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AGFORWARD Report Summary

Project ID: 613520
Funded under: FP7-KBBE
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 2 - AGFORWARD (AGFORWARD)

Project Context and Objectives:
The European Union has targets to improve the competitiveness of European agriculture and forestry, whilst improving the environment and the quality of rural life. At the same time there is a need to improve our resilience to climate change and to enhance biodiversity. During the twentieth century, productivity advances were made by managing agriculture and forestry as separate practices, but often at high environmental cost. In order to address landscape-scale issues such as biodiversity and water quality, we argue that farmers and society will benefit from considering land-use as a continuum including both agriculture and trees, and that there are significant opportunities for European farmers and society to benefit by integrating trees with agriculture. Agroforestry is the practice of deliberately integrating woody vegetation (trees or shrubs) with crop and/or animal systems to benefit from the resulting ecological and economic interactions.

Project goal and objectives
The AGFORWARD project (Grant Agreement N° 613520) is co-funded by the European Commission, Directorate General for Research & Innovation, within the 7th Framework Programme of RTD, Theme 2 - Biotechnologies, Agriculture & Food. The project started in January 2014 and will end in December 2017. The overall goal of the project is to promote agroforestry practices in Europe that will advance sustainable rural development, i.e. improved competitiveness, and social and environmental enhancement.

The project has four objectives which are addressed through ten work packages:
1. To understand the context and extent of agroforestry in Europe (work-package 1);
2. To identify, develop and field-test innovations to improve the benefits and viability of agroforestry systems in Europe. This is being achieved through four participatory networks focused on four sectors (work-packages 2 to 5);
3. To evaluate innovative agroforestry designs and practices for locations where agroforestry is currently not practised or is declining and to quantify the opportunities for uptake at a field and farm scale (work-package 6) and at a landscape scale (work-package 7);
4. To promote the wider adoption of appropriate agroforestry systems in Europe through policy development (work-package 8) and dissemination (work-package 9).
There is also a project management activity (work-package 10).
Project Results:
Description of work against the four objectives (January 2015 to June 2016)
1 Context: the extent of European agroforestry has been estimated to be 10.6 Mha (using a literature review) and 15.4 Mha using the pan-European LUCAS dataset (i.e. 3.6% of the territorial area or 8.8% of the utilised agricultural area). Livestock agroforestry (15.1 Mha) is, by far, the dominant type of agroforestry. The LUCAS analysis provides a uniform method to compare agroforestry areas between countries, highlighting current practice, and opportunities for expansion.

2 Identify, develop and field-test agroforestry innovations: 40 stakeholder groups established in 2014 (involving about 820 stakeholders across 13 European countries) continue to develop and field-test innovations. Each group has produced and is implementing an experimental or demonstration protocol and has described the key inputs, outputs and ecosystem services of their system on the AGFORWARD website.

For agroforestry systems of high nature and cultural value, the research on wood pastures includes methods for tree regeneration, assessments of the productivity of understorey crops, and the effect on carbon storage. The intercropping or grazing of fruit, olive or high value trees research is focused on the impact of sheep grazing in apple orchards, the intercropping of olive groves, and the use of legumes, aromatic species or sheep within walnut or chestnut plantations. Groups focused on the integration of trees in arable systems include the selection of shade-tolerant durum wheat varieties, the impact of tree rows on weed infestation, and arable crop productivity. Groups focused on the integration of trees with livestock are producing “best practice” guidelines from existing research and a feed-value database of tree components, and investigating spatial design of trees for different livestock species and helping to select shade tolerant swards.

3 Evaluation of agroforestry designs and practices at field- and landscape-scale: field-scale analysis tools are publicly available on the project website. These include the “CliPick” climate database (MS26), a database of agroforestry descriptions (MS28), improvements to the Yield-SAFE (MS29) and Hi-sAFe (MS30) models, and the web-application of the Yield-SAFE and Farm-SAFE model (Deliverable 9.3). A systematic review of the benefits of agroforestry at the landscape scale has resulted in three peer-reviewed papers, and has highlighted the benefits of agroforestry for soil erosion control and biodiversity. The twelve locations for landscape analysis have been characterised, and biodiversity and ecosystem service assessments, piloted at sites in Spain and Switzerland in 2015, have been extended to 10 other sites during 2016.

4. Policy development and dissemination: a policy analysis has highlighted the wide range of Rural Development Programme measures being used to support agroforestry. Project results are regularly disseminated on and, and a quarterly electronic newsletter. The number of national associations has been extended to twelve, and a web-based training resource created. AGFORWARD also supported the Third European Agroforestry Conference attracting 287 delegates from 26 countries including many farmers. We have also initiated national conferences, TV interviews (8), oral presentations (91), poster presentations (17), newsletter articles (19), and at least 18 workshop activities (in addition to the stakeholder groups), and eight training activities.

Project management: a successful Second General Assembly was held in Chania, Greece in June 2015 (47 participants) and a Third General Assembly at Montpellier, France in May 2016 (48 participants). The Executive Committee has met monthly via Skype, and communication has been supported by an e-mail discussion group and a Sharepoint site. Two amendments have been made to General Agreement.

Potential Impact:
The socio-economic impact of the project is discussed in terms of the four objectives of the project.
1. To understand the context and extent of agroforestry. The pan-European LUCAS dataset can be used to provide a uniform systematic assessment of the extent of agroforestry. The analysis highlights that agroforestry is a significant European land use representing 15.4 Mha, and hence it is a valid focus for land use policy. The approach will allow the assessment of changes in land use over time, which in turn can help inform decisions regarding Land Use, Land Use Change and Forest (LULUCF) inventories in relation to climate change.
2. To identify, develop and field-test innovations. The project has established 40 stakeholder groups, which is working with about 820 stakeholders across 13 European countries. These groups are seeking to provide solutions to practical issues. Each group has produced a research protocol and a system description (which is publicly available). This resource provides a European-wide resource for stakeholders interested in establishing their own agroforestry system.
3. To evaluate innovative agroforestry designs and practices. As a result of the project, significant improvements and improved access have been provided for climate datasets and the Yield-SAFE and Hi-sAFe biophysical models of tree-crop interactions. Using these models, with the bio-economic Farm-SAFE model, allows assessment of the financial impact of agroforestry practices relative to conventional agriculture and forestry. The inclusion of environmental benefits allows assessments from a societal perspective. The use of these models can help inform improved decision making. The impact of agroforestry is also being determined at a landscape-scale where it can have a significant impact on ecosystem services such as aesthetics, recreational opportunity, and human well-being. The initial results from Spain highlights the importance of public access in maximising cultural services, and that ecosystem services are generally increased from a mosaic of landscapes.
4. To promote the wider adoption of appropriate agroforestry systems in Europe through policy development and dissemination. The Common Agricultural Policy (including rural development programmes) comprises about 39% of the annual EU budget and its effective use is of socio-economic importance. Agroforestry can offer environmental and animal welfare benefits whilst maintaining food production. A review of 2007-2013 and 2014-2020 CAP highlights that agroforestry is being supported through a wide range of rural development measures. The project is also playing a major role in disseminating best agroforestry practice. AGFORWARD staff have been active in the initiation, by the French government, of a National Plan for the Development of Agroforestry in December 2015. The successful Third European Agroforestry Conference in May 2016, supported by AGFORWARD, involved 287 delegates from 26 countries, where the speakers on the first day included the French Minister of Agriculture. The event included farmer-focused presentations, and the presentation of European agroforestry to a global audience. Across Europe, there is increasing interest in agroforestry from farmers, policy makers, and advisors, who recognise that integrating trees with farming can be both financially and environmentally beneficial.

List of Websites:

Reported by

United Kingdom
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