Crop Performance, Pests, and Pollinators in Diverse Agroforestry Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2015: $29,957.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2017
Grant Recipient: Savanna Institute
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Keefe Keeley
Savanna Institute

Annual Reports

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, pollination, pollinator health



    Diverse Agroforestry (DA) systems offer many benefits for farmers and society. Despite the increasing implementation of these systems at relatively large scales, there has been no rigorous on-farm evaluation of the impact of various management strategies on their performance, pest issues, and benefit to pollinators. The inherent complexity of DA systems makes effective research and outreach difficult, especially when working with a distributed network of farms. Four collaborating Midwest farmers in the Savanna Institute’s Case Study Program partnered with Savanna Institute staff and an entomologist intern to evaluate the growth of DA systems across a range of management strategies, identify baseline pollinator communities, and monitor crop pathogens. To disseminate results, a multi-faceted education and outreach approach leveraged timelapse videos, on-farm field days, and a digital/printed bulletin. Results of growth data suggest that management approaches have a dramatic impact on crop survival and growth. Weed control and disease management seem to be the key factors driving growth differences. Fungal pathogens were the dominant pests observed in the DA systems across farms. Although no pathogens were documented that are novel to the North Central Region, the catalogued pests will provide future farmers with key monitoring target within the DA crops. The high average abundance of arthropods observed in DA systems suggests that, even early in their life cycle, DA systems host bees and other pollinators better than row crops while yielding a diverse set of high-value crops compared to hay.


    Diverse Agroforestry (DA) systems integrating fruit, nut and forage components have potential to restore ecosystem services while simultaneously providing economically viable and nutritionally valuable staple-food crops at industrial quantities. Despite the increasing implementation of these systems – with core crops such as hazelnut, chestnut, currant and apple – there has been no rigorous on-farm evaluation of the impact of various management strategies on the growth and yield of these systems. Furthermore, many of the component crops driving the adoption of DA systems are relatively novel to the Midwest. Little is known about the pests/pathogens of these crops in this region, especially in a DA context. Although DA systems are inherently diverse, and mature agroforestry systems are known to increase diversity of arthropod communities, very little is known about the potential of young DA systems to foster arthropod diversity.

    The Savanna Institute initiated a Case Study Program in 2014 to aid and learn from farmers establishing DA systems. Farmers in the Case Study Program voluntarily document cash flow, labor, inputs, and management techniques in their DA enterprise. This project is an extension of the Case Study Program, working more deeply with four dedicated farmers to explore specific research objectives on the performance, pests, and pollinators in DA.

    Project objectives:


    Objective 1: Evaluate the growth and yield of DA systems across a range of management strategies.

    Objective 2: Identify baseline pollinator communities present in and interacting with DA systems compared to adjacent land-uses.

Objective 3: Identify & monitor pests affecting the novel woody perennial crops in DA systems


    Objective 1: Document the establishment & growth of DA systems via time-lapse photography

    Objective 2: Distribute results via printed materials, online media, and field days

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.