Tree-crop- interactions in agricultural systems 

The research objective is an analysis of the environmental interactions between trees and crops of typical existing and potential agroforestry and to develop a model to optimise tree density and tree-crop interactions. Comprehensive ecophysiological measurements in combination with soil and hydrologic parameters will be set up along the environmental gradients from the tree stem to open areas and will be matched by drone based remote-sensing. The integrated analysis will enable the determination of the spatial pattern crop stress index and growth along with a spatial mapping of tree and crop size. As a multiple use system synergies must be reached between tree, crop and livestock components of an AFS. Interactions between the individual components may affect the others and a compromise must be reached largely within three areas: light, water and nutrient. Shade cast by the tree component will be assessed using both standard and innovative methodologies e.g. TLS and hemispherical photos. The heat, energy and water balances are crucial to AFS where an optimal balance of production between trees and crops should be achieved. Thus the facilitation effects between crops and trees as well as counteracting competition effects are key processes. If these processes are better understood and can be quantified an optimised spatial planting scheme can be derived, which increases the ecosystem service provision in an ecologically and economically sustainable manner.

There might be different strategies for individual plants or natural of AFS plant communities to adapt to local site and climatic conditions. Additionally, these adaptations will take place between the individual plants in the systems, inducing for example small-scale dynamics of water availability between trees and crops. However, adaptations might also happen on the level of the whole stand, using specific groundwater resources or changing the microclimate. Shifts in adaptations and thus water availability can result from introduction of certain plants as a component of the system, but will also happen with changing climatic conditions. In a space-for-time approach we want to examine these effects on water availability by sampling and comparing within and between plots situated in a variety of AFS and along a climate gradient.

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