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Glossary for agroforestry

Compiled and edited by Peter Huxley and Helen van Houten, International Centre for Research in Agroforestry - 1997

Instructions for use of Glossary:

Click on the first letter of the term you are looking for to locate the alphabetical section desired, then scroll down to the word of interest.   To return to the top of the glossary,  click on Home.  If you wish to look up the definition of another term, choose the first letter of the new term and repeat procedure.

agroforestry - A dynamic, ecologically based natural resources management system that, through the integration of trees in farmland and rangeland, diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels.


Agroforestry, the intercropping of woody and non-woody plants, although age-old in practice, has now established itself as a new science. This field of study draws its terminology from a range of scientific disciplines. Whether as scientists or practitioners, those involved need to communicate easily and precisely. There is, therefore, a need to comprehend the range of terms that are in common usage, whether these are derived from agriculture, horticulture, forestry, ecology, soil science or some other cognate discipline. For example, foresters use terms to describe the replanting areas of young transplants as 'beating up', 're-enforcement planting', 'filling' (or 'infilling'), 'gapping' or 'recruiting'. Horticulturists talk about 'pricking out' when they mean transplanting very young seedlings into a seedbox or small container; ecologists have several ways of using the word 'niche', all with different definitions and all useful in describing particular agroforestry situations, and so on.

For those without a broad knowledge of the various disciplines, or for those who are not completely familiar with technical English, some of the terms now being used in agroforestry may be obscure or even unknown. In addition, there are, of course, some terms that are specific to agroforestry (for example, 'alley cropping', 'zonal planting', 'tree-crop interface'), all of which need a precise definition if they are to be used unambiguously.

To overcome this situation, ICRAF originally compiled a list of a limited number of terms, which was produced inhouse as a glossary in the 'Source materials and guidelines for agroforestry research'. Some 700 sets of this publication were circulated from 1983 on, with the help of a small grant obtained through CTZ. Single copies of that glossary have also been sent out on request through ICRAF's documentation service. Based on further experience, the glossary has recently been expanded to include some 1400 terms. The terms have been chosen so as to exclude any that are likely to be totally familiar (for example, are common English words), as well as more highly specialized expressions or terms that will be used only rarely in agroforestry research or project work.

Frequently more than one definition is given for a term. These may not be different senses or meanings of the term but simply the way different sources define the same term.

ICRAF and CTA feel that such a publication will continue to be of value and help, not only for those entering the field of agroforestry, in whatever capacity, but also for use in agroforestry courses and in libraries and schools.

Rodney Cooke - Director
Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation

Pedro A. Sanchez - Director General
International Centre for Research in Agroforestry


Definitions have been contributed by various ICRAF staff and definitions have been sourced from general scientific literature, papers on specific topics, manuals and so forth. The following list of contributor and sources is by no means complete: GN Agrios, RW Allard, I Andrew, Di Andrews, JA Barden, KS Bawn, WC Beets, DD Bishop, DJ Boland, NL Bor, NC Brady, j Burley, MW Campbell, Centre for Agricultural Strategy, GM Chippendale, JH Dodds, Di Finney, FA FitzPatrick, B Foster, LO Fresco, JP Gillinger, Glossary of Soil Science Terms, N Glover, D Hillel, HW Hockerir., PA Huxley, International Rice Research Institute, JNR jeffers, AH Kassam, PJ Kramer, R Labelle, GHM Lawrence, D Leatherdale, B Lundgren, JL Marcucci, C Michon, SM Nor, DF Nygaard, EP Odum, HT Odum, EC Pielou, G Poulsen, MH Quenouille, EG Richards, PJ Robinson, D Rocheleau, CS Schopmeyer, Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Simon & Schuster's Guide to Trees, Society of American Foresters, CRW Spedding, M Stocking, WTeel, F Torres, P von Carlowitz, KF Wiersum, Pi Wood, World Meteorological Organization, W Wright, HG Zandstra.

Thanks go to Josephine Ngugi for her help with documentation and to Dali Mwagore and Kellen Kebaara for editorial assistance.

Peter Huxley

University of Georgia The Bugwood Network Forestry Images   The Bugwood Network - The University of Georgia
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Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.       Page last modified: Wednesday, August 8, 2001
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