AGROFORESTRY in UK
The United Kingdom comprises England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The dominant agricultural systems typically range from livestock and dairy production in the upland and generally wetter areas to the west and north, to arable systems in the lowland and generally drier areas to the south and east. The proportion of UK land dedicated to agriculture (70%) is larger than in most of Europe, most land is managed relatively intensively, and the high population density means that agricultural land has important recreational and cultural functions in addition to food production.
Much of lowland England and Wales comprises an agroforestry landscape with farmers managing a hedgerow-lined mosaic including trees and agriculture. Trees on farms can range from landscape features such farm woodlands, shelterbelts, riparian buffers and boundary hedgerows to more integrated systems such as grazed woodlands and orchards, wood pasture, parkland, alley cropping and scattered trees. In 2017, the Forestry Commission estimated there were 742,000 ha of trees that weren’t in woodlands in Great Britain (i.e. less than 0.1 ha). That is about 3.3% of the area of Great Britain, similar to the area of barley grown in the UK. The main forms of agroforestry are: traditional silvopastoral, hedgerows, woodland chicken, there are experimental areas of in-field agroforestry, and an increasing area of forest gardens and organic agroforestry.
The dominant form of agroforestry in the UK are traditional silvopasture systems such as woodland grazing, wood pasture and parkland systems, and grazed orchards. Wood-pasture remnants in England, such as the New Forest (now a National Park), feature some of the oldest and widest trees in Europe, providing valuable resources for a wide range of associated biodiversity, as well as having historical and cultural value. Since Roman times, pigs were released into beech and oak woodlands to feed on the acorn and beech mast (pannage), and into fruit orchards to eat fallen fruit. Chickens were also kept in orchards to help control insect pest populations. Parklands were developed in 18th century Britain for aesthetic reasons, but the economic value of their open grown timber for ship building was subsequently recognised. Traditional hedgerows provided many benefits; in addition to the provision of shelter, hedges provided stock-proof barriers, forage and browse for livestock, food and medicinal plants for rural populations.
Hedgerows and shelter belts are essential features on around 25% of England’s countryside The value of hedgerows as a resource for biodiversity and for environmental protection has been increasingly appreciated over the last couple of decades, and current agri-environment scheme options encourage good management and hedgerow restoration and re-creation. Hedgerow management options are among the most popular options adopted by farmers in England’s agri-environment schemes. Under the previous Environmental Stewardship Scheme, 41% of all hedgerows in England managed under the scheme, and just under 22,000 km of hedgerows restored or created in the last 10 years (Natural England, 2009). However, the 2007 Countryside Survey recorded 700,000 km of woody linear features in Great Britain, a 1.7% decrease since 1998 (Carey et al., 2008).
There is a renewed interest in managing boundary hedges as a productive part of the farm, with research being carried out by the Organic Research Centre into coppicing hedges to produce woodchip for bioenergy and ramial chipped wood.
Perhaps the most commercially successful example of agroforestry in the UK is the production of ‘Woodland Eggs’. Organic and non-organic free range eggs and chickens are produced from approved ‘woodland farms’ where chickens have access to woodland. A partnership between Sainsbury’s and the Woodland Trust, almost 200 farms are now involved, and since 2004, over 300,000 trees have been planted. Farmers must comply with strict guidelines to receive a bonus payment of 2p for every dozen eggs; the Woodland Trust also receives a donation of 1p per dozen eggs and 2p per chicken sold.
Experimental in-field agroforestry
Experimental trials of more integrated agroforestry approaches were first established during the late 1980’s. These included a network of six silvopastoral systems set up by the UK Agroforestry Research Forum in England (North Wyke), Northern Ireland (Loughgall), Scotland (Glensaugh), and Wales (e.g. Bangor University). At a similar time initial silvoarable experiments were established in England by universities including Cranfield, Leeds, Manchester, the Royal Agricultural University, and the Open University.
See the Farm Woodland Forum website for more details.
Landscape-scale tree planting
Landscape-scale tree planting have been supported by schemes such as the National Forest in the Midlands (www.nationalforest.org) and the Community Forest Programme (www.communityforest.org.uk) which has been developing community forests around 10 major urban areas. Woodland creation on farmland is usually an important part of these schemes; for example, over 60% of the 7000 ha of new woodland in the National Forest is located on farmland. The full productive potential of these woodlands as ‘working trees’ is only now being appreciated, and plans for developing woodland management and woodland economies are being developed by the forest companies.
The Agroforestry Research Trust, run by Mr Martin Crawford, is a non-profit making charity which carries out agroforestry research in forest gardens on 3 sites in Devon, as well as producing fruit and nut trees and bushes for sale (www.agroforestry.co.uk).
There are several examples of organic agroforestry systems in the UK; Prof. Martin Wolfe established Wakelyns Agroforestry, an organic silvoarable system, in 1994 on a 22.5 ha site in eastern England, incorporating hazel and willow coppice, and a mixed timber and fruit tree system, with cereals, potatoes, field vegetables and leys in rotation within the alleys. Sheepdrove Organic Farm in Berkshire runs a silvopoultry system which is integrated into the farm’s organic rotation (www.sheepdrove.org). Planted in 2002, five avenues of trees, hedges and shrubs, with 40m between avenues, provide a stimulating environment for broiler chickens as well as a valuable habitat for farmland wildlife and opportunities for community involvement in hedgerow foraging for fruits and nuts (Philipps, 2002). Mr Bill Acworth of Little Hidden Farm, Berkshire, established an agroforestry system in 1993 centred on the production of mature trees for amenity planting and timber with silage production and sheep grazing in the 13m wide alleys. An organic apple/arable system was established in 2009 on fenland in Cambridgeshire, by Mr Stephen Briggs. 4500 apple trees have been planted in rows with 24m-wide alleys between rows allowing for combinable cropping.
AGROFORESTRY ASSOCIATIONS in UK
The Farm Woodland Forum is a registered charity and is effectively the UK and Ireland’s Agroforestry Association. It aims to facilitate the generation and exchange of information that supports best practice in and improves opportunities for farming with trees. The Forum comprises farmers, foresters and researchers with a common interest in farming with trees in all its aspects. As well as an active email forum, the FWF holds annual meetings every summer.
The Farm Woodland Forum traces its roots back to the Agroforestry Research UK Discussion Forum, which had its first national meeting in Birmingham. This meeting reached agreement on the general structure of the Silvopastoral National Network Experiment which was originally conceived by the Agroforestry Research Co-ordinating Group (Edinburgh) in 1985.
For more information, please see the History page on the FWF website.
The Forum holds annual meetings at which there are presentations to describe the latest research, development and practice related to agroforestry and farming with trees, these meetings include field visits to agroforestry sites. A report and the presentations from the meetings are available on the website.
The website also has links to various other resources for those interested in UK agroforestry.
The benefits of membership of the Forum include:
- The opportunity to participate in, and contribute to, the Forum’s meetings.
- Membership of a long-established and forward-looking learned group.
- Access to a JISCmail internet group for communication of information and discussion of technical and scientific matters pertaining to farming with trees.
- Travel awards for attendance at international meetings on farming with trees.
- Travel awards to postgraduate students to attend Forum scientific meetings.
- Access to a pool of experts on theory and practice of farming with trees.
Membership in 2022 was £10/year (£1 for students; no subscription fee for overseas corresponding members i.e. those living outside the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland).
AGROFORESTRY POLICIES in UK
The integration of trees at a low density into agricultural land challenges the conventional specialisation of forestry and agricultural policy mechanisms, and this lack of policy support has been one of the main barriers to wider adoption of agroforestry in the UK. Agroforestry is not included in the definition of an agricultural area in Pillar 1 in CAP 2014-2020, and there is some confusion concerning the eligibility for direct payments of land with scattered trees. Permanent crops including orchards and scattered fruit trees, tree nurseries and short rotation coppice are all eligible for direct payments, and hedges protected under Cross Compliance by Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition 7 are also eligible.
For other tree components (e.g. timber, Christmas trees), European regulations (Commission Delegated Regulation 640/2014, Article 9) state that an agricultural parcel containing scattered trees is eligible as long as agricultural activities can be carried out in a similar way as on parcels without trees in the same area, and the number of trees per hectare does not exceed a maximum density. This maximum density is defined by the Member States and should not exceed 100 trees per ha. This has been interpreted slightly differently across the UK nations. In Wales, groups of trees covering 100m2 or greater are first deducted from the eligible area, and the density of any scattered trees in the remaining assessed. Densities greater than 100 trees/ha means that the whole parcel is ineligible; at densities of 100 trees or less, a representative area deduction for tree trunks and stumps is applied. In Northern Ireland, which has had an agroforestry option in its agri-environment scheme since 2007, land managed as agroforestry is eligible in the initial years of tree establishment, provided agricultural activity remains predominant and is not significantly affected by the presence of trees. Grazed woodland is only eligible if the tree density does not exceed 50 trees per hectare and agricultural activities can be carried out on the grazed woodland in a similar way compared to land without trees. However, if there is a single tree, a line of trees or small clump of trees with grazing available underneath right up to the trunk, a deduction is made only if there is an area of bare ground or mulch under the trees and consequently no grazing is available on these areas. In Scotland, there is no mention of tree densities under eligibility rules, and in England, trees are eligible if they are scattered within an agricultural parcel (i.e. each tree is surrounded by agricultural land), and they allow agricultural activity to be carried out in the same way as in parcels without trees in them; tree density limits are not specified.
Within the compulsory Greening component of Pillar 1, agroforestry is included as an option within the Ecological Focus Area measures at the European level, but has only been incorporated into national options in Northern Ireland. Other tree-based landscape features such as hedges and short rotation coppice have been included in national schemes.
While there was an agroforestry measure (Article 44) available within Pillar 2 of CAP 2007-13, in the UK this was only implemented in Northern Ireland, where support was available for the first establishment of agroforestry, based pro rata on tree densities. A revised agroforestry measure (Article 23) has been included within CAP 2014-2020 and implemented within 35 European regions. In the UK, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have incorporated the agroforestry measure within national schemes, but England has not. In Northern Ireland, agroforestry is included as an option in the Environmental Farming Scheme under Measure 10 (delivering benefits of carbon sequestration, biodiversity, soil and water quality), with a focus on silvopastoral schemes, and a target of 52ha planted by 2020. Support rates are 80% of eligible costs for establishment (£1572/ha in Year 1) and 100% of eligible costs for maintenance (£65/ha/yr in Years 1-5), for trees established at a density of 400 trees/ha, with thinning to a final density of 120-150 trees/ha. Costs may be converted to a cost per hectare for trees established at other densities. Agroforestry should not be established on semi-natural habitat, and where fruit trees are planted, these should be combined with forest tree species and forest species should be in majority of more than 50%.
In Scotland, the focus again is on silvopastoral systems, with a target of 300ha by 2020 on permanent pasture only (Class 3.1 to 4.2), used only for grazing sheep with grazing available for 20 years. Species should be productive broadleaf species suitable for the site, trees must be evenly distributed and initial tree densities maintained for 20 years. At a planting density of 200 trees/ha, initial payment rates are £1860/h with annual maintenance payments of £48/ha/year for 5 years. In Wales, the target is for 147ha and the specification set out within Glastir Woodland Creation is 80 trees/ha on permanent grassland grazed at typical stocking rates, with payments of £1600/ha for establishment and £30/ha/yr annual maintenance in Years 2-6.
Although England has not implemented the agroforestry measure, the Countryside Stewardship includes several options that may provide support to more traditional forms of agroforestry. Options include protection of in-field trees in arable and intensive grasslands, hedgerow management, creation and management of traditional orchards, wood pasture and parkland plus support for capital items including hedgerow laying, coppicing and laying up, planting new hedges, fruit tree planting, tree surgery and tree protection.
RELEVANT BRITISH AGROFORESTRY WEBSITES
- Agroforestry in the UK by Jo Smith (2019). This ppt presentation gives an overview of agroforestry systems, research, knowledge exchange and policy in the UK.
- Agroforestry in the UK, Paul Burgess (2017) Quarterly Journal of Forestry, 111 (2) 111-116.
- Agroforestry in the UK video youtube (AFINET video).
- Agroforestry section on the Agricology knowledge platform.
- The Agroforestry Research Trust, run by Mr Martin Crawford, is a non-profit making charity which carries out agroforestry research in forest gardens on 3 sites in Devon, as well as producing fruit and nut trees and bushes, and beautiful books for sale.
- Agroforestry Research Programme at the Organic Research Centre.
TAKE A LOOK AT AGROFORESTRY in UK
|Berkshire hedge. Photo by Jo Smith, ORC||Cattle grazing in farm woodland. Fife Photo by Jo Smith, ORC|
|Henfaes Red Alder, Bangor 2012. Photo by Jo Smith, ORC||Wakelyns Agroforestry, Suffolk UK, Hazel and potatoes June 2009|