13-14 July 2016

Agroforestry at International Farming Systems Association Conference

An agroforestry workshop took place at the International Farming Systems Association Conference on 13 July 2016 at Harper Adams University in Shropshire, England. Seven speakers from the UK, Belgium, Italy, Germany, and Portugal provided updates of their research to an international audience. A fascinating field trip was held on 14 July.

The first part of the field trip included a visit to Peter Aspin’s organic farm in Shropshire where he rears young dairy cattle between recently-established tree species (see picture above). The individual paddocks are grazed in rotation and are demarcated using electric fencing. Peter’s objective in introducing the trees was to provide shelter, shade and fodder; he also highlighted benefits such as improved infiltration of water in the tree-lines. The visit generated much discussion not least because Peter established and manages the system without grants. Peter is enthusiastic about the benefits of agroforestry and demonstrates that the most important “component” in any farm system is the initiative and enthusiasm of the farmer.

On the previous day, we held a workshop session focused on agroforestry and society. Valerio Bondesan, from Veneto Agricoltura in Italy, presented survey data from Italian consumers on the key attributes of high value agroforestry salami products. A majority of respondents expressed interest in the capacity of trees to reduce nutrient leaching through the soil. José Muñoz-Rojas, from the University of Évora in Portugal, explained how people typically respond to extensive agroforestry systems such as montados in Portugal as a “landscape” rather than as an “ecosystem”. He argued that the complexity of such systems meant that it took time and an appreciation for different disciplines for farmers, researchers, and advisors to work collaboratively and effectively together. Lieve Borremans, from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, described initial research in the Flanders region of Belgium on how “structures”, “cultures” and “practices” affect the uptake on agroforestry.

The second session focused on agroforestry in the field. Jo Smith, from the Organic Research Centre in the UK, described research on the use of silvoarable agroforestry as an alternative means to maintain yields and control disease within organic apple production. Sally Westaway, also from the Organic Research Centre, described the development of best-practice guidelines for the harvesting of woodfuel from hedgerows in the UK. Jaconette Mirck, from Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg in Germany, described the yields obtained from growing sugar beet in alleys between widely-spaced rows (24-96 m) of short rotation coppice. Lastly Piero Paris, from CNR in Italy, described an alley coppice system where short rotation willow coppice is grown between high value timber trees. Short rotation coppice appears to a good nurse crop for improving the timber quality of the timber trees.

The workshop was led by Paul Burgess, of Cranfield University, and the field visit was organised by Jim Waterson, from Harper Adams University, and Helen Cheshire from the Woodland Trust. Links to the papers are provided below.


Borremans L, Wauters E, Visser M (2016). Nurturing agroforestry systems in temperate regions: an analysis of discourses for an enabling environment in Flanders, Belgium. Paper presented at IFSA Conference 12-15 July 2016.

Bondesan V, Sartoni A, Ricardi F, Burgess PJ (2016). Consumer perceptions and behaviours regarding traditional pork products from agroforestry pigs in Veneto region (north-east Italy). Paper presented at IFSA Conference 12-15 July 2016.

Muñoz-Rojas J, Pinto-Correia T, Guiomar N, Ravera F, Surova D, Guimarães H, Godinho S, Fonseca AM, Azeda C, Fonseca C (2016). The value and potential of a ‘landscape-systems’ approach to agroforestry: insights from an Iberian context. Paper presented at IFSA Conference 12-15 July 2016.

Smith J, Wolfe M, Crossland M (2016). Silvoarable agroforestry: an alternative approach to apple production? Paper presented at IFSA Conference 12-15 July 2016.

Mirck J, Kanzler M, Boehm C, Freese D (2016). Sugar beet yields in an alley cropping system during a dry summer. Paper presented at IFSA Conference 12-15 July 2016.

Westaway S, Chambers M, Crossland M, Smith J, Wolton R (2016). Managing traditional hedges for biofuel. Paper presented at IFSA Conference 12-15 July 2016.

Paris P, Nahm M, Dupraz C, Morhart C, Tosi L, Douglas GC, Facciotto G, Bergante S, André J, Lunny R, Graves A, Burgess PJ (2016). Alley coppice: an evaluation of integrating short rotation coppice and timber trees. Paper presented at IFSA Conference 12-15 July 2016.

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