Agroforestry and AgForward

Area of Expertise:

Agroforestry is the integration of trees, crops and or livestock on the same area of land to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services. Silvopastoral research has been conducted at AFBI Loughgall since 1989. AFBI participates in the EU AGFORWARD and AGROCOP programmes and the Farm Woodland Forum. Ash and sycamore trees have been grown in established pasture under sheep and cattle production. Research has been adopted into policy in NI and advised policy in Ireland.


In Northern Ireland tree cover (8%) is lowest in the EU and there is a need to develop land use systems which can integrate the objectives of increasing tree planting on farms while maintaining grassland and cropland productivity. In agroforestry, trees are integrated into farming systems to increase production, social, economical and environmental benefits for land users and the delivery of a wide range of ecosystem services.


Currently, AFBI scientists are participating in a four year EU research programme AGFORWARD (Agroforestry that Will Advance Rural Development). The overall goal of the project is to promote agroforestry practices in Europe that will advance sustainable rural development, i.e. improved competitiveness, and social and environmental enhancement. AFBI participates in work packages to research and promote grazing in orchards and to deliver the message of Agroforestry to grass farmers.


In 1989 AFBI participated in the UK Agroforestry Research Network and from it the National Network Silvopastoral Experiment (NNE) with a site on its research station at Loughgall, Co. Armagh and an on-farm site.  These sites are still available for research purposes. Another of AFBI’s silvopastoral sites (poplar trees planted closely in wide spaced rows) at Loughgall attracted the consortium of another EU FP7 project AGROCOP.  Through Teagasc’s participation in AGROCOP, AFBI was awarded a 4-year Walsh fellowship for a PhD project on agro-coppice.


2014 - 2020 RDP adoption

In 2014, Agroforestry was finally adopted as an option within the NI Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.  This was based on the outcomes, management prescriptions and successes of the AFBI Loughgall programme.  In Ireland, there is an option to support an agroforestry initiative in the current RDP (2014-2020). The rationale and management prescriptions within this are also based on the NI experience at Loughgall.

Key references

  • Sibbald A.R., Eason W.R., McAdam J.H., Hislop A.M. (2001) The establishment phase of a silvopastoral  national network experiment in the UK.  Agroforest Syst 53(1):39–53
  • McAdam J., McEvoy P.M.  (2009) The potential for silvopastoralism to enhance biodiversity on grassland farms in Ireland.  In: Rigueiro-Rodr√≠guez A, McAdam J, Mosquera-Losada MR (eds) Agroforestry in Europe: current status and future prospects. Springer. pp 343–358
  • Mosquera-Losada M.R., Moreno G., Pardini A., McAdam J.H. et al (2012) Past, Present and Future of Agroforestry Systems in Europe In PKR Nair and D Garrity (eds.), Agroforestry - The Future of Global Land Use, Advances in Agroforestry 9; 285-312