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.