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27 January, 2014 - 22:08 By News Desk

EU farming project launched at Cranfield University

Image courtesy – AgriFood and Biosciences Institute

The first meeting of AGFORWARD, an EU funded research programme on agroforestry, has been held at Cranfield University.

The four-year €6 million project will be working with farmers and land owners in 15 countries across Europe to identify how agroforestry practices – farming with trees – can create profitable, productive, and environmentally beneficial farming systems.

The 26–strong group of prestigious European and international institutions will be co-ordinated by Dr Paul Burgess, from Cranfield’s Department of Environmental Science and Technology.

Dr Burgess said: “Historically, agriculture and forestry have been managed and regulated separately. In the context of recent concerns on food security, a demand for bioenergy, and environmental issues which require thinking at a landscape-scale, we need a new approach.

“One way to maintain production and gain environmental benefits is to work with farmers to identify how integrating trees can produce more sustainable farming systems whilst maintaining or increasing profitability. There can also be wider benefits for society.”

One group will look at the current extent of agroforestry across Europe including valued habitats such as parklands in the UK and the Dehesa system in Spain.

Another will work with farmers to understand how established agroforestry systems can be improved, and how and where trees can provide benefits in arable and livestock systems.

Examples include woodland egg, woodland pigs, and grazed orchards. The team will also evaluate the potential for innovative practices for locations where agroforestry is currently not-practised. The findings will provide recommendations for farmers on best practice on farming with trees. The results will also provide invaluable guidance as to how individual countries implement aspects of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy such as ecological focus areas and agri-environment measures.

• Image courtesy: AgriFood and Biosciences Institute

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