Innovate UK Forest Nursery
Increasing the supply of organic certified tree and hedging plants
To put the UK on the path to Net Zero by 2050, the Climate Change Committee recommends that the UK needs to plant around 30,000 hectares (90 to 120 million trees) of broad leaf and conifer woodland each year. The Soil Association’s own vision for agroecology and regenerative forestry is for the area of farm woodland to double by 2050 and for 50% of all farms to incorporate some form of agroforestry system.
Those goals represent a huge demand for tree and hedgerow plants, which will need to be met by plant nurseries. According to the Woodland Trust, there is a perception that importing trees can be more cost effective than growing them in the UK, however imports have bought with them at least 20 serious non-native pests and diseases, resulting in the loss of tens of millions of trees.
What does this mean for organic farms?
For organic farmland, the potential demand for tree plants greatly exceeds the supply, as currently there are very few UK nurseries supplying organically certified stock.
Aims of the project
- Demonstrate how tree and hedge plants can be established in an organic field system without the use of Plant Protection Products.
- Draw on innovation and expertise from field-scale horticulture. The trial will use a fully automated, solar powered robot (FarmDroid) to drill and weed the 1 ha nursery field.
- Assess the effect of different soil factors on germination, growth rate and survival.
- Better understand the market for organic tree plants in the UK.
- Make the findings transferrable (techniques, crop management, costs and yields) to other growers, so that they could incorporate a profitable tree nursery into their own enterprise.
How are Soil Association involved?
As part of the project our Farming and Land Use team will be involved in
- Conducting a market survey and consultation during winter 2022, to assess the needs of organic licensees and landowners for organic tree species.
- Setting up a working group of growers, in spring 2023, who are interested in integrating a 2-year organic tree nursery into their rotation.