Farmers urged to plant trees in agro-forestry drive

The Department of Agriculture has revealed new grants for farmers as part of a new agro-forestry push to see trees planted on 150,000 hectares of designated acid-sensitive areas.

Agro-forestry is the planting of trees on farm land at lower density than normal woodlands so that farming activity can continue on the same land.

It is funded through grants under the National Forestry Programme and these premia were significantly increased last year from €260 to €645 per hectare per year for five years.

“This now creates potential for significantly greater uptake of agro-forestry and native species in designated acid sensitive areas by farmers who wish to develop agroforestry as part of their farming enterprise”

At an open day yesterday at a farm in Kilcock that has embraced agro-forestry, the Minister of State with responsibility for forestry Andrew Doyle, TD, urged farmers to “plant trees and continue farming.”

He said: “This open day here on Leo Murphy’s farm is to help others understand agro-forestry and the benefits of considering this type of planting. To see the sheep grazing contentedly amongst oak, cherry and sycamore trees planted really highlights the benefits of this approach for our environment, our livestock and our land. 

“The significant increase introduced last year on the grants and premia make this worthy of serious consideration by all farmers. The Department paid for the planting of those trees and pays an annual premium to the farmer for fiveyears. This is part of the Government’s commitment to delivering results under the recently published Climate Action Plan 2019 and the role which our agriculture and land use sector in achieving these targets,” he said.

Green acorns

The Minister also announced that his Department had agreed with the EPA on new rules which will allow the planting of agro-forestry in areas designated as acid-sensitive lands.

Minister Doyle said this now gives farmers real options for planting trees on some 150,000 hectares of designated acid-sensitive areas.

Acceptable tree species include oak, sycamore and cherry. Other broadleaves and conifers will be considered on a site to site basis. Fruit and nut species can account for up to 15pc of the trees planted.

“This now creates potential for significantly greater uptake of agro-forestry and native species in designated acid sensitive areas by farmers who wish to develop agroforestry as part of their farming enterprise.”

Farmers who are interested in joining the scheme can access details on the Department’s website under forestry grants and premium schemes, or may contact either a Teagasc forestry advisor, a registered forester or their agricultural advisor in order to learn more.

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Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 30 August, 2019