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Pioneer of agroforestry Professor Martin Wolfe passes away

Report by Organic Reseearch Centre

In March this year, we sadly lost one of the pioneers of organic agriculture, evolutionary plant breeding and agroforestry in the UK (and beyond), Professor Martin Wolfe.

Those who were lucky enough to spend time with Martin will remember his infectious energy and enthusiasm, and his generosity in making time for all who visited Wakelyns. His revolutionary challenge to conventional farming systems was backed up by practical, yet rigorous research and enthusiastic persuasiveness. His inspiration for greater diversity in the way we produce our food will be sorely missed, but not forgotten.

Since 1997 Martin and his family were partners in and ran Wakelyns Agroforestry, a highly innovative, integrated and organic agroforestry farm in Suffolk, east of England. Based on his experiences in plant pathology, Martin firmly believed that the future of sustainable agriculture was routed in Darwinian evolutionary processes, where adaptation to the agricultural abiotic and biotic environment leads to increases in overall productivity and resilience.

Martin hypothesised that moving away from the industrialised monoculture approach towards polycultures with major increases in diversity both within and among crops, trees and livestock was key to success.

His work produced evidence, and practical experience, of the overall productivity, biodiversity and environmental gains when modern knowledge and techniques in ecology and genetics are applied at all levels.