Our Agroforestry Plans v1.0
The appeals of agroforestry are many, as are the challenges (see our previous post for a summary). The simpler you keep it, the easier it is to manage. At its simplest, it could be the combination of arable with apple trees for example. This is a brilliant diversification and we thought we should push the boundary further by introducing more crops. Eric is studying for an MSc in Agroforestry and Food Security and, with his fellow student, Emma, they set about coming up with a plan.
One of the challenges of agroforestry is that the system’s complexity is limited only by one’s imagination. And changing one variable (tree species for example) has a knock on effect on the system as a whole (spacing for sweet chestnuts between sweet chestnut trees is going to be very different to spacing between dwarf rootstock apple trees, for example.
We therefore decided to take a step back and look at diet as the starting point. The EAT-Lancet report, published in 2019, attempted to identify what a planet-healthy diet for 10 billion people might look like. Needless to say, dramatic shifts in eating habits are required. What stood out for us was that, as we hopefully move away from eating intensively reared, low nutrient meat towards less, but higher quality pasture fed meat, we should also be looking more at plant proteins. Nuts are a key part of that substitution and many can happily grow in the UK. We settled on nuts being the ‘anchor tenant’ of our first agroforestry systems and, more specifically, walnuts, cobnuts (large hazelnuts) and sweet chestnuts.
With our key tree varieties locked in, we could then develop the rest of the agroforestry systems around the parameters that they presented. We are still working on the details but aim to intersperse the nut trees with top fruit trees (apple, pear, plum etc) and then have soft fruit bushes in between the trees. All of this will be in rows running North-South which maximises light and we will have livestock grazing or cut the grass in the alleys between.