U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version

June 2005


Bentrup, G. 2005. Visualizing Agroforestry Alternatives or Pixel This!. In: Brooks, K.N. and Ffolliot, P. F. (eds) Moving Agroforestry into the Mainstream. Proc. 9th N. Am. Agroforest. Conf., Rochester, MN. 12-15 June 2005 [CD-ROM]. Dept. Forest Resources, Univ. Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, 6 p.


Natural resource professionals often hear the words, “What will it look like?” from landowners who have difficulty in understanding a proposed agroforestry or conservation plan. Planting plans and engineering drawings, while necessary, often mean little to the general public. When practices require a long-term commitment like agroforestry, landowners want to know what it will actually look like on the ground before committing to a plan. Now resource professionals have a tool to translate these plans into real-life pictures or images called visual simulations. Visual simulations are digital images which have been altered to illustrate design alternatives. Using image-editing software, proposed designs can be “created” by adding images of plants and other landscaping materials onto a base image of the landowner’s property that has been acquired from either a scanned or digital photo. In a relatively short time, windbreaks, riparian buffers, and other agroforestry practices can be illustrated at various stages of development, compositions, and arrangements on the landscape. The USDA National Agroforestry Center has developed the CanVis Visual Simulation Kit consisting of the Visual Simulation Guide, a multimedia, CD-reference manual on how to create simulations for natural resource planning and CanVis, an image-editing software program designed specifically for conservation applications. By communicating ideas through visual simulations, tools like the Kit can greatly influence public participation in the planning and design process, enhancing acceptance and adoption of agroforestry and conservation practices. As the old saying goes, a picture can really be worth a 1000 words!