New Agroforestry Actions for Countryside Stewardship and Sustainable Farming Incentive

New agroforestry actions have been announced for Countryside Stewardship (CS) and the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI). These supplement the existing agroforestry offers already available through both the English Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) and current CS options. They provide farmers and landowners with greater flexibility when incorporating trees into their farming systems whether this be hedgerows, wood pasture and parkland, traditional orchards, shelterbelts, or riparian planting.

As well as this increased flexibility, annual payment rates have been significantly increased. For example, £849/ha is being offered for the high density in-field agroforestry action under a 10-year CS agreement and there is also the option to access payment rates of up to £385/ha with the 3-year SFI agreement for the low density in-field agroforestry action. This makes agroforestry an attractive option for those looking to increase tree cover on their holding.

Why consider agroforestry actions on your land? Trees, woodland, and forestry can play a beneficial supporting role on a farm, but it is important to ensure that the action you are considering fits in with the wider farming system in order to achieve the most benefits from the chosen action. Therefore, it is important to decide on the driver for planting trees before committing to choosing an action and scheme type.

Although the term agroforestry has been around for some time, it is worth considering what it means in relation to the new actions. Agroforestry is tree planting that is deliberately combined with food production on the same area of land. It can: reduce soil erosion, improve water and air quality, provide shelter for livestock and crops, reduce flood risk, increase biodiversity, capture and store carbon, and provide alternative forage for livestock (depending on the species selected).

There are a few types of agroforestry that a worth considering as a starting point, though given the flexibility of the new action these are simply a guide, and any agroforestry system should be tailored to the requirement of both the holding and wider farming system.

Regular systems – evenly spaced planting across an area. This allows for grass sward management, cutting for hay or silage in the early years when stock may be excluded, and then grazing once the trees are established. High pruning and thinning are both important operations that will need to be carried out in order to ensure sufficient light levels and improve timber quality.

Row systems – resembling a large wide hedge with the trees allowed to grow as they would in regular woodland. This is easily fenced to both protect from livestock and create paddocks for rotational grazing systems, additionally providing natural shelter. Allow for planting at higher densities of trees whilst minimising the effects of shading, depending on the orientation. Multi tree rows with different species mixes enable balancing timber growth and forage species for livestock.

Informal systems – a mixture of cluster planting and single trees that allows for lower density agroforestry to be used in a way that will minimise landscape impact, while still providing the benefits associated with the other agroforestry systems. This could be used in more open landscapes, such as upland grazing areas.

Grazed Woodland systems – a denser woodland canopy providing shade and shelter in extreme weather conditions, helping to reduce the impact on livestock. A mix of canopy cover and open grassland can be an effective compromise and allow for a graduated increase in density towards existing woodland or a field edge. Fast growing broadleaves can also deliver a quality timber crop within 40 - 80 years depending on species.

This is a brief overview of the new agroforestry actions that should be available to apply for from July this year. If you would like further information or to discuss what would be best suited to your needs, please contact the office and we will be happy and eager to assist. 

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Wednesday, 19 June 2024
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