As many will be aware, we probably have the most attractive woodland creation grant ever produced by the Forestry Commission, giving land managers the opportunity to build on the momentum around COP26.
This may be the most generous Government grant we may be offered, and is the latest reincarnation of the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Creation Grant. Landowners, land managers and public bodies can apply to the England Woodland Creation Offer for support to create new woodland, including through natural colonisation, on areas as small as one hectare. You could receive over £10,000 per hectare to support your woodland creation scheme.
The new scheme will benefit land managers looking to plant new woodland, and more practical than previous versions, but this does not necessarily translate into more tree planting - a decision that cannot be easily undone.
Therefore, it is important to plan out where you would like to plant up.
Most use these types of woodland creation grants on less productive areas of land.
Whatever the decision driver, factors that tend to be considered are dependent on farm type, topography, soil type, drainage and the individual’s interest among other things. These increasingly include the availability of private funds to offset emissions and development, with tree creation very often being the flagship project.
However, before any decisions are made about pursuing these developing markets you should first look at your farm’s current carbon/biodiversity position and needs. From this rough base of understanding in a developing market, you can then made decisions for your business.
For more information about quantifying your current position please explore the CLA advice here
See also the Forestry Commission blog 'Top 10 reasons farmers should consider planting trees'
As with all land management decisions, it is a trade-off, with a mix of land uses specific to each location working together to create a profitable and resilient rural mosaic.
As the new woodland grant has a small minimum area, it means that land managers can now monetise those awkward corners of farms, which have constantly vexed them.. This grant provides opportunities to achieve the following benefits:
- Potentially stabilise land, reduce flood damage, provide shelter and physical boundaries with neighbours, which can all benefit the existing farming enterprise.
- Offset your farm’s emissions or biodiversity units to help your farm become Net Zero; alternatively, these units could be sold in developing markets.
- Produce a crop on this otherwise less productive area that one day maybe useful building material or fuel.
However, if the sole purpose of this exercise is to improve your farm’s sustainability or become greener, trees do not necessarily represent the best long-term fix.
Sustainability depends on a range of factors. In theory, much of our green Midlands could be even greener by - dare I say it? - focusing on intensive farming than planting trees as the significant growth of root systems and leaf area in a range of grassland species can lock up more carbon than trees, with herbal mixes providing their own wealth of biodiversity. However, as with all land management decisions, it is a trade-off, with a mix of land uses specific to each location working together to create a profitable and resilient rural mosaic.
And finally, I would also recommend that you also look at technology in order to improve your green credentials. There are currently some grants that are available to help you with any capital outlays. This article by CLA Land Use Policy Adviser, Cameron Hughes is a worthwile read on the subject.