Agroforestry in viticulture, also known as vitiforestry, combines viticultural practices with the cultivation of trees and shrubs.

The advisability of incorporating trees into the vineyard depends a lot on the specifics of each site, but the presence of trees has been shown to make the vineyard system more resilient to the extremes of climate change. Trees have been shown to:

  • Reduce temperature and provide shade, increasing vine resilience to heatwaves
  • Retain water and prevent soil erosion in extreme rainfall events
  • Improve soil fertility
  • Sequester carbon, storing carbon at a faster rate than annual crop plants
  • Provide habitat for diverse wildlife
  • Improve air and water quality

[Care must be taken in the choice of tree, as some tree species are ‘allelopathic’ which means they put out chemical messages that prevent other plants from thriving nearby – famously walnut trees should not be planted near vines]

In detail

Agroforestry is a sustainable land-use management system that combines agricultural practices with the cultivation of trees and shrubs.

It aims to optimize the benefits of both agriculture and forestry, promoting ecological, social, and economic sustainability.

Agroforestry systems can be advantageous over conventional agricultural and forest production methods through increased productivity, economic benefits, climate resilience and the ecological goods and services provided.

Biodiversity in agroforestry systems is typically higher than in conventional agricultural systems. Agroforestry incorporates at least several plant species into a given land area and creates a more complex habitat that can support a wider variety of birds, insects, and other animals.

Agroforestry also has the potential to help reduce climate change and climate change vulnerability, since trees moderate climate and temperature fluctuations and take up and store carbon at a faster rate than annual crop plants.

Agroforestry involves combining a tree planting with another enterprise, such as grazing animals or producing mushrooms or managing a woodlot for a diversity of special forest products. For example, an agroforestry system might produce fruits, berries and nuts, firewood, biomass feedstocks, mulch, fodder for grazing animals, as well as other traditional forestry products. At the same time, the trees are sheltering livestock from wind or sun, providing wildlife habitat, controlling soil erosion, and in the case of most leguminous species fixing nitrogen to improve soil fertility.

The principles of agroforestry include:

  1. Integration: agroforestry involves deliberately and intentionally integrating trees, shrubs, and agricultural crops or livestock within the same land area. The different components interact and support each other, creating a mutually beneficial ecosystem
  2. Biodiversity: agroforestry promotes the diversity of plant species and varieties, contributing to a more resilient and ecologically balanced system. A variety of tree species, crops, and livestock are typically used, enhancing overall biodiversity
  3. Conservation and regeneration of natural resources: agroforestry practices are designed to conserve and regenerate natural resources like soil, water, and biodiversity. Trees help prevent soil erosion, retain water, and improve soil fertility, contributing to sustainable land use
  4. Ecosystem services: agroforestry systems provide various ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, water regulation, climate mitigation, habitat for wildlife, and improved air and water quality
  5. Resilience: agroforestry enhances the resilience of the agroecosystem to cope with environmental stresses and climate fluctuations. The diversity of plant species and their interactions make the system more resilient and adaptable to changes in climate and other external factors
  6. Productivity: agroforestry can lead to increased overall productivity compared to traditional monoculture systems. Trees and shrubs provide additional products like fruits, nuts, timber, and fuel while also enhancing the productivity of associated agricultural crops or livestock
  7. Local knowledge and community involvement: agroforestry practices should be informed by traditional knowledge and local expertise
  8. Market and economic considerations: By generating diversified income streams, agroforestry can reduce vulnerability and dependency of one crop and help improve food sovereignty and the livelihoods of farmers and communities
  9. Adaptive management: agroforestry is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It requires adaptive management, where practices are adjusted based on monitoring and feedback, to suit specific local conditions and changing circumstances

Vineyards that have incorporated agroforestry include:

Domaine Gauby, Roussillon
Bonterra, Mendocino, California
San Polino, Tuscany, Italy
Ruinart, Champagne, France

Further information