Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 85, Issue 1, pp 133–152 | Cite as

Ecological benefits provided by alley cropping systems for production of woody biomass in the temperate region: a review

  • Penka Tsonkova
  • Christian Böhm
  • Ansgar Quinkenstein
  • Dirk Freese


In temperate Europe alley cropping systems which integrate strips of short rotation coppices into conventional agricultural fields (ACS) are receiving increasing attention. These systems can be used for crops and woody biomass production at the same time, enabling farmers to diversify the provision of market goods. Adding trees into the agricultural land creates various additional benefits for the farmer and society, also known as ecosystem services. However, tree-crop interactions in the temperate region have not been adequately substantiated which is identified as a drawback to the practical implementation of such systems. In order to bridge this gap, the current paper aims to present a comprehensive overview of selected ecosystem services provided by agroforestry with focus on ACS in the temperate region. The literature indicates that compared with conventional agriculture ACS have the potential to increase carbon sequestration, improve soil fertility and generally optimize the utilization of resources. Furthermore, due to their structural flexibility, ACS may help to regulate water quality, enhance biodiversity, and increase the overall productivity. ACS are shown as suitable land use systems especially for marginal sites. Based on the available data collected, we conclude that ACS are advantageous compared to conventional agriculture in many aspects, and therefore suggest that they should be implemented at a larger scale in temperate regions.


Agroforestry Biodiversity habitat Biomass production Short rotation coppices Soil fertility Water quality 



This work was supported by the Brandenburg Ministry of Science, Research and Culture (MWFK) as part of the International Graduate School at Brandenburg University of Technology (BTU). The authors thank Anna Slazak and Tanya Medinski for helpful comments as well as Kathy Brown (linguistic review).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Penka Tsonkova
    • 1
  • Christian Böhm
    • 1
  • Ansgar Quinkenstein
    • 1
  • Dirk Freese
    • 1
  1. 1.Chair of Soil Protection and RecultivationBrandenburg University of TechnologyCottbusGermany

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