Agroforestry is a flexible and dynamic system that provides nature-based solutions, captures carbon and boosts biodiversity, visitors to Groundswell were told.
Otherwise known as farming with trees, it integrates landscapes and brings resilience into the system, said Geoff Newman of Natural England, who reported a three-fold increase in tree planting since the launch of the England Tree Action Plan.
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“Trees bring a huge range of benefits to farms and landscapes, from flooding reduction to climate change mitigation and nature recovery,” he noted.
“No wonder there is so much more interest in agroforestry as a mainstream land use.”
For Nottinghamshire farmer David Rose of the FarmEco community farm, who has 19ha of agroforestry in three different areas, the trees are part of a sustainable system that benefits both the community and the environment.
He has a mix of fruit and nut trees planted in an alley system, short rotation coppice for biomass production and trees in grassland with livestock – having planted more than 4,500 trees with the help of local residents.
His advice to others was to get good advice before starting, plan the system to ensure establishment success and to research weather patterns, so that issues caused by dry spring conditions or waterlogging can be overcome.
“Challenges include land values, BPS reductions, finding a market for produce, managing the various weed, disease and pest threats, the effects of wind and water on the trees and finding the right advice,” he said.
Having agroforestry on the farm allows it to extend its offer beyond climate change to health and well-being, as well as education and research, he added.
“As a community farm, we aim to reconnect people with the land and the environment,” revealed Mr Rose. “So the trees allow us to run a forest school and have nature trails, as well as to use nature as a therapeutic tool.”
Agroforestry can be economically viable, he ended.