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The impact of silvoarable agroforestry with poplar on farm profitability and biological diversity - AF0105

Description
MAFF’s 1996-2000 research strategy states that 'it is important that there is enough knowledge to ensure that new woodlands are established and maintained in the most cost-effective and environmentally beneficial way, while at the same time providing economic opportunities for farmers.' Initial research on silvoarable agroforestry with poplar indicates that it is a profitable method of establishing poplar on farms, while maintaining farm income from a moderately reduced area of arable cropping. However the reliability of these predictions depends on long-term interactions between tree and crop growth.

MAFF’s research strategy also states that 'there is a need to develop, test and demonstrate effective, practical, least-cost farming practices that conserve and enhance landscape and biological diversity'. A potential constraint in the development of silvoarable systems is the development of cost-effective and environmentally benign way of managing the vegetation at the base of the trees. This is an area requiring further research. Initial research has indicated potential biodiversity benefits of silvoarable agroforestry in terms of airborne arthropods and small mammals, but the effects on flora and ground invertebrates are not known.

For the above reasons this research programme aims to:
i) determine the effect of silvoarable agroforestry with poplar on farm profitability, and
ii) to determine the effect of silvoarable management practices, relative to arable farming, on ground flora and ground invertebrates’.

The assessment of the economic viability of silvoarable agroforestry relative to forestry and agriculture, will allow MAFF to make well-based judgements on how agroforestry should be supported within the current system of agricultural and forestry grants. The assessment of the effect on biodiversity, relative to conventional arable production, should allow MAFF to make well-based judgements on the role of agroforestry within agri-environment schemes.
Objective
The research proposed falls into two sections with the following objectives:
Section 1: to determine the effect of silvoarable agroforestry with poplar on farm profitability.
Section 2: to determine the effect of silvoarable management practices, relative to arable farming, on ground flora and ground invertebrates’.

Section 1. To determine the effect of silvoarable agroforestry with poplar on farm profitability.

A critical constraint in the promotion of agroforestry systems is our lack of knowledge about the interactions between tree growth and crop yields. The individual objectives within this section of the project are therefore:
1.1. to determine the effects of arable cropping and fallow on the annual growth of four poplar hybrids (7 to 10 years after planting),
1.2. to determine the effects of poplar trees 7 to 10 years after planting on arable crop yields, and
1.3 to evaluate the economics of the system relative to agriculture and closely-spaced poplar.

Section 2. To determine the effect of silvoarable management practices on ground flora and ground invertebrates.

The specific objectives of this sections of the project are to:
2.1 to determine the costs and botanical impact of two vegetation management strategies, and
2.2. to determine the effect of silvoarable management practices on the number and diversity of ground invertebrates.
Project Documents
• Final Report : The Impact of Silvoarable Agroforestry with Poplar on Farm Profitability and Biological Diversity   (437k)
• Final Report : The impact of silvoarable agroforestry with poplar on farm profitability and biological diversity   (995k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1999

To: 2003

Cost: £181,296
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Cranfield, University - Leeds, Royal Agricultural College
Keywords
Agro-Forestry              
Environmental Protection              
Forestry              
Woodland management