Food & Forest is a community interest company established to expand the use of agroforestry. In practice, this means creating the 3 key ingredients needed for alley cropping to flourish; demand for produce, production capacity, and a well structured grant system.
The 3 key elements
Why nuts? Why Agroforestry
Food & Forest was founded to apply research showing the potential of agroforestry to help solve some of our pressing environmental challenges, whilst maintaining the productivity of our current system.
Alley cropping, a specific form of agroforestry which combines nut trees planted in rows mixed with arable crops between them. Preliminary research shows great potential in the UK. By planting north to south, shading is minimised, productivity maintained, and a host of environmental benefits gained.
By contouring rows along hillsides, trees can substantially reduce run-off erosion from storms by percolating rain water into the ground.
A Nuffield report documented the research of centres in France, China, and the US midwest, all showing across varied climates, the capacity of alley cropping to reduce soil erosion by up to 35% in comparison with standard systems.
The presence of the trees reduces wind speed and prevents rainwater gullys forming across fields.
What about the shading?
For crops other than maize, during the first 7 years of a plantation there is no decrease in yield for the arable crop. The years following this, a 15% drop in yield is compensated by the nut crop. Agroforestry systems can be more productive than monoculture farming. A big claim, backed up by comparative studies from Cranfield University.
Land Equivalent Ratio: 1 hectare of agroforestry produces the same levels as:
0.6 hectares – Forestry : 0.8 hectares – Crop : 100 hectares = 140 hectares*
*All data referenced from S. Briggs, 2012, Agroforestry: a new approach to increasing farm production. A Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust
How to feed the world without destroying habitat? Integrate conservation aims with productive agricultural systems. Too often, resource management is seen as a dichotomy between pristine natural habitat and sacrificial farm land.
Alley cropping provides space for flower meadows and other grassland habitat beneath the trees. Planned properly, this can provide wildlife corridors across a landscape, linking woodland either side of a field for example.