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Adding the 3rd dimension to agriculture

Agroforestry defines land use systems in which trees are combined with crops or livestock on one area. In doing so, positive ecological and economic interactions between the different cultures are created.
Agroforestry systems usually differ by the combination of:

  • Trees with arable crops (silvoarable systems),

  • Trees with animal husbandry (silvopastoral systems) and

  • Trees with arable crops and animal husbandry (agrosilvopastoral systems)

Within these categories there are many diverse forms of agroforestry systems. Typical of all types of agroforestry are the deliberately used synergies between woody and arable crops.
In addition to the cultivation of particularly fast-growing tree species such as poplars, also valuable wood tree species and fruit trees play an important role in agroforestry systems.

Fast-growing woody plants have the advantage that they develop effectiveness in a short time, such as:

  • erosion control

  • improved microclimate

  • high rate of CO2-capturing

Fast-growing trees are also a low-threshold introduction to agroforestry for many farmers, as they do not have to commit to a specific agroforestry system for several decades. And like in nature,, pioneer trees create favorable conditions to successively integrate other tree species into the system.
The benefits of agroforestry systems are more diverse and far-reaching than the already positive effects of extensive tree plantations, in comparison to annual crops. This results from synergies and many ecologically valuable border structures in particular. Also productivity can be increased. In French agroforestry systems, a total area yield of 140% has been measured, compared to growing arable crops and trees as separate blocks side by side.

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