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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.

The main objective was to diversify and maintain agricultural production in Charlevoix-Est and to protect the environment in St-Hyacinthe. Tree row spacing of 30-40 m was preferred in both regions and the preferred crops were cereals or forage with semi-intensive management in both regions. All the groups chose a system integrating hardwood species, while the local authorities and agricultural experts subgroups in both regions preferred mixed tree species. Abandoned lands were the preferred implementation sites for farmers and local authorities in Charlevoix-Est and agricultural experts in St-Hyacinthe, while all the other subgroups preferred cultivated lands. For all the subgroups, financial support should ideally come from the Ministry of Agriculture in whole or in part, with the participation of other policy sectors.  Almost all stakeholders preferred trees dedicated to fruit and nut production only or combined with trees grown for pulp or hardwood. 

“It has been a surprise to observe that most stakeholder groups, despite their localization or their specialization, share globally the same ideal in terms of intercropping systems”, a research team member said. “But most stunning was the importance given to the nut and fruit production within these systems. That points out what locals really need from these systems: edible and high value production available in a shorter term than what can be expected from wood production only”.

For further information about this interesting work, readers should contact the author.