Scary trees


That trees can be scary, is unbelievable, at least for me.

As an agroforestry scientist, I firmly believe that trees on farms lead to a variety of functions that directly or indirectly contribute to the livelihood security. This is what I am teaching since past more than a decade.

How could someone just simply say that they do not like trees on their farms, I asked myself? The story dates back to a couple of years back when I was running through the results of Raza Ali, one of my post graduate student.

I still remember the discussions I had with him, while finalizing his research problem. We were at crossroads because he was interested in socio-economic studies whereas I had something else in my mind, except for one thing in common, that is the study area. Anyway, his co-advisors were quite enthusiastic about his idea, so I agreed. The study was to be conducted in the Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir State, India. The study area was totally rainfed, locally known as ‘Kandi’, meaning dryland. To be more precise, these dry regions are actually low rolling hills lying parallel to the main Himalayan arc and are known as Shiwalik hills.

Objectives of the study were to identify the existing agroforestry practices and their components, to study the perceptions of farmers about the effect of trees on the understory crop and to identify the constraints faced by the farmers in growing trees on their farms. For this purpose a total of one hundred eighty respondents from the study area were interviewed through a pre-structured interview schedule in person.

It emerged from the survey that the farmers’ perception about the effect of trees on associated crop yield was predominantly negative. When asked about the effect of trees on understory crop, out of 180 sampled households, 158 of the respondents believed that the presence of trees on the agricultural field would reduce the growth and yield of the understory agricultural crop.

The results seemed bland to me. Meanwhile the student was preparing for the thesis defense and he presented the results very impressively. At one point he said that it was very difficult to expect from farmers to go for trees where even agriculture is problematic. This statement flushed out all the confusions from my mind because subconsciously I was comparing a dryland area with irrigated plains. A subtle smile appeared on my face as I congratulated him on such a splendid defense. Very true, trees may scare you sometimes.

But the story does not end here. It is a beginning at least for me, to find suitable trees and crops for the area and persuade farmers to go for agroforestry. This story also aims to highlight the importance of socioeconomic studies in agroforestry. I always believed that biophysical research was the only answer to solve all the agroforestry problems and negated the importance of socio-economic aspects. But now I feel it is equally important to understand the farmer’s needs, his problems and perceptions in order to encourage the adoption of appropriate agroforestry technology.

Photo: The study area: Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir State, India
Photo by: Raza Ali

Blogpost by Dr Sandeep Sehgal – Assistant Professor, Agroforestry, Sher-e-Kashmir University of agricultural Sciences and Technology (Chatha – Jammu, India) – sehgals1(at)


This post is entry nr #19 in our #WCA2014 blog competition. The five blogposts with the most and highest votes will receive a signed copy of the book “Trees for Life”. The most popular blogpost will get an iPad.


This blogpost received 112 votes, with an average score of 4.5 (out of a max of 5).

If you have questions or remarks on the project described in this post, please leave a comment below. Please also rate the other blogcompetition entries!

Follow our #WCA2014 social reporting teamfollow our social reporting team via the #WCA2014 tag on Twitter, our blog and our Facebook page.



43 People have left comments on this post

» Nikhil Dhawan said: { Jan 22, 2014 - 04:01:09 }

great work, even the blog says the whole agenda itself… awesome work n research sir… great

» Ateet pal singh said: { Jan 22, 2014 - 05:01:14 }

Great concept sir.Agroforestry can be a boom for small scale farmers.
Thnxx for sharing sir

» BBAALE GERALD said: { Jan 22, 2014 - 05:01:00 }

unless the farmers have extra land they continue cutting even the innocent small trees to plant an under crop. agro forestry calls for inspiration but its hardly an aspiration.

» lalit upadhyay said: { Jan 22, 2014 - 05:01:51 }

good work sir. not only farmers but some scientists are also confused on the effect of trees on crops.. now i can also explain to them.

» j parshad said: { Jan 22, 2014 - 07:01:37 }

Going in right direction.

» Sunil Mamgain said: { Jan 23, 2014 - 06:01:36 }

Can something like water harvesting be done in those area? Creating some catchment areas may change micro-climate of the area and support more vegetation. Farmers are right, presence of trees in the fields would definitely reduce the production by blocking sunlight and competing with the main crop. Alternatively, we might have to find such crops that go well along with the trees, in tropical areas plants such as coffee, pepper and cocoa go well with the trees. Can we identify any such crop in your kind of situation?

» Ajay said: { Jan 23, 2014 - 06:01:07 }

The Man in his greed to have short term gain is negating the effects tress have in the long run,farmers are not concerned about the oxygen and other benefits, but is comparing it with his crop. he is putting his point of view which needs to be looked into with the other perspectives involved.But true…Agroforestry and more awareness of agroforestry among the farmers is the need for the better future… the work in this field will be highly beneficial to the humans in the long run..

» Ranjeet Singh KAS said: { Jan 23, 2014 - 07:01:48 }

Agroforestry as a need based farming in the kandi or dry land is important as in the winter season there is not much to feed to the poor starving cattle. Most of the farmers grow albizzia , zizyphus or shaman local name on the bunds of their fields but that too does not cater to the local needs. I think there is urgent need to motivate farmers to go for involving agroforestry practices to improve their fodder needs and socio economic development.

» Lovnish Thakur said: { Jan 23, 2014 - 07:01:20 }

Great thoughts Sir, I never thought from this perspective.

» Dr P S Thakur said: { Jan 23, 2014 - 01:01:05 }

Good work and acceptable explanation.

» DAKSH said: { Jan 23, 2014 - 04:01:30 }

Trees are closely associated with day to day needs of common farmers in hills. I am not a taker of scary idea of scary trees on farm land. No one can predict the time when retention of trees, nay, cultivation of crops inside naturally growing trees was started by the locals. Yes trees suppress crop growth despite they are retained on farm land in hills for some of the goods like fodder, firewood, small timber, vegetables ects. are provided to the owner on day to day basis. In fact in Siwaliks and middle hills more trees could be spotted on farm land than on common land and in many cases on government land.

» Ajay Sharma said: { Jan 23, 2014 - 04:01:17 }

As an agroforestry scientists, do we have any alternative (agroforestry) cropping systems for the farmers in these areas to suggest? I do not know what their current tree-crop-livestock combinations are (the blogger has not mentioned), but that along with their needs and aspirations will determine what agrofroestry systems will be appropriate for those ecoclimates. The competition posed by the trees on crops for light may not be important in this area, as I think the real limiting factor is moisture. Native multiple-use trees with deep root systems and high ‘hydraulic lift’ potential are the potential candidates for woody component. Unless, we have an evidence-based better alternative for these currently practiced systems, lets just believe the farmers. Just adding some trees may not be the most appropriate solution. I hope to stay updated on Dr. Sehgal’s research in developing agroforestry alternatives for these areas.

» Sandeep Sehgal said: { Jan 23, 2014 - 05:01:17 }

Thanks all for you comments and suggestions, they will be taken care of.

» Manish Sharma said: { Jan 24, 2014 - 03:01:54 }

Dear Sehgal, really a good thought and expecting more from u. Being statistician I am thinking , the parameter ” land holdings area” may be in ur mind for further work i.e. in order to adoption of appropriate agroforestry technology among the farmers.

» DR. K.K. SOOD said: { Jan 24, 2014 - 09:01:59 }


» Dr. Amol Vasishth said: { Jan 24, 2014 - 10:01:29 }

Yes Dr. Sahgel you touched the real cause why marginal farmers are reluctant in raising tree in their fields and it will hamper adoption of agroforestry . People perception should be taken care while going for execution of any interventions.

» Dilip Mutum said: { Jan 24, 2014 - 12:01:56 }

Interesting post. I remember facing these problems in Himachal several years ago when I was a Forestry student at UHF, Solan.

As someone who teaching marketing now, I understand how attitudes and perceptions can influence behaviour. It is often difficult to change these set attitudes by mere words or numbers on paper. What these people need is to see that agro-forestry actually works and can bring them benefits – not just short term but long term, individually and for the community as a whole. The challenge is now to prepare a showcase – where they can visit and see for themselves.

» Ganesan RP said: { Jan 24, 2014 - 12:01:45 }

Tree growing and its effects are complex, so you need to identify suitable trees , a good, agro forestry model, not at farmers expenses.

» Dr Dileswar Nayak said: { Jan 24, 2014 - 03:01:41 }

It is a matter of great privileges to hear about the agroforestry interventions in the rainfed areas. Nice one

» Rameshwar Rattan said: { Jan 24, 2014 - 06:01:29 }

Excellent work! Awareness among farmer can bring a big change. All the best!!!

» Sanjeev Kumar said: { Jan 25, 2014 - 03:01:12 }

congratulation sir for the study that you have taken. this study has enriched the Knowledge about the real situation that the farmer in that particular region is facing. a farmer has all types of land it may be plain, undulated, irrigated, unirrigated, cultivated, uncultivated but he is making use of all type of land, as per his knowledge and as per the resources availble. here we have to do the twin job of reserach and extension. research on the best combination of crop & trees, their geometry, their agrotechniques, at same time time capacity building of farmer is also important. expose the farmer towards the other alternative of livlihood, take them to the University campus, show them the other crops, landuse, technology, credit services, schemes of line department etc. let him decide the course of action & see the results.

» Vivak said: { Jan 27, 2014 - 07:01:56 }

I am voting for Dr.Sehgal…He is a good researcher and god academician…

» Vivak said: { Jan 27, 2014 - 07:01:19 }

And there will be lot on interaction regarding the moisture conservation and carbon sequestration… we will be formulate a new comprehensive policy regarding the issues discussed above….

» Fatteh Singh Meena said: { Jan 27, 2014 - 03:01:54 }

i am voting for u sir………………………………………………………….wish u all the very best for your future research

» VIKAS ANAND said: { Jan 28, 2014 - 09:01:41 }

Great Work… Great Cause… My vote is for Dr Sehgal… Keep it up..

» Rahul said: { Jan 28, 2014 - 03:01:02 }

Farmer’s perceptions are very important, specially in south east asia because most of them are not educated therefore they stick to their old beliefs and are reluctant to try new things (trees/crops etc.). Objectives of the study were impressive.

» reetika dhawan said: { Jan 28, 2014 - 04:01:07 }

good going sir…..great work

» Ramesh Thakur said: { Jan 30, 2014 - 05:01:29 }

Long way to go but a very good beginning to reclaim these marginal land. Good-luck !

» Nirmal said: { Jan 31, 2014 - 05:01:57 }

Dear sir, Came along this post while going through this blog, read the title and couldn’t help myself reading the article, and to my surprise I found that you were guide of Raza Ali, he was my classmate and friend in Dolphin institute dehradun last I know of him he was in SKAUST.


» Susheel Sharma said: { Feb 1, 2014 - 01:02:13 }

Great going Sir…
Excellent piece of wrk…

» tafazul mushtaq said: { Feb 3, 2014 - 09:02:52 }

pretty handy piece of work sir. god speed.

» aamir magrey said: { Feb 3, 2014 - 03:02:31 }

Dear sir your above mentioned research work in the field of agroforestry has been an inspiration to me and all my fellow men .i take it as a prestigeous honour to appreciate, admire ,adhore for such a valuable research in the context of the concerned field..

» rouf ahmed said: { Feb 3, 2014 - 06:02:38 }

off-course sir itz true,in valley willow trees have such a drastic effect on rice fields…they mostly remain in their vegetative phase and produce little amount of grains… may be advances in agroforestry may evaluate these problems and reduce the ill effects of these so called scary trees……great work….

» junai wahid said: { Feb 4, 2014 - 01:02:35 }

Sir great work insha Allah this concept works much better good luck sir…..

» stanzin landol said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 07:02:37 }

sir wish you all the very best .

» Nikhil Dhawan said: { Feb 6, 2014 - 12:02:47 }

can’t describe the words…. great., absolutely great

» P.K. Rai said: { Feb 7, 2014 - 06:02:54 }

t is a good thought and intervention for sustainable ago-ecosystem .

» C S Sanwal said: { Feb 7, 2014 - 05:02:26 }

Sir, very nicely illustrated the socio- economic attribute. Great.

» navpreet said: { Feb 9, 2014 - 03:02:12 }

Great work..keep it up and all the very best

» Neha said: { Feb 9, 2014 - 03:02:42 }

Thanks fr sharing

» amit bhardwaj said: { Feb 9, 2014 - 08:02:58 }

absolutely fantastic…truly brilliant stuff …;)

» Harshit said: { Feb 10, 2014 - 04:02:58 }


» anil kumar said: { Feb 10, 2014 - 09:02:24 }

good luck sir

Vigyan Bhavan & Kempinski Ambience

10 - 14 February 2014 Delhi, India
organised by


Post your comments on our social media pages