FFAR Awards Savanna Institute a Grant to Inform Agroforestry Adoption

Madison, WI

Agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and pasture lands to diversify farming operations and is often accompanied by environmental benefits. The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) awarded a $300,000 Seeding Solutions grant to the Savanna Institute to produce high-resolution future climate suitability maps across the Midwestern U.S. that can be incorporated into tools to inform climate-smart agroforestry adoption. Matching funds were provided by Canopy Farm Management, Great Lakes Protection Fund, Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, Savanna Institute and University-Illinois Urbana-Champaign for a total $642,085 investment.

Planting trees on farmland can help improve soil health and also pull carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change—out of the atmosphere and trap it in the soil and in the trees’ branches and roots, a process known as carbon sequestration. Agroforestry has tremendous potential to expand in the Midwestern U.S. where great expanses of land are used for crop production. Since trees planted today could remain in production for decades, farmers need more information about how changes to the climate may affect different tree and shrub crop species to select the best options for their land.

Because of agroforestry’s ability to enhance both food production and farmers’ resilience as well as carbon sequestration, it can help position agriculture as a climate change solution. To realize agroforestry’s full potential, it’s important to consider how future climate change will affect tree species suitability in agricultural landscapes. Understanding how shifts in climate might impact where tree crops can grow in the future could help increase adoption of agroforestry in the Midwestern U.S. and this technology could eventually be used to evaluate other geographic areas. Allison Thomson
Scientific Program Director

Savanna Institute researchers are creating high-resolution maps for over two dozen woody perennial species across the Midwestern U.S. to determine their suitability under both current and expected future climates. This research will create consistent maps that are comparable across broad areas and species, which is essential for analyzing diverse agroforestry systems. Researchers will use the resulting tree crop suitability maps to examine regional patterns, identify the challenges and opportunities that may result from changes to the climate and determine how shifts in climate may impact carbon sequestration.

“We’re just getting started on this work, and it’s pretty exciting,” said Monika Shea, landscape ecologist at the Savanna Institute and the project’s Principal Investigator. “I’m excited to put this out because it’s really important information for people to have when they’re planning to plant trees and shrubs, especially trees that are going to be in the ground for a long time.”

The suitability maps will also be incorporated into online planning tools for farmers and landowners in collaboration with Canopy Farm Management and other project partners.

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Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect: @FoundationFAR