Economic profitability of agroforestry in nitrate vulnerable zones in Catalonia (NE Spain)

Simone Blanc, Carles M. Gasol, Julia Martínez-Blanco, Pere Muñoz, Jaime Coello, Pere Casals, Angela Mosso, Filippo Brun

Abstract


The impact of agricultural practices and the excess application of nitrogen can negatively impact the environment and cause human health problems. In Spain, the liquid manure applied in areas of intensive agriculture is creating groundwater nitrate pollution problems. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the economic profitability of agroforestry practices in North East Spain. Therefore, it deals with an alternative land use that has attracted attention in recent years, considering its potential to reduce the negative impact of modern agriculture that combines concurrent forestry and agricultural production in the same area. Specifically, silvoarable practices, such as alley cropping (AC), edge row planting and riparian buffer (RB) strips were compared to conventional agricultural land use. Considering the current agricultural policy framework in Spain, which does not favour these practices, our results showed the economic profitability of alley-cropping practices in comparison to conventional barley production of 25 to 64 € ha-1 yr-1. However, AC systems presented negative results compared to the traditional wheat crop (-122 to -63 € ha-1 yr-1). The results for RB strips were strongly influenced by the high initial costs, both in irrigated and non-irrigated scenarios. Economic results were negative (between -137 and -85 € ha-1 yr-1) compared to the conventional crops, barley and corn. These figures could be greatly increased with a policy framework that promotes these practices based on the fundamental ecosystem services they provide. Moreover, these practices allow an economic diversification that could prove to be beneficial for the majority of farmers.

Keywords


silvoarable practices; alley cropping; riparian buffer strips; N- leaching; economic evaluation

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References


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DOI: 10.5424/sjar/2019171-12118