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Yale-Myers Forest Orchard

As the climate changes, regions that were once too cold for some tree species to grow are now becoming suitable habitat.

At the same time, other regions are becoming too warm for certain cold-hardy species to thrive. Many orchards and farms in the Northeast are coping with changing weather patterns, increased pest and weed pressures, and unpredictable market conditions. Diversifying the site by planting more than one species of tree or crop can increase the farm’s resilience to change. In a well-designed system, crops will complement one another and lead to greater yields and financial security. 

Yale-Myers Forest Orchard is a demonstration site for small-scale agroforestry practices. Methods used are intended to address the growing concerns farmers have about climate change. The orchard was designed and installed by graduate students from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Situated within a 7,840-acre mixed hardwood forest, the project dovetails with Yale's Quiet Corner InitiativeThe Forest Orchard is primarily managed by graduate students.  Plantings consist of 160 specimens, including 25 different species of fruit and nut trees. Because of its scale, history, and institutional context, this agroforestry project has multiple goals. The four main objectives of the orchard are education, demonstration, research, and ecological stewardship.

Tree crops can be a good alternative to annual crops in dry years. Annual crops have shallow roots that can deplete the water supply in topsoil.  In contrast, tree roots penetrate deep into the soil, accessing water beyond the reach of annuals. In a drought year, deep roots, as well as improved infiltration and water storage, make trees more resilient to water limitations. As a result, trees can be a more reliable crop under conditions that would severely constrain yields of annual crops. Furthermore, tree roots increase soil porosity and reduce runoff, and canopy shade decreases soil evaporation. Planting trees as crops can create agricultural landscapes that overall are more resilient to drought conditions than traditional crops.

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Eastford, CT

Project Status

May 6 2019


Yale University