Trees could be the key to making food production more resilient amid climate change and biodiversity loss, say scientists.
Agroforestry – combining trees with livestocks or crops – can protect animals during heat waves, boost yields and reduce river and air pollution, say researchers.
The findings will be presented at the UK’s first Agroforestry Show – alongside new discoveries by farmers who are already incorporating trees on their farms as tools for climate resilience while producing food.
Organised by the Soil Association and Woodland Trust, the two-day event is being held on 6-7 September at Eastbrook Farm, near Swindon, Wiltshire. It aims to show farmers how to introduce agroforestry on their land.
The event programme will feature more than 100 speakers on all aspects of agroforestry – including how trees can prevent river pollution and reduce ammonia emission, plus insights into the benefits of tree shade to reduce heat impacts on livestock.
Farmers already practising agroforestry will share their experiences – both what has worked and what hasn’t with tree planting – and the impacts it has on nature, with new updates on farm research supported by the event organisers.
The need to adapt to a rapidly changing climate has becoe a critical concern for farmers. Speakers will reveal how adopting agroforestry can serve as an important buffer in heatwaves as well as in cold and wet conditions.
Drier and hotter summers can have devastating effects on both arable and livestock farms
But shade from trees can prevent heat stress on crops and animals –
helping to maintain productivity, reduce disease and make yields more robust.
Soil Association head of agroforestry Ben Raskin said: “The nation’s love of trees and hedgerows shows we intrinsically understand the benefits of trees on farms. But we desperately need more, and this event aims to empower people to make this happen.
“Agroforestry can deliver resilience for land managers across the country,” says Mr Raskin.
Trees can protect their farms from extreme weather, make additional income from tree products and build biodiversity into their land.
Modelling by Cranfield University suggests that establishing agroforestry on 30% of England’s grasslands could help pastoral livestock systems reach by 2051.
Helen Chesshire, lead farming advocate at the Woodland Trust said: “We know that bringing more trees into the UK farmed landscapes is essential if we are to meet nature and climate goals.
“Agroforestry does this while supporting farmers to produce agricultural outputs – a win-win scenario. But with less than 5% the UK agricultural area under agroforestry this show is needed to give farmers and foresters the confidence to implement it at scale.”