Understanding the values behind farmer perceptions of trees on farms to increase adoption of agroforestry in Australia

  • Aysha FlemingEmail author
  • Anthony P O’Grady
  • Daniel Mendham
  • Jacqueline England
  • Patrick Mitchell
  • Martin Moroni
  • Arthur Lyons
Research Article


Agriculture faces increasing sustainability pressures. Land intensification and degradation, energy use and inputs, complex environmental management, social issues facing farming communities and climate change are just some of the headline sustainability concerns threatening the viability of farming. Simultaneously, there is a need to increase food and fibre production and resource use efficiency. For many of these sustainability issues, increasing the number of trees planted in agricultural systems, or agroforestry, can improve the productivity and sustainability of future rural agricultural landscapes. In many parts of the world, the benefits of agroforestry remain under-realised. To understand the reasons behind this, interviews were conducted with 44 predominantly mixed enterprise farmers and farm advisors in Tasmania, Australia. Discourse analysis identified three groups of values driving perceptions and behaviours relating to agroforestry, trees as an economic proposition, trees as uneconomic and trees as essential regardless of economics. Previous work has identified many complex factors contributing to the lack of tree planting on farms including failures of past reforestation schemes, lack of awareness of the benefits of trees, perceptions of market volatility and risk, or simply a lack of time and money. This is one of the first times the underlying social norms and values creating perceptions of agroforestry have been identified. These new insights allow extension programs to tailor recommendations to identified groups based on perceptions of agroforestry. Evaluating these perceptions also allows new perspectives on opportunities for agroforestry adoption to be created, both in Tasmania and more broadly.


Farm forestry Benefits of trees Reforestation Farmer motivations Farmer values Behaviour change Discourse analysis 



Ethics approval was granted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s human research ethics committee (103/16). This work was funded through the Commonwealth Government’s Rural Research and Development for Profit grant entitled ‘Lifting farm gate profit through high value modular agroforestry’. We acknowledge the support of our partner organisations, Forest and Wood Products Australia, Dairy Australia, Forico and Greening Australia. Special thanks to all of the farmers and growers interviewed and to Private Forests Tasmania and RMCG for help with data collection.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIRO Land and WaterHobartAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Land and WaterClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.Private Forests TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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