Fast growing tree species in alley cropping systems and their influence on microclimate in Germany
The production of energy wood on arable land has been increased in Germany during the last years. In this context, agroforestry systems keep a prominent position in agriculture, since they allow the simultaneous production of energy wood and food or feed on the same field. Fast growing trees arranged in hedge structures (alley cropping) can have positive effects on microclimate. Results of different research studies carried out in several alley cropping sites located in eastern Germany show that wind velocity can be reduced by more than 50 percent, even though tree hedgerows were not higher than four meters. The observed reduction of wind speed was depending on the distance to trees, on the orientation of tree hedges as well as on the width of the crop alleys. Potentially negative effects on crop yield were expected due to the shading the peripheries of crop alleys by trees. However, first results indicate that the reduction of the global radiation by short rotation trees did no show any negative effect on crop yield. As an exception, the crop yield on a post-mining site was evenly higher near trees compared to the center of crop alleys. In summary, the establishment of alley cropping with fast growing trees have positive effects on microclimate and hence on the yield stability of crops cultivated in between the tree hedgerows without any significantly negative impact on the recent practice of land management.