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Agroforestry initiatives in Flanders (Belgium)

by Bart Vleeschouwers, Flanders

Eric Avermaete is a farmer in the neighborhood of Tienen, about 50 km east of Brussels. He grows cereals, sugar beets, potatoes and corn.

Around the farm buildings he has about 7 ha of land where until last year pears were grown. Because of the Russian boycott of European fruit export the prices were slumping so terribly that he decided to remove all his pear trees in 2014.

Eric and his wife saw the circumstances as a chance to increase the aesthetic value of these fields around their house and farm buildings. Therefore, they decided to plant quality wood in an agroforestry setting.

For the design of the planting scheme he was assisted by the project consortium working in the IWT-project “Agroforestry in Flanders”.

All together some 7 ha were planted with oak and walnut trees. The opportunity was taken to experiment with planting material of different sizes and with different types of protection. The work was done in cooperation between the farmer and the entire project consortium on a warm and clear day in March 2015. Unfortunately, the trees had to face a very dry and cool spring and then a hot and even dryer summer in 2015. Hence particularly the bigger trees had difficulties to survive the Belgian summer of 2015.

However, an interesting observation is that smaller planting material did start well and that the use of Tubex protection tubes did have a beneficial effect.

Eric Avermaete remains convinced of the interesting possibilities of agroforestry and will replace the dead trees by new ones, hoping that these will take off better than their big brothers planted last spring.

Asked for his motivation he stated: “I did it because I like trees and I’d like to embellish my farm. That in the long run a good price can be obtained for the quality timber that eventually will be produced on my fields and will be a benefit for my successors.”