Thursday, November 15, 2018

Trees on farms ‘essential’ to improve productivity

September 3, 2018 by  
Filed under News & Business

More trees should be planted on farms in major agroforestry trials as the UK leaves the European Union, says a joint report by the Woodland Trust and Soil Association.

Government support for farmer-led research and innovation networks that can integrate trees and agriculture should also be trialled, according to the document Agroforestry in England: Benefits, Barriers and Opportunities.

Agroforestry – combining trees and shrubs with agriculture – involves rows of trees through arable crops like wheat, dotted through pasture like parkland, or planted close together to provide cover for plants and animals.

Combining trees and farming can increase productivity, diversify farm businesses, protect soils from erosion, store carbon, increase habitat for pollinators and act as a natural flood defence, says the report.

Launching the document, Woodland Trust chair of trustees Barbara Young said: “Agroforestry has the potential to deliver on a wide range of policy objectives in England, yet barriers are preventing widespread adoption.

“Supporting agroforestry would be a win-win for productivity, environmental protection and agricultural resilience and we strongly believe the government should adopt the recommendations in our report to make agroforestry a priority for the future of farming.”

The report recommends that the government makes on-farm tree planting and management central to the UK’s new environmental land management scheme – rewarding farmers for delivering the public benefits that it provides.

New agroforestry projects should be piloted to test the best way to support farmers, says the document. A new generation of farm and forestry advisers should be trained and funded to break the divide between forestry and agriculture, it adds.

Call for action

Soil Association policy officer Sam Packer said: “Immediate action from government on agroforestry, mainstreaming productive farming with trees is long overdue. Agroforestry must become a central part of new farming and land management policy, clearly defined and supported.”

The report says the government should create an overarching agroforestry strategy. It says it should incentivise long-term tenancy agreements to encourage investment in establishing agroforestry – and recognise the role it can play in soil health.

The report was published with support from Abacus Agriculture, the CLA, the Royal Forestry Society, Cranfield University, the Institute of Chartered Foresters, the Farm Woodland Forum, and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Download the report at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/agroforestryinengland.

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