Can agroforestry compete? A scoping review of the economic performance of agroforestry practices in Europe and North America

April 2023
Alma Thiesmeier, Peter Zander


This scoping review looks at the literature published on the economic performance of temperate agroforestry systems in Europe and North America and tries to answers the following research questions: How does agroforestry (AF) perform economically compared to agriculture and/or forestry? And are there any particular system characteristics or conditions that make them more competitive? Results show that generally, AF is not able to compete with agricultural land use but there are notable exceptions. Especially improved policy conditions and internalising environmental externalities can make AF competitive. Compared to forestry AF is generally able to achieve better economic outcomes. The economic performance is, in addition to ecosystem service payments and policy support, dependent on soil and site characteristic, as well as prices and the profitability of the individual system components. Intensive management and increased knowledge of these systems also increase competitiveness. There are various research gaps such as economic risk on farm- and plot-level, economic performance of AF under future climate change, or a comparison of different sustainability enhancing measures in agriculture.

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