Farmer Guardians of the Upper Thames, the Carrant Catchment Area Restoration Project farmers, Thames Water Farmers and FWAG Members were invited to Whittington Lodge Farm by Ian Boyd to learn about agroforestry and how to make trees  work on the farm.  Stephen Briggs - head of Soil and Water at Innovation for agriculture; director of Abacus Agricultural Consultants and farmer of the largest silvo-arable scheme in the UK (52ha), gave a fascinating  presentation on his experience of setting up an arable agroforestry enterprise. He highlighted the benefits that trees in an arable landscape can bring particularly around maximising the free energy of the sun during months that arable crops aren’t growing.  This can help produce an additional crop that gives combined arable/fruit tree enterprises a Land equivalent ratio of productivity of 1.4.

He also discussed the need to start thinking about farmland in three dimensions; not just what is happening at crop level but what is happening below the surface and up at tree level. Geoff Newman - Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer at Natural England, informed us of the benefits of trees in a pastoral system and the joys of growing apples for cider production. Lastly, Jeremy Evans from the Woodland Trust talked through the available funding for innovative agroforestry projects such as growing willow as a healthy fodder source for cattle. A point of interest that came out from all the talks was that our livestock are natural browsers and benefit from eating shrubs and the low hanging tree leaves in addition to grass; not forgetting however the need to protect tree trunks from unwanted attention!

Useful discussions were had on the farm walk, looking at Ian’s orchard, grazed by his herd of pedigree polled Hereford cows, followed by a delicious lunch of Pasture for Life beef stew served by Cathy and Steph Boyd.


The presentations from this event are available for download: