Opinion: Planting more trees can help the environment and your bottom line

The humble tree is having a moment. More farmers and land managers are taking notice of the benefits of planting trees – whether it’s for the environment, their farm holdings or the long-term rewards of their investment.

That trees are one of the most effective ways to capture carbon is well documented. Trees can also prevent flooding, improve water quality, boost soil conservation and provide habitats for birds and insects.

See also: 9 reasons to plant trees on your land

They also improve the amenity of a farm and provide an important extra income stream for farmers, through selling timber or other diversification projects.

With more than 70% of the land in England managed by farmers, the sector has a critical role to play in the creation of new woodland.

There is significant funding available through the Countryside Stewardship Woodland Creation Grant scheme, which pays up to £6,800/ha and is now open for applications all year round.

 Hundreds of farmers and landowners have already signed up for it, backed by the support of a Forestry Commission woodland officer working in their local area.

A healthy, well-managed copse of woodland can help prevent farmland from flooding during wet weather, as the roots draw in and store water. And in sunny weather, the shade from the trees can provide welcome respite for livestock too. They can also help stop wind blow of soils.

I am often out meeting and visiting farmers, and many of them say to me that they miss seeing the wildlife on their farms that they used to see in previous years.

From grey partridge and stag beetles to bullfinch, which in turn support other species, trees provide habitats for a range of wildlife.

So now is an opportune moment for land managers to revisit their farm business plans and look at the stewardship schemes they want to sign up to.

The government has guaranteed that any agreements where funding has been agreed before the end of 2020 will be funded for their full lifetime.

And if you sign up for the woodland scheme now, you have two years to plant your new woodland and can apply for extra support to help maintain it for a further 10 years after that.

For those just beginning to think about creating a new woodland, now’s the time to contact your local Forestry Commission woodland officer, to start discussing any potential applications to support planting in the next planting season.

Applications can be submitted through the Rural Payments Agency or through the post.

When sending your application, you will need to include a map that outlines the areas of woodland you would like to create, as well as a score form to confirm the benefits that planting trees will have on the local environment.

With the next planting season just around the corner, I would also advise those who already have an agreement in place to start thinking about planting now, to ensure they’re ready this winter. This includes sourcing the right trees and finding reliable contractors to use.

The Forestry Commission provides excellent guidance on the benefits of the Woodland Creation Grant and how to apply for it.

Sir William Worsley is the  HM government “Tree Champion”

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