Trees for timber intercropped with cereals

Description of system

The Po river region in the Veneto Region of North Eastern Italy is characterised by intensive agricultural. Cereals are the most common cultivated crops and poplar, for timber production, is the most common cultivated tree species. Agricultural intensification has caused a gradual loss of woody vegetation in the rural landscape. In this context, this system focuses on the growing of trees (poplar and oak, both for timber) alongside and in mixture with cereals and other rotational arable crops.

Initial stakeholder meeting

The first meeting of the stakeholder group was help on 24 June 2014 at the Casaria Farm, in the Veneto region of Italy. The meeting was attended by five stakeholders from farming, consultancy and extension work backgrounds. The positive aspects of the system, as described by the farmer, included an improved landscape, crop protection, and the reduced pressure of tree diseases. Negative issues included the administrative difficulties associated with agri-environment payments and the single farm payments. Possible research topics that may be addressed by the project include the comparison of agroforestry and traditional plantation grown poplars in terms of the prevalence of disease, stem form, pruning and timber quality, and the evaluation of the use of mixed linear plantations composed of more than one species. If you would like to know about the activity of this group, please contact Pierluigi Paris at the Institute of Agro-environmental and Forest biology (CNR-IBAF).

Download the initial stakeholder report

An initial stakeholder report was produced in October 2014.

Download the initial research and development protocol

A research and development protocol was produced in April 2015.

Download the system description

A system description describing some initial crop yield and tree measurements was produced in January 2016.

Lesson learnt

Researchers from CNR-IBAF and Veneto Agricoltura in Italy have produced a “Lessons learnt” report from their study of the poplar and oak with arable crop agroforestry system on a commercial enterprise at Casaria Farm.   The trees were planted in Spring 2013.  Some of the main results are:

  • After four years, the height of the poplar trees in the alley cropping system were similar to poplars grown in a plantation system with medium to high soil fertility.
  • During 2016 a double crop was grown of durum wheat and soybean.  The greatest light interception by the trees, at a particular point of the arable crop alley, rose from 3% in 2015 to 14% in 2016.  
  • The levels of nitrogen isotope d15N and carbon isotope d13C were greater in the leaves of sugar beet than the poplar.  
  • The level of oxygen isotope δ18O was also higher in the xylem of the sugar beet than the poplar, indicating that the sugar beet was extracting more surface water than the tree.