Trees breathing new life into French agriculture (From the Guardian)
Agroforestry, the traditional practice of growing crops around trees, is regaining popularity in parts of France
The tips of young walnut trees are just visible above the ready-to-harvest wheat. There are rows of them and they should produce fine wood for cabinetmakers in 30 years or so. Further away, oaks, ashes and cherry trees are growing in fields of sunflowers and broad beans, all signs of the return to agroforestry in La Bergerie de Villarceaux, an organic experimental farm in the Vexin region of north-west France.
Olivier Ranke and his team are pioneers. Ten years ago they started replanting hedges in a part of France where intensive farming is the norm and there is scarcely a shrub on the horizon. In 2011 they took the next step by launching the most ambitious agroforestry project in northern France and planted more than 600 trees in 23 hectares of farmland.
“This type of farming, where crops and trees grow in the same field, is an age-old practice that has been updated by recent agronomic research. In the 19th century, in the bocages [mixed woodland and pastureland] of the Perche region of France, apple trees often grew in the grasslands,” said Fabien Liagre, president of Agroof, an agroforestry research institute advising the farm. “Farmers are becoming increasingly aware of how poor their soil has become, leading to a fall in production. Trees are a very good way of improving the soil while producing wood, which is an additional source of revenue,” he said.
Read full article from the Guardian: Trees breathing new life into French agriculture