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Monday, 18 June 2012

Agroforestry in Germany today

The Borkener Paradies wood-pasture
grazing reserve in Lower Saxony

Compared to many other European landscapes such as on the Iberian Peninsula, the Abruzz and Apennine Mountains in Italy and especially in many eastern and southeastern European countries, agroforestry in Germany today is of peripheral significance. There are two systems that can still be addressed: wood-pastures and with them semi-open pastureland and traditional orchards - the so-called central European savannas. There are three important points to make about these systems: one aspect is the historical and cultural importance, secondly their ecological significance as outstanding and unique habitats and thirdly there is interest in the remaining systems from a conceptual perspective as possible options for low intensity agricultural systems in less favored areas. The oldest systems are wood-pastures which probably mirror the onset of European agricultural history.

Wood-pasture in Bavaria
Today, wood-pastures belong to the rarest elements in Central European cultural landscape heritage. In general, remnants of wood-pastures are still to be found only in some lowland reserves and in mountain areas where, because of site conditions, the intensification processes in agriculture had natural limitations. Depending on the geographical region and individual structural characteristics, wood-pastures, and with them the generally associated semi-open pastureland, are known under various terms in Germany such as: Allmendweiden, Baumweiden, Harte/Hardte, Hutungen, Krattwälder, Maisalmen, Ötzen, Schachen, Tratten, Weidewälder, Weidfelder, Wyttweide.

Wood-pasture in the Black Forest 
In recent years new research interest has been given to agroforestry. But it seems though that the original definition – making use of the product of the trees (wood, fruits, leaves) and of the understory (cropping, grazing, green fodder) at the same space – is not valid any longer. Looking at papers you see that even systems such as short-rotation-coppices or alley-cropping systems are considered as to be agroforestry.

Rainer Luick

University of Rottenburg Schadenweilderhof 72108 Rottenburg
E-mail address:

1 comment:

Peter Quelch said...

Pleased that you say that one of the purposes of research into today's historic wood pastures is to learn more about how they might once again be useful models for low intensity agriculture in certain situations. That is how I see it, that knowledge of how old silvo-pastoral systems worked may once again be useful in a post-oil world?