Agroforestry Innovations to be evaluated for Arable Farmers

Between May and November 2014, 12 stakeholder meetings were held across Europe to identify the key opportunities and constraints associated with integrating trees into arable systems. The organisers of the workshops have synthesised their results to identify potential innovations which will be the focus of research and development during the remaining three years of the AGFORWARD project.

Amongst the key researchable topics were issues related to agroforestry design, tree protection and weed disease management, regulation and policies, and socio-economic and environmental effects.

Design: for many regions we know little about how to establish a profitable agroforestry system for arable farmers. Knowledge gaps exist for key design components such as crop tree combinations, spacing, crop tree competition, shade tolerant crops and harvesting. Therefore the establishment of an agroforestry system itself can be considered an innovation. A decision support tool that reflects the conditions of the different regions was thought to be of great use to farmers.

Management of tree protection: another common challenge is the protection of trees against wildlife and domestic animals, particularly during the establishment period. Adequate tree protection methods were needed.

Management of weeds and diseases: a third overarching challenge is weed and disease management and how the trees affect the presence of weeds and disease.

Regulation and policies: many partners mentioned the administrative burden and the lack of long-term funding for agroforestry system establishment. An online portal or information sessions through farmers unions may simplify the grant application process.

Socio-economic and environmental effects: stakeholders were also interested in the role of marketing in persuading people to pay a premium price for agroforestry products.

Mirck J, Cirou E, Camilli F, Crossland M, Dalla Valle C, Fernandez Lorenzo JL, Ferreiro-Dominguez Lorenzo N, Gonzalez-Hernandez P, Gosme M, Hannachi Y, Herzog F, Howlett S, Jäger M, Mosquera Losada MR, Moreno G, Pantera A, Paris P, Pisanelli P, Rigueiro Rodriguez A, Smith J, Tsonkova P, Vityi A, Wartelle R, Wolfe M, Burgess PJ (2014). Agroforestry Innovations to be evaluated for Arable Farmers. Milestone 4.2 (MS15) for EU FP7 Research Project: AGFORWARD 613520. 11 pp.

For further information on this work, please contact Jaconette Mirck