100 trees planted to branch out into agroforestry

A hundred trees have been planted on upland research farmland run by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) to demonstrate the benefits of agroforestry.

The half-hectare block of trees was planted in one of the improved fields at Kirkton and Auchtertyre farms in Perthshire after SRUC was awarded funding from Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

The site, on the floodplain of the River Fillan, will be used both for demonstration and research purposes, showing farmers and land managers how agroforestry – the integration of trees and agriculture on the same piece of land – can be introduced to a hill farm system without loss of productivity.

Agroforestry can be used to mitigate climate change and floods and is beneficial for biodiversity and the landscape, as well as animal health and welfare.

The trees at Kirkton and Auchtertyre, which are a mix of native species including alder, rowan, birch, oak, cherry and aspen, will provide shelter and shade for livestock, timber, improved drainage and soil conditions, carbon storage, and habitat for woodland invertebrates and birds.

Each tree is individually protected by a net cage and has been given a handful of high phosphate fertiliser to help growth and a wool mulch to reduce competition from weeds. The cages will enable sheep to graze the pasture between the trees without causing any damage.

John Holland, an upland ecologist at SRUC’s Hill and Mountain Research Centre, said: ‘I have been wanting to have a demonstration plot of silvopastoral agroforestry on the in-bye ground at Kirkton for a number of years and now, thanks to funding from the Tree Planting Grant Scheme, we have been able to establish a small half-hectare block which we can use for demonstration and research purposes.

‘As the trees grow we will be able to show land managers the multiple benefits that agroforestry systems can bring.’

Simon Jones, director of Conservation and Visitor Operations at Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: ‘We are delighted to have helped fund this project through our Tree Planting Grant Scheme, which aims to increase tree cover in the National Park.

‘Planting more trees will help to improve and enhance our natural capital for the benefit of both people and wildlife – playing a vital role in our response to both the global climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis.

‘We hope that this project, which will showcase the varied benefits of agroforestry, will encourage farmers, landowners and land managers to consider tree proposals on their farmland.’