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Agroforestry is the practice of integrating the cultivation of trees, crops and livestock on the same agricultural area for greater productivity and biodiversity.

It is a practice which currently falls outside forestry and farming grants and regulations in England although it is integrated into rural development plans in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and at a wider European level.

The RFS hosted a major conference  with the Soil Association and the Woodland Trust on Agroforestry: improving productivity for farmers and foresters on 22 June 2017. More details and presentations here

Agroforestry Credit Stephen Briggs Lr
Agroforestry in action: Picture Stephen Briggs

The RFS was also one of the signatories on an open letter to the then Environment Secretary Liz Truss which can be viewed right, calling for her to consider introducing support for agroforestry in England, either via Country Stewardship options or under European 'greening' measures (CAP Pillar 1).

Such options would enable support for tree planting schemes at lesser densities (70-200trees/ha) than currently available under existing Country Stewardship options in England (400 or more/ha).

Benefits of agroforestry can include:

  • water quality
  • flood protection
  • soil conservation
  • climate change mitigation
  • biodiversity
  • productivity

The current 12% tree cover in the UK (about 30,000 sq km of the total land area) is far short of the European average of 44%. Given the current area of agricultural land (170,000 sq km) and the need for food production, the area available for increasing tree cover through plantations alone, is clearly limited.

However, by integrating trees with crop and livestock production as agroforestry, tree cover can be expanded considerably with the trees themselves providing resilient sources of food, materials and carbon-neutral energy while helping to increase the yields of field crops and livestock.

 A case study on one farm's experience of the benefits of agroforestry for beef cattle can be downloaded right.


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