Inhaltspezifische Aktionen

12/08/2022 | Water use by trees on cropland: competition or co-existence?

The integration of trees on agricultural land, also called agroforestry, is a common practice in the tropics. This practice is also becoming more relevant in temperate regions, like central Europe, as agroforestry is considered a promising approach to make agriculture more resilient to climate change. The trees can, for example, create a suitable microclimate for crops to withstand prolonged droughts or heatwaves. However, a major concern among farmers is whether the trees will compete with the crops for water.

To investigate this, the German Hydrological Society (DHG) awarded Dr. Suzanne Jacobs with a research stipend to conduct a hydrological field study at the agroforestry system that was established at the university research farm Gladbacherhof in February 2020. Using stable isotopes of water (2H and 18O) in the soil, trees and crops, Dr. Jacobs will trace back from which soil depth the trees and the crops take up their water. This will provide a first insight in whether the trees and crops are likely to compete for water from the same source and will be used as a basis for more in-depth research into the water dynamics in agroforestry systems.


 Silvoarable (i.e. trees on cropland) agroforestry system at Gladbacherhof. The tree lines consist of apple trees, high value timber trees, fast-growing poplar to produce biomass and elderberry shrubs.

Picture: S. Jacobs