Agroforestry is the practice of integrating the cultivation of trees, crops and livestock in the same agricultural area for greater productivity and biodiversity.
Agroforestry is a practice that currently falls outside forestry and farming grants and regulations in England. However, it is integrated into rural development plans in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and at a wider European level.
The RFS is among organisations supporting seven recommendations to the UK government in the briefing report, Agroforestry in England: Benefits, Barriers & Opportunities, published in June 2018.
Two case studies are available:
- cricket bat willow plantation undergrazed with sheep in Kent
- one farm’s experience of the benefits of agroforestry for beef cattle in Wales
Benefits of agroforestry can include:
- water quality
- flood protection
- soil conservation
- climate change mitigation
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.
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.