Planting trees on farmland has lots of benefits for a healthy eco-system. A healthy eco-system relies on a harmonious natural environment. This means a diversity of plants, insects and wildlife, healthy soil, and a good supply of clean water.
Trees on agricultural land is not just beneficial for the eco-system, but there are wider reaching benefits too. Trees on farmland make it more pleasing to the eye, cut down on noise pollution and reduce the amount of farm building heating.
Benefits of Planting Trees on Farmland
Shelter for livestock – grazing livestock benefit from the shelter that trees provide. Trees are natural windbreaks, give shade from the sun. Shelter from extreme elements in the form of trees and hedging increases productivity, as animals that have a good well-being are stronger, gain more weight, are more resistant to disease and are more likely to have successful outdoor births.
Shelter for Crops – Trees create a micro climate around them, and this benefits nearby crops. Trees can extend the growing season by sheltering and warming the soil, which can increase the yield of crops.
Crops are better pollinated by insects when there is a barrier of trees and hedging as a shelter. These shelter belt create a habitat and provide food for many insects, such as bees and other pollinators.
Soil – Planting trees on farms help to prevent soil erosion, a problem for sandy soils. When soil erodes, the nutrient rich top layer is washed away, either through water run-off or wind. This leaves poor quality soil that lacks fertility and makes growing crops or grass more challenging.
Trees help with soil erosion as the tree roots and leaf litter improve water infiltration, slowing down sediment run-off. The leaf litter also helps to improve the soil structure and add nutrients to it.
Trees slow down wind speeds, helping prevent soil erosion.
Stream and Rivers – Improves the quality of nearby streams and rivers, as trees trap pollutants that would otherwise run into water courses.
During heavy bouts of rain, the run-off from fields can cause streams and rivers to overflow, resulting in flooding. Trees slow water run-off, taking the pressure off and helping to prevent flooding.
Habitat for wildlife – trees bring food and shelter for wildlife, and this increases biodiversity. Planting new woodland will increase the amount of insects, birds and mammals, and increase the diversity of plants.
Beneficial insects are attracted to crops, these along with birds will eat pests, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
Sustainable source of wood – planting trees on farmland can provide additional income as sustainable timber or firewood. Small areas of coppiced woodland can provide wood for many uses.
What trees should I plant on a farm or smallholding?
There are lots of different species of tree that are suitable for planting on farms. Native trees that are common in the area are more likely to thrive.
If you want trees to plant for a shelterbelt, Alder, Poplar and Willow are fast growing and can be trimmed to control height. Alder and Willow are also good trees to plant for wetter areas. They also provide habitat and food for wildlife.
Tree Planting Grants – The Forestry Commission offer grants for tree planting, so long as their criteria is met. See their website for more details.
Planting trees on farmland is something that is increasing in importance. If you are a farmer or smallholder, please share how you use the trees on your land.