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https://defrafarming.blog.gov.uk/2024/01/23/spotlight-on-new-actions-agroforestry-and-improvements-to-our-trees-and-woodland-offer/

Spotlight on new actions: agroforestry and improvements to our trees and woodland offer

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Payments to plant trees and manage woodland, Sustainable Farming Incentive

Sheep grazing among young trees

The Agricultural Transition Plan update includes the full range of new and updated Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) actions and the payment rates available in 2024.      

In this post, we will focus on the new agroforestry actions. Agroforestry is tree planting that is deliberately combined with food production on the same land. It can: 

  • reduce soil erosion  
  • improve water and air quality 
  • provide shelter for livestock and crops  
  • reduce flood risk 
  • improve food, fuel or timber production potential 
  • increase biodiversity 
  • capture and store carbon 
  • improve climate change resilience. 

Through these actions, we want farmers and land managers to consider planting more trees in suitable places and manage more of our woodlands.

In this post, we’ll also include improvements to the Countryside Stewardship (CS) offer for trees and woodlands.

New agroforestry actions  

We’re introducing in-field agroforestry actions across various tree densities to encourage more trees in the farmed landscape. 

The agroforestry actions are a vital part of our work to meet our ambitious net zero, biodiversity and environmental objectives.

To that end, the actions have been designed to appeal to the widest range of farmers and are applicable on the widest range of land types. 

Everyone’s situation is different, so we want to provide as much choice as possible.  

We are introducing new actions to create and maintain in-field agroforestry systems of which there are 2 main types:

  • Silvoarable: trees are planted at wide spacings and intercropped with a cereal, horticultural or other crops (crops are grown in the space between the tree rows)  
  • Silvopastoral: trees are combined with forage (plants eaten by livestock) grassland and livestock production. 

The arrangements and densities of trees is flexible to allow you to decide what is best for your circumstances.  

For example, silvoarable tree planting arrangements traditionally use widely spaced rows of trees, but you could use this design equally in a silvopasture setting, especially when managing grass for grazing and silage cutting. 

The lower tree density actions enable agroforestry to be carried out on land with low sensitivity to tree planting without requiring Environmental Impact Assessments EIA. For example, land managers who want to do a basic level of tree planting with a small number of trees on the land they farm. 

This makes agroforestry accessible to those that want to try this innovative approach and to tenant farmers too. Tenant farmers should check their tenancy agreement before including agroforestry actions in their SFI agreement.  

The higher tree density actions provide for those who want to maximise the benefits from agroforestry planting, including those who are already confident implementing agroforestry practices. We will release more details on these offers and EIA requirements in due course.  

These new agroforestry actions complement agroforestry offers already available in CS, providing land managers with more flexibility and more ways to integrate trees on their land, including hedgerow, wood pasture and parkland and traditional orchard.

We’re continuing to support woodland creation through the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) which supports, among a wide range of other things, riparian planting. 

The full list of agroforestry actions are:

Actions to maintain high or medium density in-field agroforestry 

Action  Duration  Annual payment 

Action’s aim 

Maintain high density in-field agroforestry  10 years  £849 per ha  An in-field agroforestry system is maintained, so there’s a combination of either trees and arable or horticultural crops, or trees and grassland for forage and livestock 
Maintain medium density in-field agroforestry  10 years  £595 per ha  An in-field agroforestry system is maintained, so there’s a combination of either trees and arable or horticultural crops, or trees and grassland for forage and livestock 
Actions to maintain low density in-field agroforestry 
Maintain low density in-field agroforestry on less sensitive land  3 years  £385 per ha  An in-field agroforestry system is maintained, so there’s a combination of either trees and arable or horticultural crops, or trees and grassland for forage and livestock 
Maintain low density in-field agroforestry on more sensitive land  10 years  £385 per ha  An in-field agroforestry system is maintained, so there’s a combination of either trees and arable or horticultural crops, or trees and grassland for forage and livestock 
Actions to maintain very low density in-field agroforestry 
Maintain very low density in-field agroforestry on less sensitive land  3 years  £248 per ha  An in-field agroforestry system is maintained, so there’s a combination of either trees and arable or horticultural crops, or trees and grassland for forage and livestock 
Maintain very low density in-field agroforestry on more sensitive land  10 years  £248 per ha  An in-field agroforestry system is maintained, so there’s a combination of either trees and arable or horticultural crops, or trees and grassland for forage and livestock 

Improvements in our offer for trees and woodland 

As well as adding new actions to our environmental land management schemes, we made several improvements to our existing offer for trees and woodland within Countryside Stewardship.  

We are improving the existing woodland management offer by:

  • reducing the minimum threshold from 3ha to 0.5ha, so more farmers and land managers can access funding 
  • increasing payment rates to ensure funding better reflects the costs incurred by woodland managers 
  • making it simpler and more flexible including removing the deadline for when Woodland Management Plans must be submitted for the woodland improvement offer 
  • expanding the range of supplements to target priorities with 8 new actions available 
  • retaining existing capital items, for example to produce a plan for action within woodlands (Woodland Management Plan) 

We are improving our offer on wood pasture by:

  • making actions simpler and more flexible 
  • combining actions for lowland and upland wood pasture, having aligned the payment rates earlier this year 

We are improving our species management support to protect trees, woodland habitats and threatened woodland species by:

  • continuing to control the population of invasive non-native grey squirrels where they’re causing significant damage to woodlands and trees 
  • managing the impact of deer on crops and in woodland through the introduction of new and amended actions and expanded eligibility 
  • enhancing rhododendron control and management 
  • expanding the threatened species supplement to cover woodland species 
  • introducing measures to control the population of invasive edible dormice that cause damage to trees and orchards by stripping bark, compete with hole-nesting birds for nest sites, and prey on eggs and nesting birds. 

We will improve our tree health support offer by expanding the tree health support in Countryside Stewardship using learning from the Tree Health Pilot. The current Tree Health Pilot grants will continue until the full, revised tree health scheme launches, ensuring there is no gap in support for land managers and tree owners with tree health issues. 

Finally, we are improving public access and engagement with woodlands to benefit public health and wellbeing by adding new actions for permissive access, and expanding the current educational access option so that more people can visit woodlands to learn about woodland management and forestry. 

Learn more and apply for SFI

You can apply for an SFI agreement now and choose from the 23 actions currently available. 

By waiting for the 2024 actions, you could be losing out on funding. If you apply now, you'll be able to add actions to your agreement annually — or have multiple agreements — if you'd like to carry out further actions. You can view the full list of actions available in the combined SFI and CS offer on GOV.UK.  

Webinar

On 26 January at 10am, we’re hosting a webinar about the farming offer in England with the Farming Advice Service. Register to attend. 

Funding for farmers, growers and land managers

The guidance for every scheme and grant on offer can be found on the Funding for farmers, growers and land managers page on GOV.UK.   

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10 comments

  1. Comment by James Moon posted on

    When can the new Argo forestry agreement be added to an existing SFI if they have just started or are about to sign up this spring.

    Reply
    • Replies to James Moon>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi James,

      You can apply for an SFI agreement now and choose from the 23 actions on offer. By waiting for the new actions coming in summer, you could be losing out on funding. If you apply now, you'll be able to add actions to your agreement annually - or have multiple agreements when the further actions are available - if you'd like to carry out further actions.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  2. Comment by Hugh Roper posted on

    Will it be possible to stack agroforestry options with other SFI or CS options such as herbal leys, very low input grassland or flower rich areas and will the agroforestry payments be made on the actual area of trees planted in a field or provided they meet a minimum density the payment is made over the full field area? It would be useful to know on the stacking query as I am delaying some applications now in case this is not possible.

    Reply
    • Replies to Hugh Roper>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Apologies, Hugh. In our initial response to your comment, we didn't answer your question as clearly as we could have.

      You will be able to combine agroforestry actions with other SFI or CS actions. We will release more details on what options are compatible with agroforestry in due course. We will also be releasing further information on the specific requirements for agroforestry payments, including density requirements.

      We hope this helps.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  3. Comment by Frank Broughton posted on

    Will the agroforestry options be available through SFI or only under Countryside Stewardship?

    Reply
  4. Comment by Mark Slaughter posted on

    Are there any details available regarding what constitutes as being 'high, medium or low' density in-field trees, and how those 3 categories translate in terms of canopy cover?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Replies to Mark Slaughter>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Mark,

      We'll publish more details on this soon - it will be based on the number of stems per hectare.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

      Reply
  5. Comment by J Janman posted on

    Where’s the link to this recorded webinar?

    Reply

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