LIVINGAGRO for Mediterranean agroforestry - Discovering Greek innovations included in the dedicated Catalogue, Episode 1



Having identified potentially useful innovations, the partners of LIVINGAGRO project developed a dedicated Catalogue intended to provide an overview of some of the innovations that may be useful to stakeholders involved with multifunctional olive systems and grazed woodlands, in order to help bring together economic stakeholders and innovators who may be able to collaborate to solve common problems. This activity included assessing the stage of readiness of a potential innovation, as well as which type of challenges it addresses. Taking into consideration the needs expressed by stakeholders, the research team of the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania (MAICh) and the technical team reviewed the information provided. Following this review, the working group went back to the innovators to address questions and fill in gaps, then incorporated the responses into the innovation descriptions.


Introduction to section 1 of the Catalogue concerning the re-use of traditional practices in agroforestry

In agroforestry, trees or shrubs are grown in or around pastureland and/or agricultural crops. Silvopastoralism, a type of agroforestry that combines livestock grazing and trees, was and still is a traditional land use system in many areas. For example, in Xeromero, Aetoloakarnania in western Greece, livestock breeders have used the valonia oak forest for grazing as well as collecting acorn cups from the oaks for use in the tanning industry. Agrosilvopastoralism is another kind of agroforestry where livestock is introduced in the field after the completion of the annual crop. On the island of Kea in the Aegean Sea, farmers used to grow cereals and legumes between trees for both human consumption and as feed for the animals. Greek olive farmers have also traditionally grown annual crops for the market or for grazing animals among their trees—or simply allowed livestock to graze on wild plants in the groves. Lately, there has been a gradual abandonment of this kind of combined land use, with a preference for monoculture, such as olive trees grown alone.

However, using forests and olive groves for multiple purposes has many benefits. For example, it ensures a steady and enhanced economic return every year, with a reduced risk of losses due to weather conditions or other types of hazards. Agroforestry can also increase biodiversity, reduce the impact of pests, enrich soil nutrient content, reduce erosion, improve carbon sequestration, and help reduce the risk and severity of forest fires. For these reasons, a return to productive old ways can become a useful innovation that allows farmers and livestock breeders to both increase their incomes from the production of high quality products, and help preserve valuable forest lands and olive groves using sustainable practices.


Presentation of Innovation 1: Clearing shrubs and sowing a mixture of grass and legumes in agrosilvopastoral systems


Farmers on the Aegean island of Kea used to sow a variety of intercrops between oak trees for many uses, including cereals and legumes for human consumption and as animal feed. During a stakeholders’ meeting on the island, farmers expressed their willingness to investigate alternative ways of using valonia oak agrosilvopastoral systems to enhance their income. One possibility that was discussed was the promising cultivation of grasses under valonia oak trees. To investigate the effect of oak trees’ shade on the intercropping species’ development, a controlled experiment was established in an agrosilvopastoral system with valonia oak trees in the southern part of the island. In this system, the valonia oak forest is used for both grazing and acorn cup collection.


oak, agrosilvopastoral system, agroforestry system, grazing, feed, financial support, agroforestry, forest fire prevention


Clear the shrubs in a traditional oak agrosilvopastoral system, then sow a mixture of legumes and cereals. It can be harvested or used for grazing at the end of the growing season.


A variety of species can be used as intercrops between the trees, depending on the region.


Even if the shade cast by the trees limits the production beneath them, the overall production of forage is likely to increase, making this a money-saving plan, according to experiments in Greece and other countries. Another important positive effect of this procedure is that farmers remove flammable biomass when they clear the shrubs, thus reducing the risk of fire and helping to preserve the forest.


Filled gaps
This traditional approach, which was used in the past in all agrosilvopastoral systems, encourages the preservation of agrosilvopastoral systems by their final users, the farmers, by providing financial incentives for their preservation. This is important since these valuable agroforestry ecosystems are closely linked to Greece’s natural and cultural heritage. They also provide numerous high-quality, mostly organic products, such as dairy, meat, honey, and herbs, thus contributing a great deal to the rural economy.


The intercropping species must be chosen carefully by experts to ensure compatibility with local conditions and probably lower light availability.


Next steps/potential extension
To evaluate the possibility that agrosilvopastoral systems can provide multiple products while supporting local stakeholders, an experiment was established under the framework of the AGFORWARD project. This practice has also been tested in other countries. The results have been encouraging in all cases. Different seed mixtures could also be tried in different areas.


Find out more
Professor Anastasia Pantera
Department of Forestry and Natural Environment Management
Agricultural University of Athens, Karpenissi





In the next Episode: Innovation 2, Thinning and pruning trees in silvopastoral systems !