TO DEMONSTRATE the benefits of agroforestry, Scotland’s Rural College has planted a hundred trees on some of its upland research farmland.

The half-hectare block of trees was planted in one of the improved fields at Kirkton and Auchtertyre farms in Perthshire, after SRUC was awarded funding from Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

The site, on the floodplain of the River Fillan, will be used both for demonstration and research purposes, showing farmers and land managers how agroforestry – the integration of trees and agriculture on the same piece of land – can be introduced to a hill farm system without loss of productivity, and be used to mitigate climate change and floods, while benefitting biodiversity and the landscape, as well as animal health and welfare.

The trees at Kirkton and Auchtertyre, which are a mix of native species including alder, rowan, birch, oak, cherry and aspen, will provide shelter for livestock, timber, improved drainage and soil conditions, carbon storage, and a habitat for woodland invertebrates and birds.

Each tree is individually protected by a net cage to enable sheep to graze the pasture between the trees without causing any damage. Each sapling has also been given a handful of high phosphate fertilizer to help growth and a surrounding of wool mulch to reduce competition from weeds.

Upland ecologist at SRUC’s Hill and Mountain Research Centre, John Holland, said: “I have been wanting to have a demonstration plot of silvopastoral agroforestry on the in-bye ground at Kirkton for a number of years and now, thanks to funding from the Tree Planting Grant Scheme, we have been able to establish a small half-hectare block which we can use for demonstration and research purposes. As the trees grow we will be able to show land managers the multiple benefits that agroforestry systems can bring.”

Director of Conservation and Visitor Operations at Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority, Simon Jones, said: “We are delighted to have helped fund this project through our Tree Planting Grant Scheme, which aims to increase tree cover in the National Park.

“Planting more trees will help to improve and enhance our natural capital for the benefit of both people and wildlife – playing a vital role in our response to both the global climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis.

“We hope that this project, which will showcase the varied benefits of agroforestry, will encourage farmers, landowners and land managers to consider tree proposals on their farmland.”