AGROFORESTRY in AUSTRIA
Agroforestry has been playing traditionally an important role in Austria. Especially so-called Streuobstwiesen (a type of meadow orchard) were widely spread in pre-alpine areas. They mostly represent a loose combination of apple/pear trees with grassland for ruminants.
The arable areas of the East and North of Austria also were shaped by hedges, ditches and often fields included randomly spread groups of trees. Like in most European countries, Austria witnessed agricultural intensification during the post World War 2 era. Technological advances allowed for economies of scale which in return asked for simpler field structures. This led to land reforms, which cleared plots of disturbing structures and obstacles. Those reforms were sometimes accompanied with the establishment of shelter belts, but mostly led to cleared landscapes.
Today, farmers, researchers and advisers increasingly discover the value added by the presence of wooden structures for agriculture. Although there are few farmers who actively get engaged in the development of agroforestry systems in Austria, there are many who include trees and shrubs to some extent in their way of farming. Most modern agroforestry systems are silvoarable alley crop systems consisting of quality wood or short rotation coppice production. Apart from that, one also can also find sometimes combinations of trees/shrubs with free-range poultry.
AGROFORESTRY ASSOCIATIONS in AUSTRIA
ARGE Agroforst is an association which intends to push agroforestry in Europe and Austria towards the centre of society. It has been founded by farmers, foresters, researchers, advisors at the beginning of 2020. After the publication of its founding resolution in August 2020 it has gained attention and gained members with different kinds of backgrounds. Currently, ARGE Agroforst is trying to get engaged in policy processes which promote the establishment of wooden structures in Austria’s agricultural landscape.
Apart from lobbying efforts, the association offers information services, promotes the exchange of farm experiences, and organizes workshops around the topic of agroforestry.
AGROFORESTRY POLICIES in AUSTRIA
One reason why agroforestry plays such a minor role in Austria is the restrictive forestry law, which transforms agricultural land with a certain amount of trees into forest and therefore devalues the land for the farmer. Although there are few exceptions, most farmers are reluctant to establish wooden structures on their fields.
Apart from the forestry law Austria’s CAP Strategic Plan represents an obstacle for further applications of agroforestry systems. Although there are minor elements within Austria’s CAP that recognise partially certain agroforestry systems there are no wholesome solutions that promote a broader development.
RELEVANT AUSTRIAN AGROFORESTRY WEBSITES: