Feb 10, 2023
EcoTree breaks ground on first UK agroforestry project
First trees planted in a new agroforestry project to increase biodiversity, improve production and support UK tree planting targets.
We are delighted to announce that EcoTree has begun planting trees as part of our first agroforestry project in the UK. After 12 months of planning and design work for the site at Plas Onn Farm in Shropshire, this landmark project will benefit local farmers, supply chains and create space for vital biodiversity programmes.
What is agroforestry?
Before we tell you a little more about the project, a quick introduction to agroforestry. As you might guess from the name, it’s an innovative use of land that combines both agriculture and forestry. Trees, shrubs and other perennial plants integrate with agricultural environments to create a more sustainable, productive ecosystem.
Agroforestry has been getting increasing attention as a way to address many of the challenges facing modern agriculture, including climate change, soil degradation, and food security. That’s why our experts here at EcoTree are so excited to see our first steps into agroforestry take shape at Plas Onn Farm.
Our agroforestry ambitions
What are our long-term plans for agroforestry in the UK? With the government setting a national target of 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year from May 2024, we see agroforestry playing an important role.
Our aim is to provide a catalyst for more farms to start planting trees. Currently, agriculture uses 71% of the UK’s land area, which means we will need to work closely with farmers to help reach those ambitious national targets.
But agroforestry is about far more than tree planting. By combining the two land uses, we create and nurture spaces for biodiversity improvement programmes that will see natural habitats thrive on farmland.
Our agroforestry projects will help both farmers and the food supply chain become more climate and nature friendly too. It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to reduce any negative impact on the environment and the carbon sequestered will play an important role in the UK achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
Measuring the impact of agroforestry
So what exactly will EcoTree be doing at Plas Onn Farm and how will we measure the success of the project? There’s a lot of work done already and plenty ahead of us too, but we can’t wait to see the effect agroforestry has on the land and local area.
First, over 4,500 trees will be planted to serve a mixture of purposes on the farm. It will include fruit and nut trees for food production, broadleaf trees for timber and shelter, and areas of short-rotation coppice of willow and poplar for biomass and future biochar production.
To measure progress and impact, we will be tracking the following metrics at each site and comparing them to the baseline state.
- Carbon sequestration – we will measure biomass above and below ground biomass, as well as soil carbon and all associated agricultural emissions
- Biodiversity – we will track insect, soil and bird life using sensors and on-site measurements
- Productivity – we will study and understand the change in food, fibre and fuel produced on site
- Profitability – we will analyse the costs and revenues associated with the project to understand the relative impact on business health and resilience
We will also be taking part in a UK research programme to test the long-term effect of using biochar on fruit trees. Working with the University of Nottingham and Bangor University, the data we collect will feed into policy recommendations to scale up carbon sequestration on farms.
Support a biodiversity project
If you would like to know more about our agroforestry work in the UK, please contact our team and we’d be more than happy to talk.
We also run a number of other biodiversity conservation projects across Europe that you or your company can support directly here on the EcoTree website.