Getting started with your agroforestry project
Looking to get started with agroforestry?
We spoke to Niels Corfield, a specialist in soil health, pasture health, agroforestry, and whole farm planning, to hear his advice on where to begin.
Picture: Niels Corfield led a workshop on agroforestry with Soil Association Scotland in December 2019
Niels tells us...
Before you start your agroforestry project
Set farm goals based on your needs. What are you growing trees for? For example, for animal browse, fruit, timber, biomass, or as a windbreak?
Choose one or two priorities to implement on your farm in the short term.
If you’re not sure about the enterprise potential of farming with trees, refer to The Agroforestry Handbook for more information.
It’s a good idea to identify tree species that are common in local hedges and woods, as these are more likely to do well on your farm.
Depending on what you are growing your trees for, you may also want to think about the following:
- For windbreak – select fast growing, dense species
- For animal browse – select fast-growing species with high palatability
- For fruit – select disease resistant species, suited to local conditions, and think about your market
- For timber – select reliable, high value timber species, either broadleaf or coniferous
- For biomass – select species that grow rapidly, coppice well and have high energy density
Planting patterns & spacing
A single row pattern is best for ease of establishment and low maintenance.
Space tree rows to fit your largest machinery, for example, your combine, sprayer, or tedder.
Where possible, orientate your trees North-South, or in response to slope.
Getting your trees off to a good start
Establishment is key, so ensure grasses and weeds are kept to a minimum in first 1-2 years, for example by mulching with woodchip or rolled out straw bales.
Make sure you protect young trees from local wildlife and livestock!
Useful tools & resources
- Field Margin – a free app that helps with mapping and managing your farm
- Highlands & Islands Woodlands Handbook
- Scottish Forestry Woodland Grazing Toolbox
- Database of tree species - this is a live database of the nutritional value of different tree species, and it explains which part of the tree has been sampled and time of year