Trees that Boost the Bottom Line
All farmers have at some stage thought about the trees on their farms, and in a good many cases it may be about how they can reduce the number. But for many of us trees are an important part of farming and the landscape we live in.
A major review for the Land Use Policy found that agroforestry was one of the systems with the greatest potential for the ‘sustainable intensification’ of farming and the Woodland Trust are getting more landowners asking how to best incorporate them into their business.
Many farmers fear losing their Basic Farm Payment if they plant more than 100 trees per hectare but a couple of years ago the wording in the payment booklet changed and suggested that as long as agricultural activity took place beneath the canopy of a newly planted woodland then this still meant the land was grassland and hence agricultural and hence, farmers could still claim BFP.
This led to a conversation with the Allerton Trust - Can you plant trees in fields at higher densities than 100 per hectare and not only retain your BFP but also graze and utilise the land to be productive for grazing, shelter, wood fuel, wildlife and pheasant shooting?
We decided to plant 14 different sites across a five hectare field just behind the farm buildings and in a good situation for both pheasants to roost but also with good access for sheep (and researchers). The densities have been spread across the field but consist of two blocks each of 100, 200, 400, 600, 800, 1100 and 1600 trees per hectare to give a good range. We'll be discussing our early findings at this years' Agroforestry conference.
Leaving the EU provides the opportunity to shape a new integrated land use policy, with trees at its core, embracing environmental as well as food security. Evidence of the benefits delivered by trees is compelling – from shelter and shade and flood alleviation, to biodiversity and wood fuel, to carbon sequestration and soil protection.