31 July 2019
Best in class

Irish organic farming student wins top prize

31 July 2019
HAWL bursaries

Bursaries offered for three-day homoeopathy courses



21 March 2019
In adversity, what are farmers doing to be more resilient?

Opportunities, barriers and constraints in organic techniques helping to improve the sustainability of conventional farming

Designing Agroforestry Systems (sponsored by the Woodland Trust)

A practical workshop in which participants will gain a good understanding of how to design farm tree planting schemes and work in small groups to design agroforestry systems for a range of case study farms.

Mike Townsend (Woodland Trust): Chair

Session summary


One of the case-study designs

The session was set out as a hands-on workshop with everyone getting involved in designing an agroforestry system. Jo Smith from ORC presented some of the key design principles and considerations for agroforestry systems.

With everyone having a different vision of what agroforestry is defining agroforestry can be a difficult task. Jo described a range of systems some of which, although familiar, we may not initially recognise as agroforestry practices. Take farm hedgerows for example - woody landscape elements integrated into our farming landscapes which also provide a multitude of ecosystem service. The more conventional systems included The Woodland Trust and Sainsbury’s Woodland Eggs scheme where trees are planted to benefit chickens.

Jo emphasised the importance of managing interactions between system components and of designing in a way that enhances positive interactions while minimising the negative. With potential trade-offs it’s important to remember the system’s intended purpose. For example, is it to provide income diversity or to increase productivity?

The design process was then broken down into four elements for consideration: site characteristics, species selection and spatial and temporal arrangements; all of which determine the level of interactions between system components.

Split into three groups and each given a case study farm, participants designed their own systems using the Jo’s guidance. The case studies included arable, livestock and horticultural systems with some groups lucky enough to have the case study farmers there to help, although encouraged not to give away their actually plans for the sites!

For both the arable and horticultural systems alley width was a key point of discussion. How wide should the alleys be to allow for machinery access while keeping components close enough for positive interactions to occur?

The biophysical characteristics of the sites, such as aspect, ground conditions and access, underpinned numerous choices for all three groups and determined species selection and spatial and temporal arrangements. Species selection was also influenced by what agroforestry products would complement the current enterprises.

Finally, Hamish Thompson of the Woodland Trust covered the available grants for tree planting offered by the Woodland Trust and the potential opportunities presented by the Countryside Stewardship Scheme with its emphasis on national flood management.

Key conclusions

The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points:

  • There are many examples of agroforestry some of which, although familiar, we may not initially recognise as agroforestry practices.
  • It is important to manage interactions: design in a way that enhances positive interactions while minimising the negative.
  • Four design elements should be considered: site characteristics, species selection and spatial and temporal arrangements; all of which determine the level of interactions between system components.

Individual speaker presentations and abstracts

Jo Smith (ORC): Design considerations for agroforestry systems (2.83mb pdf file)

This presentation will briefly introduce the main types of temperate agroforestry systems and give an overview of the key design considerations, including drivers and constraints, species selection, spatial and temporal arrangements and management. This will lead into the design workshop below.

Stuart Holm, Emma Mayo, Hamish Thomson (Woodland Trust) and Jo Smith (ORC) facilitators Design workshop

Participants will have the opportunity to develop tree planting schemes for one of three case study farms; livestock, horticulture and arable.