Evaluating perennial crop options for inclusion in agroforestry systems

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Project Description: 
Trees Forever will investigate landowner challenges and opportunities for converting ecologically sensitive areas from row-crop production to a perennial agroforestry crop. The project will result in a case-study guide for landowners that includes economic information and an assessment of threats to growing black walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, aronia berries, elderberry and Christmas trees.
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Lead Investigator: 
Jeff Jensen
Lead Investigator Affiliation: 
Trees Forever
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Lead Investigator Bio: 

Jeff Jensen is field coordinator and program manager for Trees Forever. A graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in Communication Studies, he has over eight years’ experience working with various third crops and the landowners who grow them. Jeff grows hazelnuts and other perennial crops on his family farm in Northern Kossuth County, Iowa.

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The challenges and opportunities, including financial returns, were studied for six different perennial crops that can be used in agroforestry practices. Crops investigated were aronia berry, black walnut, chestnut, Christmas trees, elderberry and hazelnut.

Key Question: 

What crops have high potential as species for inclusion in agroforestry practices?


This project showed that several of these identified crops can generate per acre returns greater than row crops over a projected 20-year time frame, although risk is generally higher. Barriers to wider adoption and marketing channels also were addressed in this study.

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