Agroforestry is a concept of integrated land use that combines elements of agriculture and forestry in a sustainable production system. There are both ecological and economic interactions between the trees and crops and/or livestock elements on an agroforestry system. These interactions can lead to higher productivity compared to conventional systems, and provide a wide range of services including soil management, microclimate modification, weed control, natural fencing, carbon sequestration and nutrient recycling.
In its simplest form, agroforestry can be described as “growing trees on farms” and includes the integration, both ecologically and economically, of the woody elements that may already be present in agricultural landscapes, such as hedgerows, windbreaks, buffer zones, trees in pasture, and small woodlands. At a greater level of complexity are agroforestry systems that are fully integrated structured systems where standard trees, orchard trees and/or coppice systems are grown in rows between crops or pasture.
Eco-agroforestry integrates agroforestry and biodiversity– realising the full potential of agroforestry as a self-sustaining diverse production system that works within ecological cycles and supports ecosystem health.
ORC staff involvedDr. Jo Smith, Prof. Martin Wolfe and Sally Westaway.
The Eco-Agroforestry Network aims to bring the sustainable agroforestry approach into the mainstream of UK food, fuel, timber, and fibre production, through research, dissemination and policy changes. To find out more about eco-agroforestry, and the eco-agroforestry network, click here.
Our focus is on promoting an eco-agroforestry approach that integrates agroforestry with organic principles to realise the full potential of agroforestry as a self-sustaining diverse production system that works within ecological cycles and actively supports ecosystem health.
Our research work aims to support the development of agroforestry into the mainstream; using the definition of "ecosystem services - ecological processes that sustain human well-being" as a framework, we will consider the potential of eco-agroforestry to deliver the four main categories of services:
- Provisioning services - the production of food, fuel and fibre, and genetic resources, biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticals, and ornamental resources
- Regulating resources - including air and water quality regulation, climate regulation, flood control, and pest regulation
- Supporting services - services that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services, including soil formation, photosynthesis, primary production, and nutrient cycling
- Cultural services - aesthetic, spiritual, and recreational benefits.
While many of these ecological processes need to be studied at the fine-scale, it will also identify how these processes impact at the farm-, landscape-, national- and global scale; scales at which farmers, policy-makers and society are involved.
Find out more about the agroforestry systems, benifits and products here.
|Project title (acronym)||Funder||Description|
|Innovative and sustainable intensification of integrated food and non-food systems to develop climate-resilient agro-ecosystems in Europe (SustainFARM)||FACCE SURPLUS||The main objective of SustainFARM is to enhance agronomic, environmental and economic performance of integrated food and non-food production systems (IFNS) by optimizing productivity and valorizing woody components, residual wastes and co-products.|
|AGroFORestry that Will Advance Rural Development (AGFORWARD) (AGFORWARD)||EU FP 7||Working with 26 partners from across 23 European countries, this project aims to promote agroforestry practices in Europe that will advance sustainable rural development, i.e. improved competitiveness and social and environmental enhancement.|
|The biodiversity impacts of establishing a silvoarable agroforestry system – Whitehall Farm, Cambs||Ashden Trust||This ongoing project will monitor the effect on biodiversity of establishing a silvoarable system with apple trees on previously intensive conventionally farmed land in Cambridgeshire.|
|Eco-Agroforestry Network||Ashden Trust||The Eco-Agroforestry Network aims to bring the sustainable agroforestry approach into the mainstream of UK food, fuel, timber, and fibre production, through research, dissemination, and policy change.|
|Project title (acronym)||Funder||Description|
|Innovative strategies for copper-free low input and organic farming systems (Co-Free)||EU Framework Programme 7||The project aims to develop innovative methods, tools and concepts for the replacement of copper in European organic and low input fruit, grapevine, potato, and tomato production systems.|
|Agroforestry in dairy systems, a part of Sustainable Organic and Low Input Dairying (SOLID)||EU Seventh Framework Programme||This project, part of SOLID, is investigating the potential of integrating bioenergy production from short rotation coppice with dairy systems for alternative feed resources, improved animal welfare, enhanced productivity and environmental benefits.|
|Towards Eco-energetic Communities (TWECOM)||INTERREG 4b NWE Programme/ Ashden Trust||Realising the economic potential of using biomass from landscape elements for local energy or heat production with respect for the current ecological, cultural and social functions that these landscape elements fulfil.|
|Can agroforestry reconcile conflicting demands for productivity, biodiversity conservation and delivery of ecosystem services?||University of Reading/ORC||This PhD aims: (i) to identify which goods and services agroforestry systems can deliver, (ii) to quantify the values of these services (ecologically and economically), and (iii) to inform the process of how policy can support these activities.|
|Impacts of organic silvoarable systems on pest and disease distribution – Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Berkshire||University of Reading/ORC||MSc research project investigating the distribution of pests and diseases, and microclimatic differences, within a silvoarable system and arable control system.|
|A review of temperate agroforestry research literature||Ashden Trust||A comprehensive review of research activities in temperate agroforestry systems was carried out to provide a basis for identifying the potential of agroforestry as a land use system that balances productivity with environmental protection.|
|Tree-crop interactions in silvoarable agroforestry||Ashden Trust||In 2009 we carried out a study to investigate the interactions between tree and crop components in the mixed hardwood and fruit tree silvoarable system at Wakelyns, in Suffolk, England to identify local variations in cereal yields.|
|Silvo-Poultry: An Agroforestry System for Organic Chicken Production at Sheepdrove Organic Farm||Juliet and Peter Kindersley||In collaboration with Sheepdrove Organic Farm in Berkshire we designed a novel silvopoultry system which is integrated into the farm’s organic rotation.|
Smith, J., Pearce, B.D. and Wolfe, M.S. 2012. Reconciling productivity with protection of the environment: Is temperate agroforestry the answer? Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. doi:10.1017/S1742170511000585
Smith, J., Pearce, B.D. and Wolfe, M.S. 2012. A European perspective for developing modern multifunctional agroforestry systems for sustainable intensification. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. doi:10.1017/S1742170511000597
Smith, J. 2010. Agroforestry: Click here to access the pdf from Organic Eprints).
Smith, J. 2010. The History of Temperate Agroforestry. (Click here to access the pdf from Organic Eprints).
Smith, J. 2010. Agroforestry Policy Review. (Click here to access the pdf from Organic Eprints).