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Cultivated tree park with ana trees and Borassus akeassii near Banfora in Burkina Faso (2004)

Agroforestry or agroforestry ( English agroforestry or agroforesting ) describes a (sometimes multi-storey) agricultural production system that combines elements of arable farming with those of forestry .

Both perennial trees such as fruit trees , palm trees or timber as well as annual agricultural crops are integrated into the same area.

Agroforestry systems are seen as ecologically advantageous compared to complete clearing , particularly in areas that are naturally overgrown by tropical rainforest . They are rich in species, stabilize the water balance and protect the soil from erosion and degradation . However, due to their variety and the rather low yields , the marketing of the products is often difficult, which affects the profitability of such systems.

Definition and characteristics

Agroforestry is the conscious inclusion of trees and shrubs in agriculture (short definition by J. Vogt 1999). Land use focuses on perennial wood plants and agricultural crops or animals.

An essential criterion for the qualification of a land use system as an agroforestry system is mostly the simultaneous use of a combination of woody plants with arable or animal husbandry and the resulting targeted generation of interactions between the individual components that are advantageous for agricultural production.

In addition, according to Nair (1985), agroforestry systems are subdivided according to their main components:

  • silvoarable systems - trees with arable crops
  • silvopastoral systems - trees with animal husbandry
  • agrosilvopastoral systems - trees with arable crops and animal husbandry

Benefits of agroforestry

  • Habitat for animals (beneficial insects and pests; the greater the biodiversity, the less susceptible an ecosystem is to disturbance).
  • Reduction of the soil erosion of a field due to the wind resistance of the trees (this also reduces evaporation at the same time; more wind close to the ground leads to greater evaporation).
  • At the same time, trees and their roots facilitate the penetration of water into the soil and thus contribute to reducing water erosion. They also serve to prevent flooding by minimizing surface runoff after rainfall, and can help reduce water pollution from agricultural fertilizers.
  • Increased shade, which in the case of combined animal husbandry (combination of pasture land with trees) serves the protection and comfort of the animals. At the same time, the shade keeps the soil cool, especially in summer, which in turn leads to reduced evaporation (only possible with larger trees; important factor in dry areas).
  • Delivery of free fertilizer (i.e. little or no purchase of artificial fertilizer), as trees (depending on the species) with their roots deeply anchored in the ground transport plant nutrients upwards and after the leaf fall these nutrients in turn to the top soil layer and thus via destructors ( Remineralizers) to the crops that are rooted there. Since this natural fertilizer is also more suitable for the soil fauna (has a stimulating effect), it is strengthened and in turn ensures better soil quality (crumb structure).
  • Cooling in summer through the evaporation effect through the leaves of the tree (as above, the effect is only created by a certain tree size). The roots are also able to carry water upwards from deep water layers. This protects plants from excessive heat stress (for example during extreme events such as the heat wave in Europe in 2003 ). Soil organisms are also affected by excessive heat, which can be prevented by cooling.
  • When considering the life cycle of a tree, the farmer can achieve a significantly greater profit by selling the wood (as veneer, firewood or construction wood ) than with a purely agricultural or purely forestry use.
  • Trees in agroforestry systems are much more easily accessible than in forest areas and can therefore be better cared for and “ harvested ”.
  • Since the rows of trees are relatively far apart, these trees receive considerably more light than within a forest area. In addition, such favorable growing conditions exist until they are harvested. As a result, the trees grow very evenly, in contrast to the usual forestry practice, in which trees are regularly removed from a tree community, which leads to growth spurts in the neighboring trees. In trees from agroforestry systems, a fine and even grain of the wood is created, which not only increases their sales value, but at the same time leads to greater wood strength (higher construction timber quality).
  • Appreciation of the landscape, which appears more diverse than monotonous monoculture areas.
  • The nutrient cycle is preserved.
  • In addition to carbon storage, the soil is recultivated and humus is built up, which also has great potential for binding CO 2 ( Hüttl 2008).

Disadvantages of agroforestry

  • The large number of products, each with relatively small quantities, makes marketing more difficult and thus increases the transaction costs for the producers.
  • Farmers also have to deal with and / or further educate themselves in a lot more subject areas related to the rearing of trees (rearing, tree pruning , felling technology, marketing). Which can also be an advantage in the long term, as the farmer has a broader knowledge with which he can react to changes.
  • Raising the trees increases the workload per hectare of field area and year. This also includes an increased maneuvering effort for the harvesting machines because of the trees.
  • Since the trees can only be “harvested” after a certain age, this can, under certain conditions, initially lead to a loss of yield per hectare. The positive effects of the agroforestry system - d. H. its additional benefit, which can compensate for part of the loss, only becomes noticeable after a few years.

Research in Europe

In the last few years, a research program of the European Union has dealt with the possibility of combining annual arable crops and tree crops (with very long rotation times ) for Europe as well . The researchers came to the conclusion that agroforestry could generate significant additional yields of up to 30%. The production of a cultured with a mixture of poplar and wheat area of one hectare equal to the production, the only one in the separate cultivation area consumption of 1.3  hectares would be (0.9 ha wheat and additionally 0.4 ha poplars). The combined agroforestry system is successful with the simultaneous cultivation of nitrogen- binding woody plants and arable crops . Sometimes the trees are planted in rows (three, four or even ten meters apart); In such an alley cropping, the agricultural crops are grown in the gaps.

The World Agroforestry Center was founded in 1978 (then International Center for Research in Agroforestry: ICRAF) to promote research and information exchange on the subject of agroforestry. It pursues the goal of contributing to poverty reduction and food security through ecologically adapted production methods. A research group is also based at the French Institute national de la recherche agronomique . In the United Kingdom , the Agroforestry Research Trust and its director Martin Crawford should be mentioned in particular. In Germany there are research groups at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg , the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and the TU Dresden .

The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) supports the initial establishment of agroforestry systems on agricultural land.

German Association for Agroforestry (DeFAF)

In order to better utilize the potential of agro-forestry in Germany, the German Association for Agroforestry eV was founded as a registered association in 2019 .

The association sees its task in improving the administrative and political framework conditions for agroforestry in Germany. As a non-profit association, this organization would like to network stakeholders interested in agroforestry from all areas of life with one another and with farmers, scientists and representatives of the administration and other associations and provide information about the agroforestry in Germany. The work of the association is not tied to any particular agricultural management method. It supports agroforestry in both conventional and organic farms and is open to anyone interested in agroforestry.

One goal is to anchor a clear definition for agroforestry in laws and the resulting opportunities for subsidy programs and support from the federal government.

See also


  • J.-M. Boffa: Agroforestry parklands in sub-Saharan Africa. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome 1999, ISBN 92-5-104376-0 (English; full text on ( Memento of August 30, 2009 in the Internet Archive )).
  • Johanna Jacobi, Monika Schneider, Stephan Rist: Agroforestry as an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable form of land use: Case study of cocoa cultivation in Bolivia. In: Elements of Science. No. 100, 2014, pp. 4–25 ( PDF: 4 MB, 22 pages on ).
  • Burkhard Kayser, Martina Mayus, Georg Eysel-Zahl: Agroforestry in Central Europe: Potentials of a new form of land use for agriculture and nature conservation. In: Living Earth. No. 3, 2005 ( online at ( Memento from December 3, 2006 in the Internet Archive )).
  • Hans-Jürgen von Maydell : Agroforestry: Lexicon and glossary (German-English = Agroforestry). Communications from the Federal Research Institute for Forestry and Wood Management Hamburg, No. 173.Wiedebusch, Hamburg 1993, p. 175.
  • Wolfgang Zech: Tropics: The future habitat? An analysis of the role of the soil from the point of view of geoecology. In: Geographical Rundschau. No. 1, 1997, p. 15.

Trade journals:

Web links

Commons : Agroforestry  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Volkart Wildermuth: Fields under trees: The concept of agroforestry. In: July 15, 2012, accessed June 14, 2019.
  2. Burkhard Kayser: Definitions for agroforestry. In: May 23, 2018, accessed June 15, 2020.
  3. German Association for Agroforestry e. V. (DeFAF): Official website. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  4. Reinhard Hüttl (Ed.): On the status of the humus supply of the soils in Germany (= Cottbuser Schriften zur Ökosystemgenese und Landschaftsentwicklung. Volume 7). Research Center for Landscape Development and Mining Landscapes, Cottbus 2008, ISBN 3-937728-09-0 , p. 95.
  5. ^ Introduction: Introduction à l'Agroforesterie. In: Undated, retrieved June 14, 2019 (French).
  6. ^ Homepage: The Agroforestry Research Trust. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
    Author portrait: Martin Crawford. In: 2019, accessed on June 14, 2019.
  7. Homepage: Agroforestry Research at the Professorship for Forest Growth and Dendroecology. ( Memento of December 8, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, accessed on June 14, 2019 (archived version).
  8. Self-presentation: About us - Lin2value. In: . / Without date (2015?), Accessed June 14, 2019.
  9. See Article 23 of Regulation (EU) No. 1305/2013 of December 17, 2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) , accessed on June 14, 2019 .
  10. ^ Website of the association One year after , accessed on August 27, 2020
  11. Mission statement and goals. In: Website of the Agroforestry Association. Retrieved on August 27, 2020 (German).
  12. Six points: Strategic goals of the association from May 5, 2020 , accessed on August 27, 2020