A trial plot of 100 trees has been planted on an upland research farm in Perthshire to illustrate how integrating trees and agriculture on the same piece of land can be achieved without loss of productivity.
The trial is being run by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) on an improved field at their Kirkton and Auchtertyre research enterprise, near Crianlarich, with the trees within the floodplain of the River Fillan.
In addition to showing farmers and land managers the benefits of agroforestry in a hill farm environment, the venture is designed to display how the integration of trees and agriculture can be used to mitigate climate change and flooding.
The Kirkton and Auchtertyre trees, which feature a mix of native species including alder, rowan, birch, oak, cherry and aspen, will provide shelter and shade for livestock, alongside producing 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 are designed to enable sheep to graze the pasture between the trees without causing any damage.
“As the trees grow, we will be able to show land managers the multiple benefits that agroforestry systems can bring,” said John Holland, upland ecologist at SRUC’s Hill and Mountain Research Centre, thanking the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority for funding the planting programme.
Simon Jones, the authority’s director of conservation and visitor operations, added: “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.”