A diverse group of top fruit growers including cider fruit growers from the Herefordshire Orchards Network of Excellence, arable and horticultural producers met at Wakelyns Agroforestry in Suffolk to evaluate the benefits and limitations of integrating apple and arable production in an agroforestry approach.
Agroforestry may benefit top fruit production in a number of ways including reducing disease pressure and diversifying the enterprise. Such benefits were explored throughout the day, as well as various aspects of establishment and management that may be impacted by such an approach. A tour of the agroforestry systems at Wakelyns, including the diverse hardwood system that has apple trees, raised many questions during the morning session. A lively afternoon session included an inspirational presentation from Prof Martin Wolfe on the theory behind the practice. The practice was illustrated by arable producer-turned-top fruit grower, Stephen Briggs, who established 4500 apple trees on Whitehall Farm, his fenland organic arable farm in Cambridgeshire. A workshop session got the participants thinking about how they would design such an agroforestry system for their own farm. A new project at ORC, CO-FREE starting January 2012, will evaluate agroforestry based apple production systems as a sustainable strategy for replacing copper inputs in organic and low input systems, using Wakelyns and Whitehall Farm as case studies.
The workshop was held as part of ORC’s developing programme of eco-agroforestry activities.
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