Keyline technique for agroforestry water management

The Keyline water management technique for agroforestry took centre stage at a training session held by the Portuguese Agroforestry Innovation Network (AFINET) on 20 November 2019.

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A model of the keyline technique of agroforestry water management. Photo: Linea Clave.

The Keyline technique is a landscaping design used to maximise water catchment and its equal redistribution. It promotes the reduction of water velocity, fighting soil erosion and improving soil water retention. This technique took centre stage at a training session held by the Portuguese Agroforestry Innovation Network (AFINET) entitled “Use of Keyline for water management in agroforestry systems”, which took place on 20 November 2019, at ISA.

The Portuguese Innovation broker, Joana Amaral Paulo (Centro de Estudos Florestais /Instituto Superior de Agronomia) opened the event and presented the AFINET project’s results and all the dissemination materials. Attendees were also given printed versions of the translated AFINET factsheets and the Agforward leaflets. The AFINET project resulted in the production of knowledge dissemination material, including 24 technical articles, a video about the project, about 20 videos on agroforestry topics, around 10 innovation tutorial videos, 43 factsheets (21 about innovations and 22 that address the knowledge gaps identified in RAIN meetings), 100 practice abstracts, 5 newsletters, and an agroforestry manual.

Photo: Raquel Almeida.

Thirteen agroforestry multipliers attended the AFINET training session. Joana’s presentation was followed by a presentation from Jesús Ruiz Gamez, of Linea Clave, on “Keyline techniques for water management”. The main features of the keyline technique were described in an interactive way with the participants, such as the correct farm implements and farm machinery to be used for keyline implementation and how to design keyline projects.

Photo: Raquel Almeida.

Successes and lessons learned from several other previously implemented keyline projects were shown, some of them in Portugal, in the centre and southern regions of the country. One of the attendees talked about her successful experience with the use of keylines in her fruit tree orchard, as a result of a project developed by Linea Clave in previous years. In the few years since the project has been implemented on her farm, she has already noticed that the water catchment has increased (the soil is humid and trees have been developing very well) and soil texture is much better. Attendees were free to ask questions, and many focussed on how to better adapt this technique to sloping areas or afforestation projects.

Keyline implementation on cork oak stands where Phytophthora cinnamomi is a challenge. Specific issues related to the implementation of the technique on these situations were emphasised: the redistribution of water in the soil promoted by the keyline approach may promote the spread of the fungus, and for this reason, keyline technique should only be adopted if sterile conditions of the farm implements can be guaranteed.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727872