Active Research Projects
The Agroforestry4Food research group is exploring a wide range of topics to better understand and improve the growth, management, and adoption of multifunctional woody polyculture systems.
Click on the links below to learn more about the studies currently underway.
Multifunctional Woody Polyculture (Field Trial)
Multifunctional Woody Polyculture (Pilot Study)
This study aims to understand the potential for woody polyculture systems to increase farm yields, enhance carbon sequestration, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve water quality (i.e., reduce nutrient leaching) when compared to conventional agriculture in the Midwest.
(Click on the box to learn more)
Black Currant (Ribes Nigrum) Shade Trials
Soil Sampling at the MWP Field Trial
What Topics Are We Researching?
Biogeochemical aspects of our research focus on carbon, nitrogen, and water.
Can MWPs stabilize seasonal carbon fluxes, resulting in higher long-term carbon sequestration than a corn-soybean rotation? Will this storage primarily take place both in woody biomass and/or in soil organic carbon?
Can MWPs reduce nitrous oxide (N2O, an important greenhouse gas) emissions? Can a woody polyculture reduce nitrate leaching or runoff? Can a MWPs system supply its own nitrogen needs by fostering healthy soil ecology?
What is the water use efficiency of a MWP system? How deep are woody polyculture plants getting their water? How susceptible is a MWP to a drought? Can a MWP reduce surface water runoff and soil erosion?
Agronomical aspects of our research focus on maintenance, establishment, and harvesting/processing.
What are the annual maintenance requirements of a MWP system? Is any special equipment required? How much labor is required? What special knowledge is required? How sensitive is the system to mismanagement?
What is the best method to establish a MWP? What herbicides can be used in the system, and how can they be used most effectively? Is irrigation necessary? What is the best way to establish the alleys? What soil amendments are necessary?
Harvesting & Processing
How much labor does it take to harvest MWPs by hand? Can we adapt equipment to mechanically harvest certain crops? What are the best ways of processing the nut crops? Can we utilize existing processing infrastructure?
Ecological aspects of our research focus on biodiversity, phenology, and resilience.
Can a MWP increase insect, avian, and/or soil microbe biodiversity? How closely will returning biodiversity match the composition of native savanna or prairie ecosystems?
How long is a MWP's growing season? When are the major harvest events? How susceptible is the system to early or late frosts? How can an extended growing season affect the ecological and physical properties of the system?
Will MWP productivity be more resilient to seasonal and inter-annual variation in resource availability than that of a corn-soybean rotation? What drives this resilience? How susceptible is a woody polyculture to insect and disease damage?
Economical aspects of our research focus on inputs, modeling, and yield projections.
What non-renewable inputs are required to establish and maintain a MWP system? Does the system require fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or fossil fuels?
What do the long-term economics of a MWPs look like? How quickly can the large initial investment in trees be recovered? How does the annual profit compare to that of a corn-soybean rotation? How sensitive are profits to social fluctuations?
How does the potential yield of a MWP compare to a corn-soybean rotation? What is the nutritional composition of the suite of harvested crops? What are the potential biomass, grain, or livestock yields from the alleys?