Good farmers plant trees

A new report commissioned by the Woodland Trust and written by Harper Adams University highlights the value of tree shelter belts to farmers in combating the effects of drought.

Good farmers plant trees

A new report commissioned by the Woodland Trust and written by Harper Adams University highlights the value of tree shelter belts to farmers in combating the effects of drought.

The report, Managing the drought - A review of the evidence of the benefits of native trees species for shelter on the water regime of pasture and arable crops, pulls together studies from UK and other temperate agriculture systems to show how trees planted as shelter belts help to reduce wind speeds, meaning water loss through evapotranspiration is slowed. This allows the sheltered crop to retain more water and use it efficiently.

In the UK such shelter belts are relatively uncommon, but studies have shown cereal yields of sheltered crops can be higher than that for unsheltered crops, particularly in years when the weather is hot and dry.
Mike Townsend, Woodland Trust Conservation Advisor said, "This report makes it clear that tree shelter belts could be of real value in the development of sustainable agriculture, especially as we face a changing climate and growing demand for food. Naturally, trees will compete for water and nutrients, reducing crop yields directly adjacent to the shelter belt. However, these reductions typically only occur up to a distance of one to two tree heights away. Any loss after that point is significantly outweighed by the increase in yield achieved by more efficient water use. More research is needed, but this is promising start and shows that good farmers should indeed consider planting more trees."

Of course, a well positioned truffle plantation can have a secondary use as a shelterbelt and can benefit crop yields. Such systems seem very topical at a time when many regions of the world are experiencing increasingly varied weather conditions. A truffle harvest and an increase in arable production, a win-win scenario.

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