Farming with trees would help UK hit net zero - University of Reading

UK farms could boost food production and achieve net zero in the next decade if they planted trees between their crops, scientists say.

Agricultural scientists hope to show farmers how they can adopt agroforestry, a type of farming that involves planting lines of trees among crops.

Experts from the University of Reading are spearheading the UK portion of Reforest, a new Europe-wide programme backed by UK Research and Innovation under the Horizon Europe Guarantee. They say the widespread establishment of agroforestry would boost food production, encourage wildlife, and absorb more carbon from the air, storing it in trees and soils.

More than two-thirds of the UK’s land is used for farming. If half of all UK farms adopted agroforestry methods, farmers would achieve net zero by 2037 on arable farms, and by 2044 for livestock. To counteract the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock farming within 40 years, just over a fifth of UK grassland would need to be turned over to agroforestry, meaning around 55,000ha – an area the size of Leeds – would need to be converted each year.

Laurence Smith, a University of Reading lecturer in agricultural business management, who is leading the UK part of the project, said: “Farmers are increasingly under pressure to farm for food, wildlife and carbon, all in the same space and at the same time. This might seem difficult, but we’ve shown that planting trees on farms alongside other crops could be the answer. There is already good evidence showing how agroforestry is helping farmers to fight back against climate change.

“Yet only a handful of farmers across Britain and Europe have begun farming with trees. Our project plans to find out what’s stopping them, and provide some practical solutions to help more farmers to give agroforestry a go.”

Read more about agroforestry in this article written for CJS by Beth Brook, Chief Executive, Heart of England Forest

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Posted On: 24/02/2023

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