The benefits of agroforestry are being demonstrated at two events in Perthshire and Fife later this month.
The Soil Association is holding two events on 25 and 26 September at Parkhill Farm in Fife and Mains of Fincastle in Perthshire, with farmer and Nuffield scholar Stephen Briggs.
Briggs was one of the first UK farmers to adopt agroforestry on his arable farm in the Midlands, initially because he wanted to protect his “most precious resource” – soil.
“I wanted something that fitted in with my farming system and provided me with an income,” he says.
“I’d seen agroforestry in other temperate regions of the world and it ticked the boxes of increasing productivity and biodiversity and protecting soil from wind erosion.”
At Parkhill Farm in Fife, arable farmer Roger Howison was inspired by Briggs to try a silvoarable system – planting barley and apple trees together.
Cows are very happy in woodland
“The driving idea is a mixture of arable crops and apples,” Howison says, “that will be biodiverse, mutually beneficial, in that the trees will give some shelter to the crops, and give fruit as another commercial crop.”
The Howisons have planted grass while the apple trees are establishing, then will plant barley for two years, then grass for two.
Andrew Barbour of Mains of Fincastle, near Blair Atholl, is farming sheep and cattle with trees – called silvopasture.
He says he initially thought he would have to give up grazing land for trees, before realising he could combine the two.
“Cows are very happy in woodland,” he says.
“They are woodland animals. It’s only us that has penned them into fields.
"They use trees for so many of their needs, from resting and scratching through to browsing.
"From the animal point of view, trees are good.
"For us, use of woodland as shelter has allowed us to keep more productive sheep in places that wouldn’t otherwise be possible and that has meant better financial returns.”
See how agroforestry works in practice, in the company of Stephen Briggs, at the Soil Association event.
Discuss funding and managing existing woodland with Mike Strachan of Scottish Forestry and Iain Moss of Woodland Trust Scotland. Wednesday 25 September 10am – 3pm, Tayside Institute, Newburgh, Fife. Thursday 26 September 10am – 3pm, Blair Atholl Village Hall, Perthshire.
Lunch included. Call Jane on 0131 370 8150 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.