The first large scale research facility for agroforestry in The Netherlands

 

In Lelystad (The Netherlands), Wageningen University & Research is starting the first large-scale (15 ha) multidisciplinary research facility for agroforestry. Agroforestry is a form of mixed cultivation in which trees are combined with crops on the same plot. In Lelystad, various tree species are planted in hedges, in combination with annually changing annual crops such as potatoes, wheat and cabbage. The research facility is located at the Field Crops business unit. The Farm of the Future is also situated here, a project with which there is close collaboration. The first trees have been planted on the 6th of January 2021. (See the video of the tree planting )

 

The agroforestry experiment fits within the objectives of the PPS Agroforestry, a multi-year research program in which WUR, together with arable farmers and the business community, is investigating the opportunities of agroforestry in the Netherlands in the areas of:

  • • Soil fertility
  • • Fixation of CO2 in the soil
  • • Biodiversity
  • • Shade for arable crops in times of extreme drought and heat
  • • Attractive landscape
  • • Disease and pest control
  • • Extra income for farmers from nuts, fruit and wood

 

Farmers closely involved

The new research facility enables researchers with different specialisms to conduct research into the applicability of agroforestry in the Netherlands. Agroforestry farmers are closely involved in the research. The aim is to find answers to questions such as: what interactions take place between tree crops and arable crops? Which microclimate effects do rows of trees bring about in an open polder landscape? What are the effects on biodiversity and the soil? What are the economic prospects for tree crops (hazel trees in this case) in an arable farming system?

 

Hedges of hazel trees

The experiment is designed to investigate the effect of trees on annual crops in the field consequently the tree hedges are planted at different distances. To begin with fast growing trees are planted, including red elm, black poplar, black alder and white willow. In the autumn of 2021 a second row of trees, consisting exclusively of hazel trees, will be planted next to the first rows of hedges. When the hazel trees have matured after a number of years, the fast growing trees are successively removed and the hazel trees remain. So there is a gradual transition from a biodiverse hedge to a row of nut shrubs. This approach is advantageous, because the hazel trees become more sheltered during the development phase, and the fast-growing hedge already provides research data in the first years.

 

Research opportunities

The long-term research facility for agroforestry lends itself to long-term research on many additional topics, such as resilience and adaptability to extreme weather conditions, carbon sequestration and effects on disease and pest control. The facility will be equipped with sensors to collect data on (micro) climate, wind (speed) and soil condition (soil temperature and moisture).

 

Piet Rombouts

 

 

 

NOTE FOR EDITORS

For more information, please contact project manager Maureen Schoutsen (maureen.schoutsen@wur.nl, telephone +31 320 291640) or visit https://www.wur.nl/agroforestry.

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