Agroforestry system [Italy]

Sistema agroforestale su terreni agricoli

technologies_1230 - Italy

Completeness: 84%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:

Morari Francesco

University of Padova


Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Preventing and Remediating degradation of soils in Europe through Land Care (EU-RECARE )
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
University of Padova (UNIPD) - Italy

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches (documented using WOCAT)

Carbon farming

Carbon farming [Italy]

Managing land, water, plants and animals to meet the landscape restoration, climate change and food security.

  • Compiler: Nicola Dal Ferro

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Silvo-arable systems for production of annual crops on tree plots

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Agroforestry systems (AS) are the mixed cultivation of annual crops and trees in a single field. Historically, agroforestry has been used as a land management system that allowed the integration and diversification of productivity while maintaining the ecosystem biodiversity and diversifying farm landscape. Over the last fifty years the number of trees in agroecosystems in Italy was reduced of 75% due to the advent of intensive cropping systems and mechanisation, with significant changes to agriculture and landscape. In recent years, re-introduction of silvo-arable systems in the Veneto region have been supported as an agri-environmental measure of the Rural Development Programme (RDP) to improve sustainable land management.

Purpose of the Technology: Tree and crop production in the same area are compatible and combine environmental and economic benefits. As a result, ASs have been proposed to the farmers with the aim of reducing environmental impacts and energy inputs as well as improving biodiversity and agricultural landscape.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: Agroforestry systems are adjusted to the needs of modern and sustainable agriculture and farmers who adopt this technology take advantage of higher ecosystem biodiversity, incomes and labour diversification, lower energy inputs and reinforcement of natural pest control. The systems are managed with low tree intensity (50-100 trees/ha) and large planting systems (up to 14 m in the row and 40 m inter-row) in order to simplify mechanisation of field practices, depending on machinery and cultivated crops.

Natural / human environment: Adopting agroforestry systems achieves several environmental benefits that have been widely demonstrated worldwide: regulation of nutrient cycling and adsorption of nonpoint source pollution (phytoremediation) thanks to the effect of deep rooting systems; reduction of soil surface erosion and sedimentation in rivers and lakes, improvement of micro-climate conditions, soil and ecosystem biodiversity. Reforestation of agroecosystems was recommended by Kyoto Protocol to mitigate global warming. Finally, agrisilviculture systems improve socio-cultural aspects as they contribute to differentiate and enrich the agricultural landscape.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:

Veneto region

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 1-10 km2

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • preserve/ improve biodiversity

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Land use mixed within the same land unit:


Specify mixed land use (crops/ grazing/ trees):
  • Agroforestry



  • Annual cropping
  • Tree and shrub cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • cereals - maize
  • legumes and pulses - soya
  • wheat, oak
Tree and shrub cropping - Specify crops:
  • tree nuts (brazil nuts, pistachio, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 210 Longest growing period from month to month: March to OctoberSecond longest growing period in days: 180

Forest/ woodlands

Forest/ woodlands

Type of tree:
  • Grevillea robusta
  • Populus species

Trees/ shrubs species: poplar, oak, walnut etc.

Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): Soils in the low Venetian plain of the Veneto region generally suffer from a loss of soil organic matter (SOM) that is strongly affected by their natural texture and climatic conditions. Moreover in the last 50 years high intensive monoculture practices and mechanisation implied a further decrease of SOM (estimated 0.02-0.58 t/ha/y of carbon lost), soil habitats and surface water quality.

Future (final) land use (after implementation of SLM Technology): Mixed: Mf: Agroforestry

3.3 Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?

Has land use changed due to the implementation of the Technology?
  • Yes (Please fill out the questions below with regard to the land use before implementation of the Technology)
Land use mixed within the same land unit:




  • Annual cropping

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • mixed rainfed-irrigated

Water supply: Also rainfed, full irrigation

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • agroforestry
  • improved ground/ vegetation cover

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V1: Tree and shrub cover
management measures

management measures

  • M2: Change of management/ intensity level

Main measures: vegetative measures, management measures

Type of vegetative measures: aligned: -linear

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

chemical soil deterioration

chemical soil deterioration

  • Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content (not caused by erosion)
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bh: loss of habitats
water degradation

water degradation

  • Hp: decline of surface water quality

Main type of degradation addressed: Cn: fertility decline and reduced organic matter content, Bh: loss of habitats, Hp: decline of surface water quality

Main causes of degradation: soil management (lack of organic input with fertilizations), population pressure (High demand for agricultural products and competition for land in densely populated area)

Secondary causes of degradation: crop management (annual, perennial, tree/shrub) (crop monoculture instead of crop rotation), deforestation / removal of natural vegetation (incl. forest fires) (mechanisation)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • prevent land degradation
  • reduce land degradation

Main goals: prevention of land degradation

Secondary goals: mitigation / reduction of land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Agroforestry systems are mainly characterised by low tree density, with crops growing within tree belts 25-50 m wide.

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: moderate

Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate

Main technical functions: stabilisation of soil (eg by tree roots against land slides), improvement of water quality, buffering / filtering water, sediment retention / trapping, sediment harvesting

Secondary technical functions: control of raindrop splash, control of dispersed runoff: impede / retard, control of concentrated runoff: impede / retard, improvement of ground cover, increase of surface roughness, improvement of surface structure (crusting, sealing), increase in organic matter

Aligned: -linear
Vegetative material: T : trees / shrubs
Number of plants per (ha): 50-100
Spacing between rows / strips / blocks (m): 20-40
Vertical interval within rows / strips / blocks (m): 10

Trees/ shrubs species: poplar, oak, walnut etc.

Slope (which determines the spacing indicated above): 0%


Nicola Dal Ferro

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):

Euro €

If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. System planning
2. Tillage and soil preparation
3. Tree planting and fertilisation
4. Mulching

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour System planning ha 1.0 102.0 102.0
Labour Tillage and soil preparation ha 1.0 102.0 102.0
Labour Tree planting and fertilisation ha 1.0 127.0 127.0
Labour Mulching ha 1.0 1220.0 1220.0
Equipment Tillage and soil preparation ha 1.0 254.0 254.0
Plant material Seedlings ha 1.0 175.0 175.0
Fertilizers and biocides Fertilizer ha 1.0 21.0 21.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 2001.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 2501.25

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Pruning, replanting, additional irrigation, weed control
2. Crop management

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Pruning, replanting, additional irrigation, weed control ha 1.0 250.0 250.0
Labour Crop management ha 1.0 850.0 850.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 1100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 1375.0

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

The establishment of SLT is the most determinate factor affecting the costs, particularly soil preparation and mulching.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

Thermal climate class: temperate

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Altitudinal zone: 0-100 m a.s.l. (the low Venetian does not exceed 50 m above sea level)

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil fertility is low-medium
Soil drainage/infiltration is medium
Soil water storage capacity is medium

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

< 5 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Ground water table: <5m (The area surrounding the Venice lagoon (1240 km2) is even below the sea level (down to -2 m) and currently cultivated due to land reclamation. As a result water table is kept artificially low)
Water quality (untreated) is good drinking water (groundwater) or for agricultural use only (surface water can be used for agricultural purposes but not as drinking water)

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • medium
Comments and further specifications on biodiversity:

High population density, infrastructures and intensive agriculture practices affect the state of biodiversity.

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • less than 10% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • mechanized/ motorized
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Land users applying the Technology are mainly common / average land users

Population density: 200-500 persons/km2

Annual population growth: 0.5% - 1%

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale

Average area of land owned or leased by land users applying the Technology: Also 50-100 ha, 100-500 ha

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land use rights:
  • individual

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
financial services:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production


wood production


product diversity

Income and costs

expenses on agricultural inputs


diversity of income sources


Socio-cultural impacts

health situation


cultural opportunities


recreational opportunities


SLM/ land degradation knowledge


Improved livelihoods and human well-being

Comments/ specify:

The technology is recognized by the EU CAP as a system of high ecological and social value due to increased biodiversity, improved rural landscape and environmental quality. However, the technology has been little adopted in Veneto region due to scarce technical expertise and very few fundings, resulting in a limited improvement of livelihoods and human well-being.

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

water quality


surface runoff


soil cover


nutrient cycling/ recharge


soil organic matter/ below ground C

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

biomass/ above ground C


plant diversity


habitat diversity

Climate and disaster risk reduction

emission of carbon and greenhouse gases


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

groundwater/ river pollution


buffering/ filtering capacity


6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought not well

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly negative

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

slightly positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 11-50%

80% of land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

20% of land user families have adopted the Technology without any external material support

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
improves water and soil quality

How can they be sustained / enhanced? spread over larger territories and integration with other sustainable land practices (e.g. conservation agriculture, cover crops etc.)
enhances agro-ecosystem biodiversity

How can they be sustained / enhanced? improve connecting corridors between habitats
income generation and diversification opportunity

How can they be sustained / enhanced? stimulation of alternative markets

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
Increases difficulties in handling machinery Improvement of technical knowledge and planning
Increases establishment costs Increase funding for implementation
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
excessive shading for crop production lower tree density and enlarge inter-row; improve system design
high investment and income reduction in the short-term economic support
low efficacy due to short-term cycles of the technology and replacement with traditional cropping systems improve the effectiveness of subsidies to keep the technology in the log-term

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Agroforestazione - Produrre con gli alberi per un'agricoltura differente, Veneto Agricoltura, 2011.

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Programma di sviluppo rurale per il veneto 2007-2013, Regione Veneto, 2007. Dipartimento Agricoltura e Sviluppo Rurale.

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