Farmers who supply supermarket chain Morrisons are being given free woodland management advice – so they plant trees to the best environmental effect while generating additional farm income.
The tree advisors are working with the retailer’s network of 3,000 farmers to plant the right tree species in the right place for right reasons – gaining government and grant funding to cover their costs and create an additional revenue stream.
The initiative – in partnership with Natural England and the Forestry Commission – forms part of Morrisons plan to ensure that its network of British farmer suppliers is net zero by 2030 and net zero for emissions by 2040.
Farmers at 50 farms will be the first to be offered access to the scheme. The plan is then to roll the scheme out more widely in the coming months.
Agriculture currently accounts for 10% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions. New government targets have outlined that approximately 7,000 hectares of woodlands should be planted by 2024 to help offset emissions.
Trees and woodlands are increasingly seen as a key part of farming sustainably. They can store carbon, limit soil erosion, prevent flooding, control erosion on watercourses and help provide habitats for wildlife.
Morrisons head of agriculture Sophie Throup said: “As British farming’s biggest customer, we have a responsibility to help our farmers overcome the challenges of working more sustainably.
“Many farmers, while recognising the value of trees in their landscape, are worried that tree planting initiatives will mean that valuable land is taken from food production – even when funded by the government.
“We want to take this worry away and help farmers identify what trees work for them on their farm, in the right places and for the right reasons.”
The government launched its Woodland Carbon Guarantee in 2019. The scheme offered £50m to land managers who planted trees to sequester carbon and then sell woodland carbon units back to the government.
Farmers had raised concerns about the investment needed to plant saplings. Government support has also been offered by the England Woodland Creation Offer, alongside grants from Countryside Stewardship and the Woodland Trust.
Morrisons tree advisors will offer expert advice to farmers on a case-by-case basis and will work with farmers to create individual woodland planting and management plans.
They will identify which trees are best in which place, how tree planting can complement farming business activity and what environmental benefit they will bring.
They will also advise how to unlock government and grant funding to finance the planting of trees, as well as how to secure income from their projects.