Key research questions

  • How do you most effectively integrate trees into productive farmland?
  • How do you balance agricultural productivity with environmental protection including mitigating climate change?
  • How do you design an on-farm agroforestry system to ensure successful establishment and maximised benefits to the producer?

The importance of agroforestry

Agroforestry is a concept of integrated land use that combines elements of agriculture and forestry in a sustainable production system.

In its simplest form, agroforestry can be described as ‘growing trees on farms’ and includes the integration, both ecologically and economically, of the woody elements that may already be present in agricultural landscapes, such as hedgerows, windbreaks, buffer zones, trees in pasture, and small woodlands. At a greater level of complexity are agroforestry systems that are fully integrated structured systems where standard trees, orchard trees and/or coppice systems are grown in rows between crops or pasture in an alley-cropping design.

The focus of our agroforestry research is the evaluation of a range of agroforestry systems (including both crops and livestock) in terms of their productivity, environmental and economic impacts, and their potential for agri-environmental policy. There are both ecological and economic interactions between the trees and crops and/or livestock elements in an agroforestry system. These interactions can lead to higher productivity compared to conventional systems, and provide a wide range of services including soil management, microclimate modification, shelter, weed control, natural fencing, carbon sequestration and nutrient recycling.

Agroforestry systems also support the production of a wide range of varied products including, food, fuel, timber, fodder and forage, fibre, gums and resins, thatching and hedging materials, gardening materials, medicinal products, craft products, recreation and ecological services.

Alongside our work on integrated Agroforestry systems, we are also investigating the potential of hedges and other landscape elements as sources for biofuels and other products, generating an income to support their management and conservation.

Key elements of the theme

Agroforestry, silvoarable, silvopastoral, agrobiodiversity, productive hedges, alley cropping, shelterbelts, in field trees, farm woodlands.

Current projects

Agroforestry and Orchard Pilot Study

Assessing the results and outcomes of a mini-grant scheme supporting tree planting activities as part of Defra’s Trees Outside Woodlands programme.

Agroforestry Carbon Code

The project will explore the potential for the carbon captured and stored by trees in agroforestry systems to be quantified and potentially used to support the net zero strategies of farmers, land managers and their partners and funders. Project Leaders and Partners ORC’s Role The 12-month project will include research to scope and explore the current opportunities for carbon measurement, and then test the viability of assessment and application with a number of pilot sites in …


REFOREST – is a 4 year-long Horizon Europe project, bringing together 14 institutions from 10 European countries with extensive expertise in this field. The consortium, which includes ORC, will focus on supporting agroforestry in Europe and removing the barriers preventing its wider use. The project coordinator is the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences of the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, represented by the Department of Forest Management.

Agroforestry ELM Test – Designing an Environmental Land Management system for UK agroforestry

Are you a farmer practicing or interested in agroforestry? Click here to receive project email updates or become more involved with this project.  *NEW* Agroforestry ELM test project blog can be viewed here *NEW* Project Leaders and Partners Project Aims The project investigates two factors, payment incentives and advice and guidance, that are significant barriers to increased uptake of agroforestry by UK farmers. Project findings will inform design of the UK Governments Environmental Land Management …

AGROforestry and MIXed farming systems — Participatory research to drive the transition to a resilient and efficient land use in Europe (AGROMIX)

The project investigates the opportunities given by mixed farming and agroforestry systems for carbon balance and climate change mitigation and adaptation

Relevant Publications

  • Smith, J., Pearce, B.D. and Wolfe, M.S. 2012. Reconciling productivity with protection of the environment: Is temperate agroforestry the answer? Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. doi:10.1017/S1742170511000585
  • The biodiversity impacts of establishing a silvoarable agroforestry system – Whitehall Farm, Cambs Ashden Trust
  • Eco-Agroforestry Network
  • Impacts of organic silvoarable systems on pest and disease distribution – Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Berkshire

ORC Researchers and staff

These ORC team members are currently involved in agroforestry projects:
Senior Livestock Researcher
Principle Researcher, Agroforesty
Senior Agroforestry Researcher
Janie Caldbeck
Agricology Content Editor