Research projects

Agroforestry and orchard pilot study

Contract Period : 01/02/2023 - 01/05/2023

Main Funder : Defra

ORC Staff Contact : Will Simonson

Assessing the results and outcomes of a mini-grant scheme supporting tree planting activities as part of Defra’s Trees Outside Woodlands programme.

Project Leaders and Partners

  • ORC (project leader)
  • Defra, Natural England, Tree Council, Shropshire Council

Project Aims

This pilot aims to establish the rate of uptake of agroforestry and traditional orchard establishment in each targeted area and to investigate whether incentives such as government contributions to the initial capital cost of establishment, or tailored advice, could encourage greater uptake by farmers, smallholders, and communities.       

The pilot offers an excellent opportunity to assess the effectiveness of a simple grant scheme in encouraging tree planting on farms, identify lessons for informing subsidy mechanisms such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and – through a wider review – survey complementary funding mechanisms needed to create an encompassing offer of wide reach.

See also this summary of the project by Tree Council:

ORC’s Role

Leading the project to investigate how different levels of subsidy and support impact on the uptake of agroforestry and orchards with landowners in the four Trees Outside Woods (TOW) pilot areas.

Understand what barriers to uptake still exist for landowners who have expressed an interest in planting agroforestry and orchard systems and what gaps in funding there may be

Explore different sources of ‘blended’ funding such as loans and carbon credits and how these may fill any gaps in funding that exist.

Key achievements

Apple at Tolhurst Organic. Photo: Kay Ransom
Apple at Tolhurst Organic. Photo: Kay Ransom

Project conclusion August 2023

The pilot explored different levels of funding for agroforestry and orchard planting. The three objectives of the project and their conclusions are:

How different levels of funding and support affect uptake:

  • Overall the support was sufficient to attract a variety of landowners/farmers to implement a wide range of agroforestry and orchards.
  • Partial funding (i.e. only covering 50% of proposed costs) was not found to be a significant barrier to project success but may have impacted initial applicant interest.
  • Some found that funding wasn’t sufficient for the scale of agroforestry they wanted to implement. There was also no funding for long-term tree management.

Existing barriers to further uptake:

  • Previously identified barriers re-emerged in this study, notably tenancy, long-term funding, and knowledge gaps.
  • Future research should focus on exploring these barriers and methods of mitigation.

Feasibility of blended funding:

  • Carbon credit or similar schemes could be an option for some, although they are not a universal solution.
  • One funding source that was limited in its consideration was products from the agroforestry systems, whether that be selling products or reducing other costs. Fruit and woodchip dominated the identified products however other physical products (e.g. timber, fencing rods) and non-physical products (e.g. shelter, pollination, pest control) were underrepresented.

Other key positives of the pilot were:

  • Flexibility in design meant planting was successful and attracted more participants.
  • Offering to cover capital establishment costs was important in convincing participants and relevant stakeholders to come onboard.
  • Many of those who took part in the pilot are interested in further tree planting, potentially taking on more of the costs themselves.

Project output

This project required a combination of methods to evaluate the success of the Agroforestry and Orchards Pilot. Online surveys, farm visits, semi-structured interviews, and a literature review have formed the bulk of the work and were carried out over April to June 2023. The results fed into the final report which has been reviewed by Defra and the other project partners and is now published.

Previous relevant work

ORC Team involved with this project

Principal Researcher, Agroforesty
Christian Gossel
Farm Sustainability Researcher