Here, trees are included in cultivation systems. Silvopastoral systems integrate trees and livestock. Silvoarable systems are where crops are grown with trees.
Potential benefits include:
- Shelter and support livestock and animals
- Higher biodiversity
- Stabilise slopes and reduce erosion
- Land use efficiency
- Carbon sequestration
- Diversification and additional products
- Contribute to climate resilience and food security
Forests are the most productive and diverse of terrestrial ecosystems and agroforestry draws on these benefits. Many countries in Europe have successful commercial agroforestry, and more have smaller-scale uptake. It is also popular in the tropics.
The trees used can be productive in the medium term (e.g. fruit and nuts), or longer term (e.g. for timber or wood products), or simply for wildlife and ecosystem enhancement. Many different crops can be grown beneath them. Careful planning is required to adapt to the growth of trees and avoid competition for light and water with the lower layers. Trees must be regularly pruned to allow lateral light penetration. Trees are not immediately productive but are a longer-term investment. They require different skills, tools and understanding of different markets at a commercial level.
Integration with most livestock requires that trees are protected from grazing until canopies are well out of reach. Fencing can be expensive to install.
Agroforestry can be practiced in many different locations and at varying scales from back garden to landscape. Forest gardens are a popular form of agroforestry.
You can read more here - links to a review of the academic literature and includes sources of evidence.
This text is based on an academic literature review by Naomi van der Velden as part of our collaborative GROW Observatory project.
The GROW Observatory has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 690199.