The project “Des Troupeaux et des Arbres” (Herds and Trees), led by the Association Française d’Agroforesterie (AFAF), is one of the winning projects of the 2020 call for projects to combat climate change in France. The setec Foundation has committed to subsidising the project to the tune of 20,000 euros for the year 2021.
This project, which is being built over 6 years and is part of the Agr’eau programme, aims to set up a network of pilot plots in Creuse, Corrèze, Gers and Pyrénées Atlantiques (Adour-Garonne basin) to test and analyse in the field agroforestry technical itineraries integrating fodder trees in grass-fed livestock systems.
Agroforestry: how to better understand the forest and redefine agriculture
Agroforestry refers to “all agricultural practices that integrate trees into the production environment and are inspired, in agronomic terms, by the forest model”. Nowadays, agricultural and livestock production methods are based on a logic of rapid yields without consideration for the surrounding biodiversity. This lack of an integrated vision leads to harmful and sometimes irreversible consequences: pollution and impoverishment of the soil, reduction of its carbon storage capacity.
For farmers practising agroforestry, trees are a solution to many problems: they act as a climate buffer. In other words, the integration of trees into agricultural production techniques makes it possible to produce, protect and regulate both the micro-climate and the global climate. This is an undeniable asset, particularly in livestock farming.
“Des Troupeaux et des Arbres” : Herds and Trees
The French Association of Agroforestry (AFAF) has been working since 2007 to develop agroforestry in France, both on the agricultural scene and with the general public and institutions. The association is a platform for exchange and partnership between farmers, agricultural and forestry technical operators, research, agricultural education, political decision-makers, local authorities and administrations.
The project “Des Troupeaux et des Arbres” (“Herds and Trees”) supported by the AFAF is part of a scientific approach to experimenting with the impact of fodder trees, such as the white mulberry tree, in a network of pilot plots for livestock farming. Grass-fed livestock farming represents, through the grasslands that it allows to be integrated into crop rotations, an essential way of regenerating soils and their fertility and consequently combating climate change. The references thus created can be shared and adapted at the national level, allowing these practices to be deployed in all breeding regions.
By securing feed for herds, trees make it possible to maintain livestock farming in areas where summer production from grasslands is becoming increasingly uncertain, leading to fears that this activity will be abandoned in the medium term. Maintaining herbivores in agricultural areas is a fundamental factor of agronomic and economic resilience and therefore of sustainability for agriculture as a whole.
The project will run for 6 years, and is organised around 4 main stages:
- Establishment of pilot plots: design and implementation of each field trial (action partly completed in 2020)
- Definition of monitoring protocols: analysis of the relative interest of the various planting methods (rooted seedlings or cuttings) and management techniques (grazed or harvested coppice, pollarding) on the performance of the systems (productivity, food quality, profitability, etc.) in the short and medium term (evolution over the years, sustainability of practices).
- Data collection and analysis: mobilisation on the Landfiles digital platform (capitalisation of feedback from the field in agro-ecology and animation of progress groups)
- Dissemination of results: full technical report, extension sheets, articles in the specialist press and video testimonies. The dissemination will be done via all the AFAF’s sharing tools (Landfiles, website, newsletters, social networks).
How far has the project progressed?
During this second year of implementation, plantations of 5 varieties of white mulberry trees were carried out in 5 different contexts, i.e. a total of 2,400 trees on 6 farms, on 2 farms in the Gers with similar contexts. Regarding the collection of scientific data, the first training prunings and growth measurements were made on 50% of the planted trees.
This new knowledge on the integration of fodder trees was disseminated to the association’s farmers and on social networks. On the Landfiles and LinkedIn platforms, the publications made farmers in search of references to quickly set up fodder tree plantations on their farms react. Thanks to these spaces, trainers and researchers share with the rest of the group their observations on different species, including the mulberry tree.
Finally, as part of the Agr’eau programme, the French Agroforestry Association and all its partners presented the “Cahiers de l’agro-écologie” at the “Les Pyrénéennes” trade fair in September 2021. The aim was to highlight the experiences of the network’s partner farmers over the last two years.
The role of the setec Foundation
The setec Foundation is providing financial support to the AFAF for the implementation of this project in all its activities. At the end of the 2020 call for projects on “Combating climate change in France”, it undertook to allocate a total of 20,000 euros to the organisation in order to carry out the “Des Troupeaux et des Arbres” project.
A rigorous follow-up is also organised throughout the year following the awarding of the prizes, during which reports on the progress of the project are exchanged to ensure the smooth running of the missions and the possible needs of the association.
To find out more about the French Agroforestry Association, visit their website.
To keep up to date with the latest news from the setec Foundation and to find out about the next winners of the annual call for projects and the Transition Fund, follow the LinkedIn page.