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Agroforestry at Glensaugh

Agroforestry plots at Glensaugh
Agroforestry research plots were planted at Glensaugh in Spring 1988.

Agroforestry is a system of land management which combines livestock farming and forestry: trees are grown for timber on the same land as that used for animal production. The growing of trees on farms diversifies and sustains production leading to increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels.

Silvopastoral agroforestry is a system in which trees are planted at wide spacing into grazed, permanent pastures. Silvopastoral agroforestry is also known as wood pasture.

Silvopastoral agroforestry has been shown in the UK to provide a number of benefits to farmers. With good management, trees can be grown to produce timber (or for firewood, craftwork, artwork) with no reduction, or only a small reduction, in agricultural production from the same piece of land. This compares with more conventional farm forestry in which land must be allocated separately to woodland, resulting in a loss of agricultural area and agricultural production. The total return from the land is, therefore, potentially greater from agroforestry, although the required level of management input is greater than in conventional systems.

Benefits

Agroforestry provides both biodiversity and landscape benefits.

  • Creates welfare benefits to grazing livestock through the provision of shelter and shade.
  • Tree shelter can encourage better pasture growth.
  • Generates new opportunities for wildlife. More species of insects and a greater abundance of insects are found in agroforestry than in conventional agriculture. The same applies to birds, with more species (both open-field and woodland bird species) and a greater abundance recorded in agroforestry systems.
  • Recreates historical landscapes, similar in appearance to the traditional forests in which animals grazed.

Agroforestry at Glensaugh

Agroforestry research plots were planted at Glensaugh in 1988. Three tree species were selected and planted at different densities to compare their performance.

  • Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) planted at a density of 400 trees per hectare.
  • Hybrid Larch (Larix eurolepis) planted at a density of 100, 200 and 400 trees per hectare (lower densities have now been felled).
  • Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) planted at density of 100 and 400 trees per hectare.
  • Control plots planted at conventional forestry densities of 2,500 trees per hectare.

Commercial ewes, with lambs at foot in spring and early summer, are grazed in and around the trees between April and November.

Results

By the time the experiment ended in 2001, there was no measurable reduction in sheep output, although production of grass in closed canopy plots of larch and sycamore has subsequently declined. In addition, a new timber source had been created and a positive impact made on the landscape, and its biodiversity value.

Ongoing and future research

Suckler cows were introduced to the Scots Pine plot in 2008 as part of an experimental grazing project to determine what benefits tree pasture will bring for the cattle and to identify any disadvantages to the trees.

Glensaugh’s self-guided agroforestry trail

For more information on the agroforestry research at Glensaugh, a self-guided trail has been established. The trail introduces the integrated sheep grazing and woodland (silvopastoral) system that is managed at Glensaugh. Using this site we aim to share some practical tips, and the potential benefits associated with this type of land management system.

Information for visitors to Glensaugh can be found on the visitors page.


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.