Check out our video on the practice. You can choose subtitles in English, Swedish, Italian or German or even other languages if you choose the “auto-translate” option.
Before the beginning of the agricultural industrialisation in Europe in the 1950s, landscapes were characterised by croplands surrounded with hedgerows, trees and other elements of agroforestry. Also, silvopastoral systems, i.e. trees on pastures were common features in European farming. With growing agricultural intensification, hedge and tree elements gave way to arable monocultures.
However, during the past three decades, agroforestry has become recognised again over the world as an integrated approach to sustainable land use because of its production and environmental benefits and “re-enters” again also European agriculture including organic farms. Agroforestry is a term describing systems that combine trees, crops and livestock and are managed as a whole production unit.
Agroforestry and landscape element (e.g. boundary hedges) have a high potential to sequester carbon at farm fields. As hedges and trees sequester carbon in their living biomass (below and above ground), but also in soils, and can help to substitute fossil fuel heating with a renewable energy source, their climate change mitigation potential is considerable.
Besides this, agroforestry systems provide valuable ecosystem services. They can help to increase the nitrogen-use efficiency and reduce N – surpluses, they reduce soil erosion and increase biodiversity on agricultural areas.
What are the SOLMACC farmers doing?
The SOLMACC farmers established different agroforestry and landscape elements. Among them are the most common agroforestry systems in Europe:
- Shelterbelts/windbreaks, which consist of one or more tree/hedge rows surrounding the arable fields on the farm. The biomass of the trees/hedges can be utilized for bioenergy purpose. However, their primary function is to protect the arable crops against winds.
- Riparian buffer strips, which are trees/hedges between arable fields and water bodies. They filter surface run-off, protect stream banks and shorelines from erosion.
- Alley cropping systems, which are perennial trees/hedges, planted in single or grouped rows, and annual agricultural crops are grown in alleys between tree rows. Often the trees/hedges are utilized as an additional income source for the farmer (e.g. berry hedges or fruit trees).
- Silvopasture, which combines trees with livestock and/or forage production in one pasture. The trees help to protect livestock from wind, rain, and sun. At the same time, the animals utilize the pasture around the fruit trees and thus help to reduce work effort for the farmer, such as grass cutting.
Some of the farmers had already established agroforestry systems before the beginning of the project. Therefore, the project activities focussed on:
- optimising the use and shape of existing agroforestry elements,
- advising and encouraging farmers to plant new agroforestry elements by demonstrating its potential, and modelling the impact of agroforestry and landscape element on GHG emissions at farm levels.