Multifunctionality of temperate alley-cropping agroforestry outperforms open cropland and grassland

Edzo Veldkamp, Marcus Schmidt, Christian Markwitz, Lukas Beule, René Beuschel, Andrea Biertümpfel, Xenia Bischel, Xiaohong Duan, Rowena Gerjets, Leonie Göbel, Rüdiger Graß, Victor Guerra, Florian Heinlein, Martin Komainda, Maren Langhof, Jie Luo, Martin Potthoff, Justus G.V. van Ramshorst, Carolin Rudolf, Diana Maria SesermanGuodong Shao, Lukas Siebicke, Nikolai Svoboda, Anita Swieter, Andrea Carminati, Dirk Freese, Torsten Graf, Jörg M. Greef, Johannes Isselstein, Martin Jansen, Petr Karlovsky, Alexander Knohl, Norbert Lamersdorf, Eckart Priesack, Christine Wachendorf, Michael Wachendorf, Marife D. Corre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Intensively managed open croplands are highly productive but often have deleterious environmental impacts. Temperate agroforestry potentially improves ecosystem functions, although comprehensive analysis is lacking. Here, we measured primary data on 47 indicators of seven ecosystem functions in croplands and 16 indicators of four ecosystem functions in grasslands to assess how alley-cropping agroforestry performs compared to open cropland and grassland. Carbon sequestration, habitat for soil biological activity, and wind erosion resistance improved for cropland agroforestry (P ≤ 0.03) whereas only carbon sequestration improved for grassland agroforestry (P < 0.01). In cropland agroforestry, soil nutrient cycling, soil greenhouse gas abatement, and water regulation did not improve, due to customary high fertilization rates. Alley-cropping agroforestry increased multifunctionality, compared to open croplands. To ameliorate the environmental benefits of agroforestry, more efficient use of nutrients is required. Financial incentives should focus on conversion of open croplands to alley-cropping agroforestry and incorporate fertilizer management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20
JournalCommunications Earth and Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


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