Multifunctionality of temperate alley-cropping agroforestry outperforms open cropland and grassland

Intensively managed open croplands are highly productive but often have deleterious environmental impacts. Temperate agroforestry potentially improves ecosystem functions, although comprehensive analysis is lacking. Here, we measured primary data on 47 indicators of seven ecosystem functions in croplands and 16 indicators of four ecosystem functions in grasslands to assess how alley-cropping agroforestry performs compared to open cropland and grassland. Carbon sequestration, habitat for soil biological activity, and wind erosion resistance improved for cropland agroforestry (P ≤ 0.03) whereas only carbon sequestration improved for grassland agroforestry (P < 0.01). In cropland agroforestry, soil nutrient cycling, soil greenhouse gas abatement, and water regulation did not improve, due to customary high fertilization rates. Alley-cropping agroforestry increased multifunctionality, compared to open croplands. To ameliorate the environmental benefits of agroforestry, more efficient use of nutrients is required. Financial incentives should focus on conversion of open croplands to alley-cropping agroforestry and incorporate fertilizer management.
© The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Communications Earth & Environment, 2023, available online at: . Keywords: agroecology; environmental impact.
Veldkamp, E., Schmidt, M., Markwitz, C. et al. Multifunctionality of temperate alley-cropping agroforestry outperforms open cropland and grassland. Commun Earth Environ 4, 20 (2023).