Four easy, scientific and free online monitoring tools are helping the food forest and scientific communities become wiser

Monitor your food forest’s harvests and support scientific research! 

Do you have or are you managing a food forest? Do you want to know how much your forest yields? Then this tool is for you. Thanks to this tool, you can monitor how well your food forest is doing on several points, such as biodiversity, or CO2-storage. You can also keep track of what the economic harvest is from your food forest.

The Plant has, alongside communication office de Lynx, and Wageningen University & Research, conducted a project that allows you to monitor your food forest yourself at no cost. You can also compare your monitoring results with other food forests of the same age and on the same type of soil. This is also shared via an Open Data source with any researcher who wants to look at it. So, while measuring, you are also actively contributing to the growth of food forest knowledge!

Would you rather start monitoring right away than continue reading? Then you can download the Instruction manual, and start measuring!

What are the requirements to participate?

Any food forest can participate. There is no selection upon entrance, and that means we are only giving advice. The only important thing is to answer questions as carefully as possible, so that we are not comparing apples with pears.

Regarding what counts as a food forest, the Greendeal voedselbossen gives the following definition: 

Food forests are human-designed productive ecosystems modeled after a natural forest, with high diversity of perenial or woody species, parts of which (fruits, seeds, leaves, stems etc.) serve as food for humans.

Food forests contain:

  • A canopy layer of higher trees;
  • A minimum of 3 of the other niches or vegetation layers that inlcude understory trees, shrubs, herbs, groundcovers, underground crops, and climbers; 
  • A rich soil life;

A food forest has a considerable size, an area of at least 0.5 hectares in an ecologically rich environment; in a severely impoverished environment, a larger area is recommended, up to 20 hectares.

This entails that food forests that are smaller than 0.5 hectares are more garden than forest. This size will likely not be able to fully deliver on the promises regarding a system without inputs, and test results which extrapolate to an acre will be somewhat more prone to error in these forest gardens

Moreover, food forests with ducks, chickens or pigs are agroforestry (silvopasture), according to this definition, and definitely a nature-inclusive type of agriculture, but not ‘actual’ food forests. This is because they function differently. However, if you do have livestock in your food forest, you are still welcome to participate. In the economic test you can indicate whether livestock has been placed in the forest. Please, be honest about this, because then we will compare your data with the other ‘food forests’ that have animals.

To summarize: all food forests on all types and sizes of land and with any kind of goal and owner are very welcome to participate. You are welcome in the community and your data are interesting to us. Our only request is for your honesty when filling in the tests.

What are we specifically monitoring?

Ecology and economy

We have created four ecological tests for you to undertake, and each year you can conduct an economic report. The ecological tests are done in a so-called “tree plot”. For each hectare of your food forest, you choose an area that represents this hectare well. You choose a recognizeable or (hand) marked tree and trace a circle around it with a 10-meter radius. Download the Instruction manual here (with thanks to Aequator Groen & Ruimte).

Biodiversity

You can measure biodiversity within your tree plot once a year by identifying the types of plants in the herbacious layer and counting how many of each species there are. You can do this test each year in May-June. An app such as PantNet can be very helpful for identification.

soil layers

Soil composition and PH

Especcially for beginning forests, it is important to know what soil you are on and what the acidity level of your soil is. We want you to repeat this test every 5 year, because we suspect that food forests help making acid soils more neutral.

CO2 sequestration in trees

In this test you measure the height and diameter of all the trees and bushes that are higher than 130cm and who’s trunk is wider than 5 cm. 

 You enter these numbers and in the first year you can know how much CO2 is sequestered in this plot. When you measure again in three years you will learn how much your food forest contributes to the desperately-needed storage of CO2. How cool is that!

co2opslag in bomen
bodemdieren

Soil animal life

During the yearly soil animal life days (early October), each food forest owner can measure the amount of soil animals in this same tree plot. We then gather the data from all participating food forests and submit it to the National count. In 2021, we want to see if we can join other National censuses in this way. 

Economy

We ask you to fill in the economic data of your food forest once a year. We stay very close to whatever you have to keep for your accounting and are not only curious about kilos, but also about hours of work and  the different forms of economic returns you have.

Participate, and help your project and scientific research!

Make an account, meet other food forest owners in your area, and share untraceable data with science.

Download the Instruction manual here.