A brief description of agroforestry in Sweden

The traditional agroforestry in Sweden was silvo-pastoral systems, where animals; cattle, sheep and goats were grazing in the extensive forests. Historically, these areas were commonly owned and free ranged, whereas meadows and cultivated areas and villages were private and fenced. This agroforestry system have had a great economic importance, it was a prerequisite for the economy in the farm households as it contributed with fodder and several other resources and services. Trees and bushes were used for food, feed, fuel, wood and construction material. Charcoal, potash and tar were also produced. Bark, leaves and nuts from oak (Quercus robur), hazel (Corylus avellana) and beech (Fagus sylvatica), mushroom and berries were important food products. The animal grazing had a large impact on the structure and composition of the forests. The densities of trees and bushes varied due to grazing pressure and local ecological conditions, they could be dense and down to nearly open. Coppicing, where trees and bushes were cut down to a 0,3 m or less from ground level, to encourage a multitude of new shoots or pollarding,where tree stems were cut off about 2 m above ground level to encouraging lateral branches was two common means to harvest leaves and branches for winter fodder.

The system of summer farms has also been important for the agricultural expansion and economy in the north of Sweden during 1500 to 1850. These systems comprised free grazing in mountainous areas for cattle, sheep and goats kept for meat, milk cheese and butter production. Animals were moved to the farm in early summer and part of the farming family stayed on the site during the summer. The work at the summer farms were often organized conjunctly in the villages and young girls or women where employed for the activity. Today these activities are appreciated mainly for their cultural and natural values, and the management are supported by subsidies in CAP. There are about 250 summer farms in Sweden today, using approximately 15 000 ha and about 3 000 heads of goats, sheep and cows are kept. They are organized in a national association “Svenska Fäboföreningen”. For further information please contact:Pauline Palmcrantz (ordforande [at] fabod [dot] nu).

Semi-natural pastures with bushes and trees are agroforestry systems that due to their contribution to natural values, e.g. biodiversity, are described as important to reach the Swedish national environmental goals such as; “Rich agricultural landscape” and “Rich flora and fauna”. The national goal is set to 450 000 ha of used semi-natural pastures and this goal was mainly reach in 2008. EU-subsidies for this land use are based on geographic position and potential ecological values (three levels of payments based on inventories). There are restrictions on amount of trees per hectare (max 60 trees per hectare) in order to receive payment.

Today there are a growing group of farmers developing forms of agroforestry systems, as well as research to evaluate them. These systems are based on agroecological theories. Examples are; edible forest gardens, multi species orchards and hazel plantations, hens and grazing animals in semi-natural pastures and forest, alley cropping and development of perennial vegetable crops. The focus is on development of productive and economically viable multifunctional systems contributing with food, fiber and fuel as well as ecosystem services, biodiversity and meaning.