AGROFORESTRY in IRELAND
There are two categories of agroforestry in the Republic of Ireland, those that are not grant aided are poorly recorded, and those that are grant aided and are well recorded. With one exception most of the grant-aided plantations are silvopastoral and the products include silage, hay, grazing, pigs, poultry and sheep. It is hoped to explore small breeds of cattle and calves at some stage. Currently, silvoarable systems are not grant aided but this will change under a new forestry programme which is due to be launched in the next few months.
AGROFORESTRY ASSOCIATIONS in IRELAND
The Irish Agroforestry Forum was established in March 2021. It represents Irish interests at the European Agroforestry Federation (EURAF) and brings the benefits from EURAF members’ experiences to practitioners in Ireland. The forum currently has 78 members. IAF sees a dynamic role for trees on farms (which can incorporate timber production), but also biodiversity, carbon sequestration, water cycle quality, and security and animal welfare. Using trees in an agroforestry context allows for increased farm incomes from fruit and nut trees as well as speciality quality timber production options:
- Trees for fodder and browse
- Trees for coppice
- Trees for timber, fruit, nuts, or long-standing trees
- The use of fast-growing trees like poplar and willow for water filtration
- Pioneer trees for “nursing” long-standing trees
- Short rotation coppice and pollards
- Trees for creating and linking habitats
- Riparian woodland for protection and enhancement of water quality.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have a website that includes details of their agroforestry measure.
AGROFORESTRY POLICIES in IRELAND
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine developed demonstration plots starting in 2012 based on research in Northern Ireland by Professor Jim McAdam. The success of these plots resulted in a scheme being introduced in 2015. The scheme is implemented by the Department and is carried out by contractors on farmers’ land. Over the last 4 years, we have learned a lot through our successes (mostly) and failures. At the moment there are 42 applications representing 134 hectares at various stages of approval. The Department is fully committed to agroforestry and is looking forward to introducing a new agroforestry scheme under the new forestry programme in 2023. The government has designed a new forestry programme that will commence in 2023 and which includes significant increases in agroforestry premia (30%), an increase in the duration of agroforestry premia payments, and additional agroforestry categories. The minimum area required for an agroforestry plantation has been reduced from 0.5ha to 0.2ha and the plant size reduced from 90 cm-120 cm to 60cm- 90cm. DAFM has also recently announced that agroforestry scheme payments and organic scheme payments can be drawn down for the same parcel of land – specific details of this change are not yet available. There are a number of additional environment schemes and changes that will promote the planting of trees on farms, Eco scheme, ACRES scheme and changes to woodland scrub eligibility for BISS. Under the 2022 basic payment rules, in order to be eligible for basic payment, a land parcel could not have more than 10% of what was classified as ineligible features such as scrub, trees, copses, woodland, habitat and rock. The Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine have now increased this to 50% of a parcel which will allow for land in areas of natural constraint to remain classified as productive farmland and encourage farmers to continue to utilise the ground as a working part of their farm.
RELEVANT IRISH AGROFORESTRY WEBSITES
- Agroforestry Ireland: Facebook Group
- Opportunities for silvopastoral systems in Ireland
- Alley coppice – a new system with ancient roots
The IAF Reaching Out
Carbon farming and agroforestry could be seen to be a new concept that needs to be assimilated and put into practice on the Island, however, it is an important part of any farming educational system, that to teach a new concept and have it accepted and practiced successfully means that it needs to be taught via attaching it to a skill or belief that farmers have already had for many years. The IAF are linking with agricultural, forestry and environmental advisors as they are key in developing this joined up learning and facilitating its rollout by attaching agroforestry and carbon farming concepts to existing dairy, beef and sheep farmer enterprise skills, knowledge and beliefs, so that it is not a new concept but rather the development and utilisation of a new idea/skill as a benefit to an existing one.
Joined up working is essential, both between researchers and agricultural/agroforestry support agencies but also with farmers -Farmers are key, farmers can be highly skilled and knowledgable, both about their farming enterprises and their farm landscapes. The IAF believes that it is important that farmers help design how trees will fit into their farming enterprises, creating a more sustainable farming model and allowing food production to continue. The choice, of tree, of design and location, will be important to the successful roll-out of agroforestry into existing farm systems, Right tree – right place – right enterprise. It is also important that IAF works with every farmer, with, organic and extensive farming systems, all the way to the farmers operating intensive farming systems. All farmers are custodians and guardians of the land and can work together to create a sustainable farming model for Ireland, agroforestry can form part of this sustainable farming model, both for improved animal welfare and for improved environment.
THE AGROFORESTRY EDUCATION AND PROMOTION PROJECT
A monthly newsletter is sent out to the members, this is then placed on the website two weeks afterwards for non-members to access. It contains news, interesting articles, recommended reading and links to podcasts. It is sent out using Mailerlite. It has a 60% open rate and the most clicked-on article thus far was an article by Dr Lindsey Whistance on how agroforestry can give shelter, shade and nutrition to livestock. An effective system in order to promote agroforestry widely has been designed. It includes factsheets, the newsletters of both IAF and EURAF as well as an “Ask an IAF Expert”section on the website. Members can email their agroforestry queries to IAF and our advisory group will provide advice by email. Information about successful case studies, including educational materials is also on the website. The members also benefit from membership in EURAF. Recently the National Organic Centre SkillNet has granted IAF members access to their Biofarm conference archives and they are given a log in for these.
To encourage stakeholder engagement, the IAF plans to hold online ‘Member Google meets’ throughout the summer and autumn, this will be a chance for the Project Officer to get to know the members better and also for the members to network. Some of our members are experienced agroforesters and can share knowledge with members beginning their agroforestry journey. Farmers learn best from other farmer practitioners. IAF will encourage members to become ambassadors for agroforestry, helping to promote agroforestry to other farmers and also advocate for policy change in a positive way.
A series of farm walks are being held as part of the education and promotion project – these walks act as an educational tool to promote agroforestry and transfer knowledge to the farming community and the general public. They also facilitate stakeholder engagement and encourage participation in agroforestry. Two Farm walks were held in the Autumn of 2022 – these were in person farm walks and had about 40 attendees. There were 3 farm walks in June and July and four more farm walks to see established sites in Northern Ireland in August 2022. Excellent discussion and knowledge transfer is happening at the farm walk events and farm walk discussion recordings will be shared more widely on the website and social media in the form of podcasts. A Silvopasture webinar was held on the 11th of July. Professor Jim McAdam and Dr Lindsay Whistance gave presentations on the benefits of silvopasture for the farm environment and livestock welfare. There was a farmer panel who led the post-talk discussion, questions were also answered from viewer Q+A. The webinar covered the many benefits of silvopasture systems for animal welfare, biodiversity, soil health and productivity. The full webinar is available to view here on the IAF youtube channel.
“Beneath The Trees”, is a podcast bringing together scientists, farmers and innovators from all around Ireland to share their ideas and experiences of farming with trees. Hosted by Catherine Cleary (Pocket Forests) and Ray Ó Foghlú (Hometree). The podcast has been produced by the Irish Agroforestry Forum in association with GrowIn. The making of the podcast was funded under the Woodland Support Scheme provided by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. IAF explores the history of agroforestry in Ireland, talking to Professor Jim McAdam about his pioneering work in the 1980s, listeners hear from forestry inspector Eugene Curran about working with farmers, and permaculture expert Donal Chambers about the power of tapping into natural systems. They discuss what scientists are discovering and have already discovered about farming with trees and explore what’s next for agroforestry and the development of new sustainable projects.IAF Directors Clive Bright and Imogen Rabone discuss the way forward for more trees on farms. Farmers Michael Meharg and Keith Brennan, and Dr Katerina Theodoridou, Queen’s University, share all the latest happenings in the world of tree fodder, the research into it and its potential uses. Brendan Digney from tech start-up Machine Eye discusses farm innovation.Skibbereen (Co.Cork) farmer Alan Kingston shares his sustainable farming journey with trees, and aronia berries. Expert forester and farmer Rossa Gibbons and farmer William Frazer get to the bottom of regenerative farming, what is it and how farms transition to a more regenerative model. Ray O’Foghlu is joined by Organic Research Centre livestock researcher Lindsay Whistance and farmer Mick O’Sullivan (Co.Tipperary), and they discuss the relationship between trees, nature and dairy farming. Farmer Charlie Cole shares the story of his family farm outside Ballycastle, Co Antrim and turning fifty acres into a multigenerational family business. To hear all this and more listen now on: Spotify LinkAnchor LinkAn agroforestry workshop was held in Gurteen College on the 18th of November 2022. The event was advertised through social media, national press, Teagasc, DAFM and IAF networks. 72 people attended the workshop, 69% were farmers and 31% comprised of DAFM officials, agricultural advisors, environmental NGO staff and educational coordinators and lecturers. Workshop presentations and a graphic recording of the workshop are available here.
Ireland is planning to hold an International Agroforestry Conference on November 16th and 17th 2023. Following directly on from the needs identified in the forestry and farming industry and the momentum and interest gained by participation in the most recent round of DAFM’s Woodland Support Grant scheme, the Irish Agroforestry Forum proposes to run a conference in Ireland in 2023. The International Agroforestry Conference 2023 will form an important part of agroforestry education and stakeholder engagement on the island of Ireland. The conference aims to promote the planting of trees on farms by demonstrating successful agroforestry business models and examples of innovation-driven sustainable farming techniques. It will bring together a diversity of expert voices, both national and international, to discuss and highlight the multi-faceted benefits that trees can bring to farms and the wider environment. The conference will engage directly with farmers and provide them with the knowledge they need to farm sustainably and with profit whilst carrying out climate change mitigation and helping meet Ireland’s emissions reduction targets.
- TAKE A LOOK AT AGROFORESTRY in IRELAND