The Swiss case study region is located in the north-western part of Switzerland in the cantons Solothurn and Basel-Landschaft. The region is well-known for their traditional high-stem cherry orchards and for a long tradition in cherry production, due to the comparatively mild climate where late frost is infrequent. The average temperature is between 7.7 °C and 9.1 °C with a precipitation of 800 to 1000 mm.
The area is characterized by gently rolling hills (elevation 430 to 670 m) with small villages, farmland, grasslands and traditional orchards (esp. cherry) with mosaic of forest patches. It is a recreation area for nearby city. Forestry (44%) and farmland (43%) are the main land-uses, agroforestry is present on 5% of the area and 8% are covered by settlements. The farmland consists of 32% arable and 65% grasslands and pasture. On the plateau the soils are fine and shallow (30-50 cm), while in the valley better soils (partly 50-70 cm) can be found.
Short facts about the region
Characteristics of the region
Most farming enterprises are mixed farms with combinations of arable crops and animal husbandry (mostly cattle for milk and meat production) and some fruit production. With an average farm size of 24 ha, the farms are slightly larger than the average Swiss farm (around 20 ha, BLW 2017) and own around 0.77 livestock units per hectare.
The orchards, mainly cherries, were established for subsistence and commercial fruit production and the permanent grasslands were grazed with cattle and occasionally mown. The cherry orchards usually consist in 50 – 80 trees ha-1 of mixed age. The cherries are harvested for liquor, tinned food, or direct consumption. The grassland is used as hay, silage, or pasture. Traditionally, cherry orchards were present on most farms but more recently, cherry production with standard fruit trees is in decline due to high labour costs and the invasive fruit fly Drosophila suzukii.
In canton Basel-Landschaft 127 farms and 15.9 % farmland are managed according to organic farming criteria, in canton Solothurn these are 12.3 % and 143 farms.
Significant resources of the region
Typical orchard species are rare birds such as the redstart, honey buzzard, cuckoo, wryneck, nightingale and other species of semi-open landscapes rich in trees. The so-called "orchard birds" have declined over the last decades. E.g. the redstart is a priority species of the Swiss Species Recovery Program for Birds.
During the last years, the high stem tree fruit production declined -mainly because of a decreased productivity combined with an increase of pest infestations - and as a result traditional cherry orchards were removed. Together with the above mentioned local network groups and the regional experts we started to discuss various scenarios how to progress the region.