The European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF) has been active on many fronts. Although policies, regulations and programs in North America are, in many cases, substantially different from those in the various European member countries and the European Union, especially under the Common Agricultural Policy, AFTA members will be interested to read, not only about the EURAF initiatives, but also about the various member countries.
The EURAF website offers hours of interesting reading at: http://www.agroforestry.eu and highlights local initiatives, public events and practices in all Europe’s diversity, from the dry Mediterranean climates of Greece, Italy and Spain, to northerly regions such as Sweden and Scotland.
In two regional focus groups about intercropping in Québec, local stakeholders expressed interest in intercropping systems, especially if they included nut and fruit production - a totally surprising result, as this has not yet been promoted in the province.
What would be the ideal agroforestry intercropping system for your region? That is the question researchers from Université Laval asked farmers, local authorities, land managers, agricultural experts and forest specialists. The two regions were Charlevoix-Est, where extensive agriculture is the norm, and St-Hyacinthe, the most intensive agricultural region in Québec. Each stakeholder subgroup (the farmers, the land managers, etc.) was asked to reach consensus for each of seven system determinants objective, site, row spacing, species, crops, financial support and tree production. The results were then shared with all participants.
Thanks to Gary Bentrup and Rich Straight at the USDA National Agroforestry Center for this “heads up” about a January 23 post by former Senator Richard Lugar and Connie Veillette called “Agroforestry: Our Bet for Beating Hunger and Malnutrition.”
Although the article is focused on the value of agroforestry in reducing hunger and malnutrition in developing countries, there are some strong points made of interest to AFTA members. I have excerpted directly from the article:
Forester Craig Stange at the Plant Materials Center in Bismarck, North Dakota continues his good work with tree and shrub species for the northern Great Plains. Below are a few highlights detailed in the Center’s recently released 2014 Progress Report of Activities. Besides the species discussed here, the PMC has also been focusing on working with partners on the development of commercial Aronia orchards.
In Canada, it has been estimated that 90% of the biomass available for biofuels is lignocellulosic. Within this context, the viability of the biofuel / biomass industry will depend on an uninterrupted supply of feedstock for the conversion of lignocellulose to biofuel or for direct combustion to derive heat and/or electricity. Therefore, long-term research trials are essential in various eco-regions, especially those with marginal soils (Canada Land Inventory classes 3 and 4). These trials provide an opportunity to determine the productivity and sustainability of woody biomass under various conditions.
Climate change is expected to affect crop yields in Quebec. A project underway at Laval University has been studying the impacts of tree-based intercropping on biodiversity, hydrology, microclimate and root distribution, as well as yield and profitability, as a way of adapting to climate change.
The research sites include different crops growing between rows of hybrid poplar or red oak. Over two years, the research group measured crop biomass, tree growth, root distribution, light, soil biochemistry, microbial resilience, density of soil microarthropods, and soil water content. The value of ecosystem services was also quantified, and an agroforestry model simulating these systems for different climatic scenarios was calibrated.