Recent years have seen increasing focus on food security, and growing pressure for more domestic food production. At the same time there is recognition that nature is fundamental to the delivery of ‘ecosystem services’.
For agricultural production this means healthy soils, pollinating insects, climate regulation, and plentiful and clean water. But farming also has an impact on wider ecosystem services for society, including maintaining water quality, mitigating flooding, and supporting biodiversity. The development of sustainable agriculture depends on increasing production, whilst maintaining and improving the condition of the natural environment.
Thoughtful integration of trees and other natural elements into farming systems can support production and deliver benefits which make sense at a farm scale, whilst also delivering wider public goods. In particular trees can help in reducing heat stress, improving shelter, particularly for young stock, and support productive pasture growth.
Through reducing soil erosion, and intercepting runoff, trees help conserve soil resources while improving water quality and reducing flood risk. In addition trees and woodland can provide woodfuel, support wildlife and add to the amenity of the farm.