R. Bras. Zootec.01/Aug/2017;46(8):689-703.
Tree legumes: an underexploited resource in warm-climate silvopastures
Tree legumes are an underexploited resource in warm-climate silvopastures. Perceived benefits of tree legumes include provisioning (browse/mast, timber, fuel, human food, natural medicines, and ornamentals), regulating (C sequestration, greenhouse gas mitigation, soil erosion control and riparian buffers, shade, windbreaks, and habitat for pollinators), supporting (biological N2-fixation, nutrient cycling, soil fertility and soil health, photosynthesis, and primary productivity), and cultural ecosystem services. Tree legumes, however, have not been assessed to the same extent as herbaceous legumes. Once tree legumes are established, they are often more persistent than most herbaceous legumes. There are limitations for extended research with tree legume silvopastures, but extensive research has been done in Africa and Australia and recent efforts have been reported in South America. Economic benefits must be demonstrated to land managers to increase adoption. These benefits are apparent in the research and successes already available, but more long-term research, including the livestock component is necessary. Other factors that reduce adoption include paucity of domesticated germplasm, lag in research/technology, challenges of multipurpose trees and management complexity, challenges to mechanization, dangers of invasive weeds, and social and cultural barriers. In the current scenario of climate change and the need to increase food security, tree legumes are a key component for the sustainable intensification of livestock systems in warm-climate regions.