Robert Moore and his family grow wheat, barley and oilseed rape, graze sheep and cattle, as well as run an agricultural plastic recycling plant at Barff Farm, Lincolnshire. When they bought the farm, it was a highly productive operation growing solely winter crops. But over time, the management of blackgrass became increasingly difficult, and profits were affected. He began to think about how the business could be run more sustainably and efficiently.
“We moved to the farm in 1988 and it had almost no hedges or trees – historical maps show there used to be over 90 small fields which had been reduced to just 13. While the land was good productive arable soil, blackgrass had become a serious issue.”
Looking to increase biodiversity and make better use of underperforming areas, he started researching planting schemes. Following a recommendation from a neighbour, he applied to the Woodland Trust’s MOREwoods scheme, which provides advice and funding for landowners looking to plant trees.
An adviser from the Trust worked with closely with Robert to design a scheme to meet his specific needs. Together they identified less productive areas which were suitable for planting, and assessed drainage maps to make sure field drains were not compromised. Native species such as rowan, an excellent food source, were chosen to encourage biodiversity.
A substantial woodland was planned, measuring 100 x 600 metres and split into three segments, with a track running through it for access. Planting began in January 2021 with a total of five hectares of trees (1,600 trees per hectare) planted next to Paunch Beck, which runs into the river at the edge of his land.
Having received MOREwoods funding, he became aware of the MOREhedges scheme and went on to plant 1km of hedgerow, creating essential networks for wildlife.
“We have a big reservoir on site that's utilised for the recycling side of the business. So we interlinked the reservoir with hedges to the new plantations of wood for wildlife tracks to go down.”
Robert’s project took six months from application to planting the final tree. The subsidies paid for most of the work, allowing him to plant more trees at a lower cost, although the return on investment isn’t straightforward.
“The benefit is in taking bad land out of production and planting a viable resource that has values you can’t quantify – like the visual impact and effect on the farm as an overall asset,” he explains.
“Working with the Woodland Trust was very easy from start to finish,” he adds. “They even managed the Environmental Impact Assessment which was required due to the size of area being planted.”
He anticipates the benefits will grow as the woodland and hedgerows mature. “We're enhancing the farm for future generations. Yes, it's going to take a while, but the plan is to leave the farm better than when we received it.
“We’ve taken out less productive land, squaring up fields and restoring some of the lost hedgerows and trees. The value of carbon sequestration alongside crop protection, soil fertility and the boost for wildlife are all long-term gains.”