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Building Agroforestry to Improve Great Lakes Water Quality

Year Awarded: 2021
Awarded: $1,200,000
Team Leader:  Savanna Institute

This project will drive the growth of agroforestry across the Great Lakes basin, reducing phosphorus contributions to the Great Lakes by 77 tons per year within ten years. Agroforestry – incorporating trees into row crop farmland – has been shown to improve performance of riparian buffers around farmland, and alley cropping (the practice of interspersing rows of tree crops among common row crops) substantially reduces nutrient loss from the land. However, significant challenges exist regarding the widespread adoption of agroforestry throughout the Great Lakes basin, including the inability to drive market demand for tree crops, like hazelnuts, without a reliable supply source, and vice versa. Further, an unreliable market creates a dearth of capable technical support for farmers to incorporate agroforestry on their land. This project will develop and deploy the support systems needed to accelerate the adoption of agroforestry across the region.

The project team, led by the Savanna Institute, will (1) establish a set of pilot farms in northeast Wisconsin and western Michigan implementing agroforestry, (2) engage a community of farmers and customers throughout the basin, and (3) develop the tools they need to accelerate the growth of agroforestry across the region. With demonstration sites as learning hubs, the project team’s farmers and trained technical service providers will create practitioners’ guides to agroforestry’s technical and financial aspects. These guides, engagement by farmers across the region, and the feedback from initial pilot clusters will lead to a second set of agroforestry pilots in western Michigan in the latter stages of the project and detailed plans for four more in the following years.