Producing food and feed while protecting the climate - is that possible? Yes, and agroforestry is one option, combining agriculture and wood production on the same land. Climate change poses a variety of challenges on farmers. They are being asked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time increasing production.
This balancing act calls for adaptation and innovation – for example, by means of modern agroforestry systems. As part of the EU AGFORWARD project, Swiss Agroscope experts searched the whole of Europe for sites with environmental pressures that would benefit from agroforestry systems. Agroforestry holds vast potential for climate and environmental protection. Trees store carbon, reduce soil erosion and nitrate losses, and provide habitats for many species. The latter benefit is especially vital for pollinators and beneficial insects.
Intensive arable regions in Europe would benefit
The EU study with Agroscope participation concludes that a quarter of Europe's agricultural land is virtually free of environmental pressures. On around 9% of this land, however, the pressures studied are enormous. This concerns the following regions:
- intensive croplands in north-western France, north and south-western Italy, central Spain, Denmark, Greece and eastern Romania,
- grassland in Denmark and Great Britain.
Agroforestry systems on this 9% of agricultural land could mitigate up to 43% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. Food and feed production could be continued.