Gove urged to heed "game-changing" benefits of agroforestry

Farming and forestry organisations have written to Defra secretary Michael Gove to explain why agroforestry should feature in post-EU farming and countryside policy.

Image: Doug Wallace (CC BY 2.0)
Image: Doug Wallace (CC BY 2.0)

Agroforestry - the cultivating of trees and crops or livestock on the same area of land - was the subject of a major conference last month, which heard that gaps in support and advice presented a significant obstacle that could be overcome by Government.

It is not currently supported under the current Rural Development Programme for England, due to a perceived lack of demand.

Soil Association director of innovation Tom MacMillan said: "We know that the new Secretary of State is looking for bold ideas to square the UK’s environmental and economic goals, and agroforestry is one of the exciting opportunities to do that in the agricultural sector.

"On a large scale this could be game-changing. But to exploit it fully, and to remove some of the barriers farmers have identified, requires strategic support from government."

The letter points out that a well-managed agroforestry system can boost land productivity by up to 40% by making efficient use of natural resources, while trees also store carbon, improve water management and enrich biodiversity.

The signatories are the Farm Woodland Forum, the Soil Association, the Woodland Trust, the Royal Forestry Society, Sainsbury’s, the Country Land and Business Association, the Institute of Chartered Foresters, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Innovation for Agriculture, Abacus Agriculture, the Organic Research Centre, Bioversity International and Sustain.

The Soil Association has called for a target of agroforestry on 50% of all farms by 2030, promoted by capital grants and maintenance payments, fiscal measures and procurement policies, as well as uncentives for longer-term farm tenancies and investment in research, knowledge exchange and advice.

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