The SAFE Project > Objectives

Silvoarable agroforestry comprises widely-spaced trees intercropped with arable crops. This project builds on recent findings that indicate that modern silvoarable production systems are very efficient in terms of resource use, and could introduce an innovative agricultural production system that will be both environment-friendly and economically profitable. Growing high quality trees in association with arable crops in European fields may improve the sustainability of farming systems, diversify farmers incomes, provide new products to the wood industry, and create novel landscapes of high value. In support of the European Common Agricultural Policy, the SAFE project will provide models and databases for assessing the profitability of silvoarable systems, and will suggest unified European policy guidelines for implementing agroforestry.

Trees in arable land provide also environmental benefits such as protection for livestock
Here an oak tree in Italy (Maremma grossetana, Southern Toscana)

Poplars and wheat in a mature agroforestry plot
(Vézénobres, France)

Our goals are to
  • reduce the uncertainties concerning the validity of silvoarable systems
  • extrapolate plot-scale results to individual farms or sub-regions
  • suggest unified European policy guidelines for implementing agroforestry

The first main objective of the project is to reduce the uncertainties concerning the validity of silvoarable systems. Data from both traditional silvoarable systems and recent silvoarable experiments will be collated in a modelling framework that will be used to predict the outcomes of silvoarable management scenarios at the plot scale. This objective implies two technological and scientific tasks:

  1. to build up a network to monitor the unique resource in silvoarable experiments provided by the participants in the consortium using agreed measurement protocols and database structures;
  2. to design and validate a mechanistic model of tree-crop interactions in silvoarable plots. An inception workshop will allow to compare existing models produced in previous European or International programmes and prioritise the need for new modules. The model will be validated using available experimental data from the consortium, and will be used for predicting the future yields from silvoarable plots at a variety of European sites.

The second main objective is to extrapolate plot-scale results to individual farms or sub-regions, and to provide a unified framework to assess the impact of agricultural prices and EU regulations on the likely uptake of agroforestry. This second main objective implies three tasks:

  1. to link the biophysical modelling of a silvoarable plot with economic modelling tools, and to upscale the resulting integrated bio-economic model from the plot scale to the farm and the regional scales;
  2. to identify where, in different European countries, agricultural and forestry policies are conflicting over the silvoarable agroforestry issue;
  3. to define and predict the economic outcomes of a range of scenarios for implementation of silvoarable agroforestry, to compare these outcomes with existing land use profitability, and to consider the wider issues of grant eligibility, environmental impacts, or taxation levels which may constrain the uptake of agroforestry in Europe. At the moment, many European farmers are deterred from establishing modern agroforestry systems because of legal and policy issues, rather than by their lack of profitability. Simultaneously, most traditional silvoarable systems are ignored by the CAP. This cultural heritage of rural Europe is therefore abandoned by farmers, leading to the loss of environment-friendly practices and of valued landscapes. There is, therefore, a clear need to use the experience gained from traditional and modern silvoarable systems across Europe to develop coherent agroforestry policies for the European Union.

To meet these expectations, the SAFE project will develop biophysical and socio-economic tools to inform farmers and policy-makers of the potential for silvoarable agroforestry to contribute to the integrated and sustainable development of European rural areas. The final target is a coherent 'Agroforestry Policy Options' document which can be used by the EU to frame header and interpretative regulations, and by Member States or Autonomous Regions to assess the effect of forestry or agricultural grants on the uptake of agroforestry in the context of best European practice.

A special 'agroforestry status' will be designed for the countries where tax policy and grant availability is dictated by land-use classes. Policies for agriculture and forestry grants should recognise that both silvoarable and silvopastoral systems are 'legal' forms of land-use which should be permitted to be on a 'level playing-field' with conventional agriculture or forestry. This agroforestry status will be designed to avoid any undue accumulation of European grants by landowners or farmers.

For more details about SAFE project, clic here to download the technical annexe (PDF format).