AFTA Panel: Agroforestry, Biodiversity, and Restoration Agriculture

Day 2 – Monday, Dec. 7th, 2020

2pm – 3pm

AFTA Panel: Agroforestry, Biodiversity, and Restoration Agriculture

Breeding Strategies for Regionally-Adapted Agroforestry Crops

KarenVanek, Forest Agriculture Nursery

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A growing number of farmers are exploring agroforestry as a means for adapting their farms to endure through the rapid economical and environmental changes they had been experiencing. With this growing interest also comes the interest in achieving more dependability from the woody perennial crops systems. In ecological systems, dependability is reflected through population fitness, biodiversity, and other criteria. What do ecosystems show us when it comes to adapting to a rapidly changing world and how might we apply those principles to add resilience to our agroforestry systems? Do the farmers who are cultivating perennial woody crops at farm-scale also hold a solution to supporting regionally-adapted plant breeding? Forest Agriculture Nursery wants to share an overview of their adaptive genetics plant breeding strategies practiced at New Forest Farm in Viola, WI, and discuss the ways in which applications of mass selection plant breeding may offer viable long-term sustainable options for growers. 


Participatory Selection in Tree Crops potential role in mixed species polyculture?

Dr. Andrew Ormerod CF, Global Biotechnology Transfer Foundation

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[email protected].


A review of the finds from my 2018 Winston Churchill Memorial Trust travel research fellowship to Cameroon, Germany and North America to identify methods linked to participatory selection of tree and shrub crops.  The original rationale was to understand more about methodology that could be applied to participatory research and learning linked to a model tree crop – Apple tree crops.  Since 2010 I have been growing half sib family groups of apple trees to be used in community research and education projects in the UK,  I am also interested in its application to other species and if it has a role in mixed species polyculture.   I was interested to see what methods were used with participatory apple tree selection in different countries.  In addition how the technique is used and promulgated to different community groups – there was particularly useful information from Cameroon in this respect.   In addition I was interested in the transferability of ideas between different countries and between annual/field crops and tree crops.


Utilizing systematic experimental designs to explore plant diversity in perennial cropping systems

Kevin Wolz, Savanna Institute

[email protected]

Systematic experimental designs that modify species composition or density across a plot (Nelder Fans, Goelz Triangles) can reduce required plot sizes and numbers of individuals, expand the experimental inference space, and better calibrate competition indices. As a pilot study to test the potential of these designs, we have established experimental plots at two locations (Urbana, IL, USA and Salina, KS, USA). Both locations were planted in spring 2019 with a double Goelz Triangle containing three woody species: hybrid willow (Salix sp.), black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), and hybrid poplar (Populus sp.). Then, in fall 2019, both locations were planted with a two-species modified Nelder Fan containing intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium ‘Kernza’) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa). Having plots at two locations provides a prime opportunity to explore how climate and soil modify species interactions. Urbana receives an average of 1620 mm of precipitation each year, whereas Salina receives half that at only 810 mm per year. Salina also has an annual average temperature about 3 ˚C higher than Urbana.

Productivity in aboveground biomass will initially be the primary metric by which the impact of diversity is assessed. To measure the aboveground biomass of woody plants, the basal diameter of each plant stem will be measured annually during the dormant season using a digital caliper. Allometric relationships for each species from the literature will be used to estimate biomass. For the herbaceous plants, aboveground biomass will be measured directly by cutting and weighing biomass periodically. Other ecosystem service indicator metrics, such as insect biodiversity, soil nitrate concentration, and soil moisture, may also be measured periodically across gradients in each set of experiments.

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