New Conference highlights how agroforestry can boost productivity

New conference highlights how agroforestry can boost productivity

The Soil Association, the Woodland Trust and the Royal Forestry Society team up for a new internationally attended agroforestry conference, to be held at Cranfield University on 22 June 2017.

A major review for the Land Use Policy Group found that agroforestry was one of the systems with the greatest potential for the ‘sustainable intensification’ of farming [1]. This new conference will focus on this opportunity and what it means in practice for farmers, foresters and landowners.

Tom MacMillan, Director of Innovation at the Soil Association said; “Agroforestry is exciting because of its potential to lift productivity at the same time as benefitting the climate and wildlife. Two acres that combine trees and farming will produce more than an acre of each side by side, because the trees use sunlight, water and nutrients at different heights and depths. You get all sorts – timber, fruit, nuts, combined with arable or pasture. It’s intercropping but supersized.”

Agroforestry has many associated benefits: Bangor University is currently measuring the effectiveness of trees and shelter belts to protect flocks from adverse weather using lifelike electric models of sheep. PhD student Pip Jones said: “Tree shelter from chilling wind could save energy and provide a real efficiency boost in the conversion of energy eaten to actual growth and health in our young livestock.

The conference will showcase some of the UK’s leading agroforestry systems and look at the main steps and questions faced in getting them off the ground. It will look particularly at how farmers can find new markets from trees, whether for fruit, nuts or timber, or for ‘public goods’ like flood protection or wildlife.

Stephen Briggs of Whitehall Farm, Cambridgeshire said;Since integrating apple trees in rows within my arable rotation of wheat, barley, clover and vegetables, my farm has established the largest agroforestry system in the UK. 8% of the land area has a tree crop on it with 92% of land remaining in arable production. The three-dimensional agroforestry combination provides an annual and longer term economic return from both components by utilising more space above and below ground, better captures resources such as sunlight, nutrients and water, protects soil and enhances biodiversity. What’s not to like?”

Chaired by BBC Radio 4 Farming Today’s, Charlotte Smith, the day will have sessions looking at agroforestry in the UK and further afield, what markets are available and how we can build trees into multi-functional land use systems that are fit for the future.

Some of the topics that will be covered are:

  • The practical benefits of agroforestry
  • Designing an agroforestry system
  • Finding suitable markets for tree crops
  • Securing permission from landlords
  • Public payments for ecosystem services

The line-up of speakers includes:

  • Tim Pagella, Bangor University
  • Stephen Briggs, Whitehall Farm
  • Sophie Churchill, Royal Forestry Society
  • David Brass, Woodland Eggs
  • Christophe Klotz, Agrivair (Nestle/Vittel)
  • Shireen Chambers, Institute of Chartered Foresters
  • Nic and Paul Renison, Cannerheugh Farm

The full programme is available online:

Tickets from £50+VAT. Book here.

Find any updates about the conference on Twitter:  #agroforestry2017 #agroforestry

The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by farmers, scientists, doctors and nutritionists to promote the connection between the health of the soil, food, animals, people and the environment. Today the Soil Association is the UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. Its Chief Executive is Helen Browning, and Chair of Trustees is Dennis Overton.

Soil Association Certification is a wholly owned subsidiary which certifies over 70% of all organic products sold in the UK. Certifying organic food and farming since 1973, and more recently, organic textiles, health and beauty products, the team has built up extensive practical experience and provides unrivalled support before, during and after certification.  It also audits other schemes within catering and forestry, including the Food for Life Catering Mark, and the FSC and PEFC forestry standards internationally, delivering assurances of quality and provenance that industry and consumers can trust. Its Chief Executive is Martin Sawyer and its independent board is chaired by Nick Buckland. To find out more visit

The Royal Forestry Society (RFS) is the largest and longest established educational charity promoting the wise management of trees and woods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It aims to inspire passion and excellence in woodland management. We do this through education and knowledge-sharing. The RFS believes bringing neglected woods back into management and sharing knowledge on how to manage woods to a high standard is vital to the long term health of our woods and trees. Our policies identify what is required to ensure our woods deliver their full economic, environmental and public benefits.  For information go to

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims: 

  1. Protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. Restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. Plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free. For more information visit