. Inefficient use of finite resources on a finite planet when animal agriculture has worse emissions than all transport worldwide!

    Reply
  26. Michael Gainey Author

    Trees and crops would compete for light for photosynthesis. In that respect, it's a zero-sum game. My guess is that 1 sq km of forest and 1 sq km of agricultural land would more efficiently realize the potential of both compared to 2 sq km of a mixture of the two. The word that encapsulates this concept is specialization.

    Reply
  27. Nate Thins Author

    while agroforestry does help with single crop farms, it doesn't seem to help when you consider that most farmers are forced to rotate crops. That isn't a bad thing as you can make consistent profit while keeping the soil fertilized: a popular combination is using legumes like soybeans and rotating it with corn. I guess adding trees would make the ground less prone to erosion but it means less surface area and less uniform farms making it tedious to harvest. Adding green isn't a bad thing to implement but imo, it should be put to use in cities rather than on farm since the benefits outweigh the costs.

    Reply
  28. T han Author

    look n try for all edible food in forest and sell them….thus farming unnecessary….a new career ….food testor ….but increase competitor with wildlife ….not sure somethg good or bad

    Reply
  29. penguins forall Author

    Here is some food for thought: hydroponic gardening yields something like 20x as much as conventional farming. Now its also a lot more expensive and not as scalable. But what it tells you is that there is a massive amount of room to improve crop yield through soil preparation rather than size, crop engineering (GMO/selective breeding) or harvesting techniques.

    The main benefits of agroforestry as described in the video are favorable economics, reduction of reforestation and of course soil benefits.

    Reply
  30. Aaron Smith Author

    I like the video. I like the the idea of planting trees with crops but you skimmed over some of the big obstacles. For one trees make shade, shade is bad for almost all major food crops especially vegetables and grains which almost universally grow best in full sun. Even being in the shade for part of the day is going to affect the yield negatively and less yield means less food which means higher prices. Two most staples are annual plants which means they need to be sown each year and trees dont like having there roots chewed up by tillers and tillers dont like hitting tree roots. Most importantly this takes time and money to pull off which means higher food costs and sadly quite a few people are very vulnerable to any rise in food prices. If agriculture is going to be made sustainable it cannot be at the expense of those who are already struggling to survive.

    Reply
  31. Omri Dor Author

    Little to no scientific rigor here – and this is not the first time this is happening (see the 'cow burps' episode).
    You cannot save this planet by using less efficient agriculture (which would require MORE land).
    Is there a scientific advisor to this series? What's up?

    Reply
  32. Silverizael Author

    As a scientist, I found this episode to be…rather inaccurate and misleading. What published scientific studies were you going off of? Because agroforestry has a lot of issues, including loss of photosynthetic efficiency for the crops and overuse of the soil through more spread out water and nutrient uptake.

    Edit: Okay, I looked over your references. I feel like there's quite a bit of cherry-picking going on in the references you're choosing to include. Here's some others to consider:

    "Insect pest problems in tropical agroforestry systems: Contributory factors and strategies for management"
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1006421701772

    "Agroforestry systems in a changing climate — challenges in projecting future performance"
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343513000924

    "Challenges from Agroforestry: Discussion"
    https://academic.oup.com/ajae/article-abstract/74/3/818/74805?redirectedFrom=PDF

    Reply
  33. NaoTa MF Author

    anybody who is disappinted about the lack of debt in this particular topic needs to be reminded that the aproach of agroforestery is not yet deeply understood because of the lack of emperical experiments. Trees take time to grow and to recive authentic information you first have to transform ordinary farmland thrugh planting trees and monitoring them for decades. You wanna know more? then get more students in to agroforestery aswell as public resources and private donations. If we want to become a interplanetary species we better want to know how to propperly engineer our environment which implies co2 managment. An out of control experiment we set off 200 years ago now soon to be taken under control by new generations of academic farmers.

    Reply
  34. Obsidian Empire Author

    Just thought you guys should know that we there is actual paper being made from rocks/stone, I have some and it's water resistant as well as several other things, since this video is on trees I might as well mention it

    Reply
  35. Arya P. Dipa Author

    Eh, screw crops. We all can just eat bananas or something rhat came out of trees to replace grain and rice for the rest of our life.

    (Half sarcasm.)

    Reply
  36. Gnorts Mr Alien Author

    When "we" stopped hunting and gathering? I guess there aren't any San people, Inuit, Pygmy people, Amazonian Indians, or other modern hunting and gathering people watching this video then. Makes sense; it's hard to keep up with YouTube subscriptions when you're busy fighting for your right to exist.

    Reply
  37. chrissscottt Author

    Nice idea to have trees on farms but it's not sustainable. Livestock eat the seedlings so when the trees inevitably die they aren't replaced. Here in New Zealand you see it all the time where farms border native forest. The edges of the forest are ragged an sparse as the livestock penetrate deeper and deeper.

    Reply
  38. Pretender Author

    Having read the comments, I'm a little worried that this channel has opted to simplify complex problems and thereby reduce climate change literacy among advocates with pop science rather than thoughtful investigation of climate change solutions.

    I subscribed to this channel because I believed it would give me a more granular understanding of climate change. Instead, it seems to do the opposite and lulling me into confidence with half information.

    A shame. It also makes me worried Joe's channel might have been keeping half the information from me.

    Reply
  39. Tyson Adams Author

    Sorry, but your video really annoys this ag scientist. There are so many little errors in this video, not to mention some of the conclusions drawn as a result. E.g. anytime you remove the food from the farmland you have to fertilise the soil. There is no magical method of farming that doesn't require fertiliser. None. What form that fertiliser takes is generally about what is available or affordable (manure, compost, urea, etc). Another example: cropping in between trees doesn't work in all environments nor with all crops, it is actually far more limited in scope than implied. The main reason being that trees have a huge competitive footprint, so unless you have huge amounts of rainfall and highly fertile soils, you're going to have a bad time.

    Reply
  40. Craig Simpkins Author

    Hey good topic but this is an overly simplistic view. Think palm oil in Indonesia, these are trees but are planted mainly using swidden methods and as such release a large amount of carbon. This topic is actually quite complicated and is actively being researched in many areas.

    Reply
  41. Illume7 Author

    There's this, too:

    "How to Farm a Forest—and Feed a Neighborhood: A forest garden helps prove the theory that fertile, well-maintained understories can produce as many calories per acre as a field of wheat."

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/people-and-culture/food/the-plate/2016/october/forest-garden-feast-features-gluten-free-acorn-bread/?user.testname=none

    Reply
  42. h4hashir Author

    Well you're a scientist or at least one in the making cause you look young, that being said it's not like you're the president of the United States who doesn't bother to learn the difference between England and United Kingdom before going on tour in that region. PS: You have like the best hair!!!

    Reply
  43. Angela Gupta Author

    Forest when left to regrow don't typically produce carbon, especially if the wood harvested is used (and thus stored) in things like buildings. Young actively growing forest start storing carbon in wood immediately, even when the trees are small. When wood is burnt the carbon is released back into the atmosphere. It's when forest land is converted out of forests and into agriculture or urban development, that the land's carbon storage potential is significantly reduced.

    Reply
  44. KuK137 Author

    ""England"". What? How about actually showing it correctly, you know, ENGLAND, not implying Wales, Scotland, and NI are ""England"" too. To whatever moron who made this, you pictured UK. NOT England, which is less than half of it. Bravo for failing basic education…

    Reply
  45. Joseph Fuller Author

    I tried talking my dad into Argoforestry and Permaculture farming techniques for years. He has said that it is 100% impossible to do on wide scale due to labor. Currently, if a farmer wants to harvest a crop, they use machinery that cannot fit between rows of trees. It also requires better trained and more workers to maintain and harvest forest farms on a large scale. It is a great idea that I am still advocating for but if we want to do this then we need to change the way food is sold, shipped and its cost. I do not agree with all my dads arguments but after seeing these farming techniques in action in SE Asia, I have to agree with him on one point, it is not as easy as it sounds; given the current way farmers make money and the way crops are traded internationally.

    Reply
  46. Joseph Fuller Author

    Could you please give measurements in KM, perhaps include miles as annotation? After all, these videos reach a global audience and the USA is one of only three countries in the world to use the Imperial System (although our cousins across the pond do sometimes use it), despite the USA officially having changed to the Metric System in 1975.

    Reply
  47. Digital Nation Author

    Sound good doenst work, remember true "Farmer" uses heavy super machinary, like monster tracktor, how it suppose to manuver across trees?

    Reply

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