An Introduction to Agroforestry Schemes in the UK: A Sustainable Path for Farmers

Agroforestry, the integration of trees and shrubs into agricultural landscapes, has gained traction in recent years as a sustainable farming practice with numerous environmental and economic benefits. In the UK, various agroforestry schemes are available to farmers, offering support and silvoagro incentives to implement these innovative practices on their land.

The Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) represents a significant shift in agricultural policy, prioritising sustainable land management practices that benefit both the environment and farming communities. One key aspect of ELMS is its embrace of agroforestry, which integrates trees and shrubs into agricultural landscapes to enhance biodiversity, improve soil health, and mitigate climate change. Under ELMS, farmers are encouraged to adopt agroforestry systems such as alley cropping, silvopasture, and riparian buffers, which not only diversify farm income but also provide valuable ecosystem services. By incorporating trees into their farming practices, farmers can improve carbon sequestration, reduce erosion, and create habitat for wildlife, contributing to the long-term sustainability of agricultural landscapes.

One such ELM scheme is the Countryside Stewardship scheme, which provides grants and payments to farmers who incorporate agroforestry elements into their farming systems. These elements can include alley cropping, where rows of trees are planted between arable crops, or silvopasture, where trees are integrated into pastureland for livestock grazing.

Another option is the Woodland Creation Grant, which offers financial support for establishing new woodlands and agroforestry systems. Through this grant, farmers can receive funding for tree planting, fencing, and other necessary infrastructure to implement agroforestry on their farms.

Here at Frank P Matthews, we are one of the largest tree nurseries in the UK, offering a wide range of trees and shrubs perfectly suited for agroforestry systems. Our diverse selection includes native species like oak, ash, and alder, a wide range of non-native trees, as well as fruit trees such as apple, pear, and cherry. After 120 years in the business we know a thing or two about tree cultivation and are fully committed to sustainability.

One key aspect that sets Frank P Matthews apart is our achievement of Plant Healthy status. This designation signifies that our nursery practices adhere to stringent biosecurity measures, ensuring that our trees are free from pests and diseases. This is crucial for agroforestry schemes, as introducing diseased trees into agricultural landscapes can have detrimental effects on both the environment and farm productivity. We are actively involved in developing disease resistant varieties such as disease resistant Elms (Ulmus) to ‘re-elm’ the countryside. Maintaining Plant Healthy status not only safeguards the health of trees but also contributes to the overall resilience of agroforestry systems. Healthy trees are more resilient to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses, ensuring the long-term success and sustainability of agroforestry practices.

Planting fruit trees instead of native woodland in Agroforestry schemes has the added benefit of an additional return crop and these flowering trees can also act as support for pollinators. There is a very wide range of fruit species available for projects, from Apples for eating, juicing and cider, plums, quinces, and more unusual fruit. Nut plantations should also be considered. Walnuts, hazel, filbert and cobnuts along with chestnuts whether it be for fresh eating, processing or confectionary can work well also. Rootstock selection is important and we can advise the right rootstock and species for the right site, tailoring variety selection to each project.

In conclusion, agroforestry schemes offer UK farmers an opportunity to enhance the sustainability and productivity of their farms while contributing to biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. With our extensive range of trees and commitment to plant health, Frank P Matthews is an ideal partner for supplying trees for agroforestry projects, helping farmers create resilient and thriving landscapes for generations to come.

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