Tree planting and woodland creation can help secure a more sustainable future for farm businesses, say rural consultants.
Strategic tree planting brings financial and environmental benefits, says Robbie Brett, farming consultant with Ceres Rural. A range of grants can help establish and management of new woodlands, he adds.
“Woodland is long-term, so planning and management is critical. Knowing what you want to achieve with any woodland is important too – trees can lock up carbon and support nature recovery, as well as contributing to wider society goals.”
Funding is available from the Forestry Commission, the Woodland Trust and via Countryside Stewardship – as well as from private initiatives. Trees are also subject to a range of tax reliefs if woodland is managed as a commercial investment.”
Both the Woodland Creation Planning Grant and the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) can be used to plan and pay for tree planting, although the initiatives have different minimum area requirements of between 1-5ha.
“These schemes provide up to £30,000 for planting and up to £8,500/ha for creating new woodland. Maintenance payments of £300/ha/year are included for the first ten years of the EWCO, which allows farmers to apply with several parcels of woodland.”
The Woodland Trust’s MOREwoods scheme covers up to 75% of planting costs and allows multiple blocks of planting, The trust’s MOREhedges grant subsidises hedging that creates ecological links with woodland.
Trees can also be included within Countryside Stewardship applications. Up to £6,800/ha is available for the creation of new woodlands. Current payment rates are £1.28/tree, with some variation between native and non-native species.”
For farmers wishing to generate a carbon-based income from new woodland, it is essential to register the plantation with the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Carbon Code before planting commences, says Mr Brett.
Carbon units can be sold as early as five years after planting with the Government-backed Woodland Carbon Guarantee ensuring a minimum price for carbon credits but still allowing farmers to sell them on the open market, if preferred.
“Baseline your soil carbon before you start planting if you are planning to sell that as well,” advises Mr Brett. If carbon sequestration is the sole purpose of the new woodland, conifers may be the best choice, as they sequester carbon more quickly.
“Time spent considering the various options and the best way of achieving your end goals is a good investment.
“Most farms will have pockets of land suitable for tree planting and will be eligible for one of the funding schemes.”