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Biogeochemical cycling in agriforestry systems


The objectives of the project are: to study, in detail, the temporal and spatial distribution and structure of root systems and their mycorrhizas in different agriforestry systems throughout the European Community; to study water balance and nutrient cycling and partitioning between different components of agriforestry systems; and, by combining these data, to construct a conceptual and quantitative model to improve our understanding of how different agriforestry systems function and their likely ecological effects in different Community states in order to identify the conditions required for the development of sustainable multicrop land use systems.

The work programme will include an agreed set of measurements to be carried out at both established and new sites. These will include: measurements of the quantities of nitrogen and phosphorous held in understorey, trees and soil at different times of the year; and measurements of the amount and chemical composition of incoming precipitation and a water balance for each site. These studies will involve the use of automatic weather stations and, at most sites, either a neutron probe or TDR. However, experience has shown that, because of the high stone and gravel content of Greek soils, moisture resistance blocks are more effective in those sites.
(c)Nutrient losses to groundwater will be assessed using suction lysimeters, calibrated using drainage measurements made on selected sites.
(d)The influence of treatments on soil structure e.g. bulk density organic carbon content, aggregate stability.

(e)Root system and mycorrhizal activity are critical to the ability of the whole system to conserve nutrients. These factors will be studied in detail using (a) newly developed mini-rhizotron technology which allows root growth to be measured in situ and non-destructively using a miniature high resolution TV camera - computer facilities are used to digitise and analyse the data recorded and (b) analysis of root cores.

The limited information that exists in literature together with results from the field trials, as they become available, will be used to develop one or more computer simulation models that can be used to improve our understanding of how these complex systems function. These models will also be useful in prddicting the likely impact on the environment and the biological systainability of agriforestry systems combining aspects of forestry, agriculture and animal husbandry across a range of potential sites within the Community.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


University of Aberdeen
581 King Street
AB9 1FX Aberdeen
United Kingdom

Participants (5)

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
University Campus
54006 Thessaloniki
United Kingdom
AB15 8QH Aberdeen
Teagasc, Agriculture and Food Development Authority
Malahide Road
17 Dublin
Università degli Studi di Bologna
Via Filippo Re 6
40126 Bologna
Universität Hannover
Am Steinberg 3
31157 Sarstedt