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Tree planting and woodland creation for farms

For centuries native trees and woods have provided services and benefits to farmers and society. The Woodland Trust believes that an increase in native trees and woods can play a vital role supporting productive agriculture and helping farms adapt to climate change, whilst providing a range of benefits to society as a whole.

There is likely to be an increase in severe weather including heat waves, higher intensity rainfall and storms. Half of all farmers believe they are being affected by climate change, and over 60 per cent expect to be affected in the next 10 years2. Farming systems are already beginning to adjust. Changes include drilling dates for crops, pest and disease control regimes, selection of varieties and in some cases speculative changes in the types of crops3. Planting trees now can bring immediate gains in productivity while also making the farm more resilient to a changing climate.

Why plant trees?

There are a number of compelling reasons for farmers and landowners to increase native tree cover;
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Adapting farming systems to climate change Mitigating Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions Improved environmental performance Improving sporting opportunities Generating income Wildlife conservation

Shade and shelter

Rising summer temperatures will increase heat stress to housed and outdoor livestock. Trees provide shade and reduce air temperature through evaporative cooling as a result of transpiration from leaves. Using native deciduous trees provides greatest shading effect during the summer months, but allows available solar gain to benefit buildings and livestock during the winter. Shelter can have a positive impact on pasture growth and increase the food efficiency of outdoor housed livestock through reduction in the wind chill factor4. An increase in the frequency of storms creates greater need for crop shelter to reduce physical damage, water loss through evapotranspiration and to encourage crop pollination5,6. A reduction in wind speed and physical damage to plants can also reduce incidence and severity of plant

Trees and woods have the advantage of being able to deliver multiple benefits simultaneously. For instance, trees along watercourses can help improve water quality while supporting pollinating insects and providing a source of woodfuel.

Adapting farming systems to climate change

Climate change is predicted to increase summer droughts particularly in the south and east, with milder winter temperatures and higher winter rainfall especially in the west1.

At least 39 crops grown for their fruit or seed are insect pollinated, and a further 32 need insects for propagative seed production12. Pollination supports food production in the UK to the value of 1bn per year13

Penny Mayes

diseases such as various blights7. Crop yields can be seen to increase as a result of use of windbreaks which improve the microclimate and promote plant growth8. Wind related soil erosion can also be reduced on vulnerable soils. Native deciduous trees are ideal for windbreaks, providing sufficient shelter to slow the wind without creating turbulence on the lee side. In addition they can increase the abundance of pollinating insects9,10,11 providing shelter and a food source, particularly when integrated into hedgerows. In addition trees removed as thinnings from plantations or as coppice can be chipped and used to produce bedding for housed livestock. This can have cost advantages over straw and reduce the release of volatile nitrogen compounds into the air14.

improves oxygen levels in the watercourse to the benefit of fish and other wildlife18.

Reducing flood risk

Reviews have shown that woodland can reduce floods from hill slopes and in headwater catchments. Targeted woodland creation may have a marked impact on flood flows at a local level, while on floodplains computer models show it can mitigate large floods by absorbing and delaying the release of flood flows; a 2.2km reach of floodplain woodland could increase flood storage by 71 per cent, delaying the flood peak. Coordinated action between landowners and the authorities responsible for flood management is needed to target action, supported by adequate funding for farmers which reflects this wider benefit to society.

Soil erosion and pollution control

Woods and shelterbelts increase water infiltration reducing surface runoff15. Studies at Pontbren in Wales have found that soil infiltration rates are up to 60 times higher under young plantations than heavily grazed pasture, with infiltration rates improving by 90 per cent within two years of tree planting16. When used as buffer strips alongside watercourses or planted on steep slopes or along contours, trees and hedges reduce sedimentation and runoff of manure and fertiliser following heavy rainfall by as much as 90 per cent17. This prevents loss of soil and nutrients from the farm and improves water quality downstream. Trees provide the added advantage of offering shade to watercourses which lowers the water temperature and

Mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

Agriculture is responsible for around 7 per cent of UK GHG emissions. Planting of trees for whatever purpose, will have some benefit in capturing atmospheric carbon. Providing shelter and shade for housing and buildings can reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions19. Well designed shelter around the farms is capable of reducing heating costs by 10-40 per cent20,21,22 and lowering farm carbon emissions. Woodfuel as renewable energy will further displace fossil fuels and reduce the carbon footprint of the farm23. Fuelwood can be harvested from existing woodland, or by creating new woodland. Three to 5ha of woodland is needed

Trees as buffers to water courses reduce sedimentation and lower water temperatures, increasing the oxygen levels to the benefit of fish and other wildlife

Coed Cymru

to heat the average three bedroom house. Using native tree species has the added benefit of supporting wildlife. When located around farm buildings, trees can contribute towards the mitigation of air borne pollutants including ammonia, a powerful GHG, emitted from livestock units. Trees are able to intercept some of these emissions through dry deposition on the leaf and bark surfaces24,25. It has also been suggested that slowing wind speeds and capturing particulates around livestock units may help reduce spread of airborne animal diseases26.

for use on site. Smaller diameter timber and branch wood can be used for fencing, as firewood or chipped for livestock bedding.

Wildlife Conservation
Expansion of native woodland to buffer and extend habitat, particularly ancient woodland and semi-natural habitats, can help increase their resilience to climate change by reducing the impact of activities on adjacent land. It also provides space for wildlife to spread out from existing habitat. Newly created woodland can see a rapid increase in the abundance of insects amongst establishing trees, attracting birds, particularly species of open country such as sky larks and linnets. The abundance of insects also attracts foraging bats; up to nine species of bats have been found to use even very early stage woodland28. Whilst many of the less mobile plants associated with ancient woodland will not colonise for many years, other woodland plants, such as lords-andladies, herb-robert, wood avens and honeysuckle are faster to colonise. Targeted woodland creation may also help the movement of species through the landscape as climate change alters their natural range29. The planting of individual trees is also important, providing habitat for many species and stepping stones across the landscape. Many of our most important ancient trees are found in fields and along hedges; providing the next generation of ancient trees is vital to the survival of species reliant on this habitat.

Improving sporting opportunities

Well sited woodland can increase the potential of game shooting on farms. Native woodland and well designed rides can provide both shelter and a valuable food source for game. Development of the woodland edge is particularly important27; this is preferred habitat for pheasants. Woodland edge can be best achieved by expanding existing woodland. The costs of achieving increased woodland edge can be modest, since it is frequently enough to pull back the field margin from the existing woodland, allowing it to gradually regenerate with trees.

Generating income
In most cases timber production is compatible with the other uses for woodland. Establishment and management of native woodland to produce timber may help diversify farm income while reducing our national dependence on imported timber. Larger timber may be sold off the farm or converted

In addition to its other benefits, native woodland can produce timber and diversify farm income

Peter Wakely

What we would like to see

Native woodland creation and tree planting can benefit both farms and wider society.Yet in recent years the rate of broadleaved woodland creation has reduced dramatically in the UK from 10,700 hectares in 2003/4 to 5000 hectares in 2009/10. To ensure that native trees and woodland can make a full contribution to adaptation of farming and providing wider benefits to society we would like to see greater financial support and advice for farmers for tree planting and woodland creation, particularly for;

1 UK Climate Impacts programme. Available at: [Accessed 26th March 2010] 2

Forum for the Future. Available at: [Accessed 26th March 2010]

3 Farming Futures, Climate change series, focus on olives. Available at: cent20Attachments/Mark_Diacon_CS8_WEB.pdf [Accessed 26th March 2010] 4

Slusher, J. P., and D. Wallace. (1997). Planning tree windbreaks in Missouri. MU Guide G5900. University Extension. University of Missouri-Columbia.

5 Smith, B.D., and Lewis, T. (1972) The effects of windbreaks on the blossom-visiting fauna of apple orchards and on yield, Annals of Applied Biology, 2:72 Issue 3 , pp 229 335. Published Online: Feb 26 2008 at: [Accessed 26th March 2010] 6 USDA National Agroforestry Centre, Conservation Buffers, Energy Conservation: site, Available at: [Accessed 25th March 2010] 7 Hodges, L. and Brandley, J.R. 1996. Windbreaks: An Important Component in a Plasticulture System. Agronomy and Horticulture Department, University of Nebraska. HortTechnology. 6(3) pp 177-81. Available at: [Accessed 25th March 2010] 8 Sudmeyer, R., Hall, D. and Jones, H., The effect of tree windbreaks on grain yield in the medium and low rainfall areas in Western Australia, Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia. Available at: [Accessed 26th March 2010] 9 Merckx, T. et al. 2009. Effect of field margins on moths depends on species mobility: field-based evidence for landscape-scale conservation, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 129 pp 302-309 10 Merckx, T. et al. 2009. Optimising the gain from agri-environment schemes, Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 130 pp 177-182 11

Creation of shade and shelterbelts which improve animal welfare, protect crops and reduce energy consumption On farm energy production from woodfuel Screening of livestock housing to help capture emissions of ammonia and other pollutants Use of native trees to create buffer strips for watercourses and woodland which can help to attenuate flooding Expansion of areas of ancient woodland through native woodland creation Native woodland creation which contributes to the movement of wildlife across the landscape More individual trees in the landscape including in fields and hedges

The Bee Farmers Association of the United Kingdom, The economic value of bees. Available at: [Accessed 26th March 2010]
12 13 Defra. 2010. Defras Climate change plan 2010. Available at: [Accessed 1 April 2010] p.7 14 Centre for Alternative Land Use (2005) Woodchip for animal bedding and compost, Technical Note. Available at: cent20leaflets/050104woodchipbeddingcompostrev3.pdf [Accessed 26th March 2010] 15 Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Agroforestry Forum, downloaded at: 16 Carroll, Z.L.Bird, S.B., Emmett,B.A.Reynolds, B. and Sinclair, F.L. (2004) Can tree shelter belts on agricultural land reduce flood risk?, Soil use and management, 20, pp 357-359 17 Calder, I.R, Harrison, J., Nisbet, T.R. and Smithers, R.J. (2008) Woodland actions for biodiversity and their role in water management, The Woodland Trust, Grantham 18 Forest Research, The role of riparian shade in controlling stream water temperature in a changing climate. Available at: [Accessed 26th March 2010] 19 DEFRA, Farming - agriculture and climate change. Available at: [Accessed 26th March 2010] 20 Tabler, G.T., Windbreaks for poultry farms, University of Arkansas, Division of Agricultural, Cooperative Extension Service. Available at: [accessed 25th March 2010] 21 USDA National Agroforestry Centre, Conservation Buffers, Energy Conservation: site. downloaded at: guidelines/4_opportunities/7.html

Planting of native trees and woods can bring multiple benefits to the farm

Jones, B.W.; Oreszczyn, T. 1987. The effects of shelterbelts on microclimate and on passive solar gains. Building and Environment. 22:,
22 23 Woodfuel introducing the benefits, Forest Research. Available at: infd-66sj5v [Accessed 26th March 2010] 24 Theobald, M. R., et al. Potential for ammonia recapture by farm woodlands: design and application of a new experimental facility, The Scientific World. Available at; Abstract.aspx?AcNo=20023039112 [Accessed 26th March 2010]

Sutton, M.A. et al. 2004. The role of trees in landscape planning to reduce the impact of atmospheric ammonia deposition, in Smithers, R.J. (ed) Landscape Ecology of trees and forests, ialeUK

Dee, S.,Otake, S., Oliveira, S., and Deen, J. 2009. Evidence of long distance airborne transport of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae. Vet. Res. (2009) 40:39
26 27 The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Woodland edge. Available at: education__advice/english_entry_level_stewardship/ habitat_issues/342.asp [Accessed 26th March 2010] 28 Blakesley, D. (2006) Woodland Creation for Wildlife a guide to creating new woodland for wildlife in Kent and East Sussex, East Malling Research Station, Kent 29 Woodland Trust, Space for Nature. Available at: WhyTreeForAll/Science/spacefornature.htm [Accesses 26th March 2010]

The Woodland Trust is the UK's leading woodland conservation charity and we want to see a country rich in native woods and trees enjoyed and valued by everyone.

Our aims 1 to enable the creation of more native woods and places rich in trees 2 to protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future 3 to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees
The Woodland Trust offers advice to farmers on tree planting and woodland creation. The Woodland Trust's team of advisers is contactable on 08452 935676 or via email at If you are interested in find out more information about the work of the Woodland Trust or more details of membership, please contact your nearest Woodland Trust office:

The Woodland Trust Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 6LL. Telephone 01476 581111 The Woodland Trust Scotland South Inch Business Centre Shore Road Perth, Perthshire PH2 8BW Telephone: 01738 635829

The Woodland Trust 1 Dufferin Court Dufferin Avenue Bangor County Down BT20 3BX Telephone: 028 9127 5787 e-mail: The Woodland Trust Wales (Coed Cadw) 3 Cooper's Yard Curran Rd Cardiff CF10 5NB Telephone: 08452 935860

For more information, visit the Woodland Trust website:

4459 08/10

Gordon Murray

The Woodland Trust is a charity registered in England and Wales no. 294344 and in Scotland no. SC038885. Registered in England no. 1982873.