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Agroforestry inspiration

Our Trees and Meadows Advisor had a really inspiring visit to Wakelyns last week, to explore one of the most-established and diverse agroforestry sites in the UK. The site is distinguished by a system of alleys and tree lines, in which everything from wheat varieties, lentils, pumpkins, and flax, to fruit trees, hazel and willows are grown.

Agroforestry is the practice of integrating trees within farming and food production systems on the same land area to gain benefit from the natural interactions within the whole growing system.

Benefits include:

  • More total productivity because intercropping captures a wider spread of resources at the same time. Space is used more three dimensionally and different crops or animals can be used in that same space. This allows business resilience and greater diversity of enterprise.
  • Protection from the wind – trees can reduce wind effects across the field for a distance of up to ten times their height.
  • Protecting the soil – the physical and biological foundation of our farms.
  • Reduced feed costs and other cost inputs because the trees bring up minerals, feed the soil, and provide healthy browsing for livestock. This includes nitrogen fixing from particular trees which aids plant growth.
  • Reduced crop disease due to various biological or spatial factors means higher incomes or less costly herbicides and pesticides.
  • Mitigating flooding by vastly increasing water retention capacity in soil.

In addition to this huge array of benefits, the trees themselves provide a crop. They are harvested for timber and fruit, or used for hedging and thatching, as well as chippings for biomass boilers.

Sites like Wakelyns demonstrate the many benefits to be gained by integrating trees with agriculture. Agroforestry offers a sustainable way to create resilient, productive agricultural systems that also have excellent environmental benefits. Even just a shelterbelt of trees can help to increase crop productivity, reduce soil erosion and reduce diffuse pollution.

If you are interested in planting trees on your land, please see our Woodlands for Water page to find out about funding opportunities and advice.

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