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The goal of the LEAF Network is to connect people with the benefits of edible trees, and to connect edible trees with the stewardship of people.

  • August 11, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)


    What if we could design a landscape that would provide a variety of nutritious foods, high-quality habitat, and ecosystem services, while also delivering a healthy profit to the landowner? According to researchers, it is not only possible, it should be adopted more widely, now.


    Schematic of multifunctional woody polyculture plots.

    What if we could design a landscape that would provide a variety of nutritious foods, high-quality habitat, and ecosystem services, while also delivering a healthy profit to the landowner? According to University of Illinois researchers, it is not only possible, it should be adopted more widely, now.

    "We need to be on the road to figuring things out before we get to tipping points on climate change or food security, or we could be left way behind. In future environments, people might get paid for ecosystem services or carbon credits, or food might become more valuable. If so, these systems become much more attractive for landowners," says Sarah Taylor Lovell, an agroecologist in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I.

    Lovell believes multifunctional woody polyculture is the way forward. She and several co-authors introduce the concept and discuss their experimental design in a recent paper published in Agroforestry Systems.

    Essentially, the idea is to incorporate berry- and nut-bearing shrubs and trees in an alley cropping system with hay or other row crops. The combination is meant to mimic the habitat features, carbon storage, and nutrient-holding capacities of a natural system. "We wanted to capture that aspect, but we also wanted it to be commercially viable," Lovell says. "The trees and shrubs need to fit in perfect linear rows 30 feet apart, so you can fit equipment. That was a much more practical agronomic consideration."

    Lovell and her colleagues are three years into what they hope will be a long-term experiment on the U of I campus. Their trial consists of seven combinations of species in commercial-scale plots, from simple combinations of two tree species to highly diverse combinations including multiple species of trees, shrubs, and forage crops. "We added increasingly diverse systems so we can get a sense of how much is too much diversity in terms of trying to manage everything in a feasible way," she says.

    The researchers will measure crop productivity, management strategies, and economic potential as the experiment gets established. "We're keeping track of all the person-hours that go into each of these different combinations, so we'll capture the labor involved and figure out whether it's economically viable," Lovell says.

    Farmers accustomed to traditional row crops may be daunted by the long wait associated with nut crops. Lovell says chestnuts and hazelnuts don't produce worthwhile harvests until 7 to 12 years after planting. But, she says, the other species can bring in profits while farmers wait. Hay or vegetable crops can be harvested from the alleys in year one. And shrubs could start bearing high-value fruit crops, such as currants or aronia berries, within a couple of years.

    Lovell points out that the market for some nuts is growing. For example, Nutella lovers may recall headlines about an international hazelnut shortage a couple of years ago. "It would take a while to saturate that market," she says. But she also points out that some nuts could be used more generically for their starchy or oily products.

    Another barrier to adoption may be the cost of specialized equipment needed to harvest tree nuts, berries, and row crops. "There's a tradeoff in terms of how complex to get and still be able to manage it in a reasonable way," Lovell says. But she suggests the potential of farming cooperatives with shared equipment as a way to defray costs.

    It will be several years before Lovell will have results to share, but other trials have shown that multifunctional woody polyculture could be both economically viable and environmentally beneficial. Lovell's article details the outcomes of long-standing experimental sites in France and Missouri, but she says those two sites are the only large-scale examples in the temperate region. "That really shows just how little research there is on this so far," she says. "We need to invest in this research now because it's going to take so long to get to the solutions."

    The research team is working with regional farmers to replicate small- and large-scale versions of their experimental setup on-farm. Lovell knows it might take some convincing, but points out that many farmers are willing to set aside portions of their land into the Conservation Reserve Program. "If we can provide the same benefits in terms of water quality, habitat, biodiversity, and nutrient cycling as CRP but then also have this harvestable product, why wouldn't you consider that?"

    Story Source:

    University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). 

    Journal Reference:

    Sarah Taylor Lovell, Christian Dupraz, Michael Gold, Shibu Jose, Ronald Revord, Erik Stanek, Kevin J. Wolz. Temperate agroforestry research: considering multifunctional woody polycultures and the design of long-term field trials. Agroforestry Systems, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10457-017-0087-4

    University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). "Trees and shrubs offer new food crops to diversify the farm." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2017. 

  • March 14, 2017 2:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Join us on April 1 to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the wonderful UA Campus Arboretum and to highlight the value of “edible trees” in the campus and urban environment. The Campus Arboretum encompasses the main campus and includes tree species from around the world. The edible trees we are celebrating are those native and nonnative trees that produce edible fruits, nuts, seeds and pods.

    This free, dynamic, educational, fun event is for all ages. The event will include edible tree tours, a ceremony celebrating the Arboretum’s anniversary, educational exhibits, example tree seedlings, and a free raffle every 15 minutes for T-shirts, tree photos and young trees. Tree walking tours will leave every 30 minutes to visit edible trees growing at the UA Campus Arboretum.

    Edible Tree Celebration in Honor of the UA Campus Arboretum’s 15th Anniversary

    Saturday, April 1, 2017, 11 AM – 2 PM

    In front of the Arizona State Museum Building, 1013 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85721, at the northeast corner of Park Avenue and University Boulevard

    Contact 520-982- 0974 or ann.audrey.1@gmail.com with questions.

    Download the Press Release Here.

  • October 22, 2016 5:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Over 230 people visited Tucson’s historic Mission Garden October 22, 2016, to celebrate foods that come from trees. This dynamic, educational, fun event takes its name from cajeta de membrillo, the sweet, thick bars made from quince fruit. Cajeta de membrillo cooking demonstrations and tastings were led by Josefina Lizárraga. The event also included exhibits, orchard tours, music, and sales of tree seedlings that produce edible fruits, nuts, seeds and pods.

    The Edible Tree Celebration/Membrillo Fest was co-sponsored by the LEAF Network and Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace, joined by many collaborators including the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, Trees for Tucson, Arizona Community Tree Council, Iskashitaa Refugee Network, Arizona Community Tree Council, and Bean Tree Farm. ​

  • September 01, 2016 9:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The LEAF Network was featured in the 2016 September/October Issue of Edible Baja Arizona in their article Abundant Desert Forest and Edible Arizona Trees. The article was written by Lisa O'Neill with photographs by Steven Meckler. You can see the full article here. Additional thanks to Edible Baja Arizona for donating ad space for the LEAF Edible Tree Celebration.​

    The article introduces readers to the wide range of activities that are a part of creating edible landscapes and food forests. Article Excerpt: 

    “What will it take for people to think of trees as being a vital part of the landscape?”

    Part of that shift means awareness and education and LEAF is at the forefront of this work, working to connect trees with people who can serve as stewards and educate people about the benefits of edible trees. And there are many.

    Trees provide shade and cool the air around them through the process of transpiration. Many trees convert nitrogen from the air into fertilizer for the soil. They help reduce the urban heat island effect and add beauty to urban landscape. And, of course, edible trees provide local food that people can use to sustain themselves and their families.

CAUTION: Never eat anything that is not properly identified. It is your responsibility to ensure that all fruits, nuts, seeds, pods and other edible products of trees and shrubs are correctly identified and safe to eat before eating them or serving them to others.

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LEAF is under the fiduciary stewardship of the Arizona Community Tree Council, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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