Agroforestry Systems

Forest farming

Forest farming can be established by thinning an existing forest or wood, and planting understorey crops.  An example can be seen at the trials of the Agroforestry Research Trust at Dartington, Devon.

Hedgerows, windbreaks and riparian buffer strips


Hedges are a traditional sight in the landscape of the UK and Ireland, having developed over millennia as a means of keeping livestock within parcels of land.  For this purpose they have to be maintained by pruning to ensure they are dense enough to prevent animals from passing through them, and this density makes them a good shelter from the wind.  They are a valuable resource for birds and other wild animals as a source of food, shelter and nest sites.

Silvoarable Agroforestry


Silvoarable agroforestry is the integration on a parcel of land of arable crops and trees.  This has not been commonly practised in the UK and Ireland in recent years, largely due to the historical separation of agriculture and forestry.  There has been a view amongst farmers that trees lower yields of arable crops, and also get in the way of normal farming operations.

Agroforestry Systems


According to the EU's AGFORWARD project, agroforestry can be defined as "the deliberate integration of woody vegetation (trees and/or shrubs) as an upper storey on land, with pasture (consumed by animals) or an agricultural crop in the lower storey. The woody species can be evenly or unevenly distributed or occur on the border of plots.  The woody species can deliver forestry or agricultural products or other ecosystem services (i.e. provisioning, regulating or cultural)".

Silvopastoral agroforestry


In the UK, silvopastoral systems are typically those in which trees are planted at wide spacings into grazed pastures, or existing woodland thinned to allow the undergrowth to flourish. Both systems were common in the past, particularly with the presence of parkland landscapes in large country estates and the ancient practice of pannage in common woodland.  The first of these approaches, planting trees into existing pasture, is more common in newer systems. 

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