INTEGRATION of farming and woodland by using 'underproductive' or marginal land for tree planting could significantly boost the sustainability of rural businesses.

That is the message that Scottish Forestry will be bringing to this year's online version of AgriScot, where the government agency will emphasise that new woodlands can create an additional long-term, tax-free income stream for farm businesses, offer low-cost wood fuel opportunities and provide a valuable source of carbon sequestration.

But it is also arguing that stands of trees on farm can increase the productivity of the neighbouring livestock and crops.

“With farming and rural businesses currently facing so many uncertainties, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, establishing new woodland within a farming framework has considerable potential to ensure business sustainability and help a wider green economic recovery,” said Scottish Forestry's Virginia Harden Scott. “We are keen to help farmers understand the benefits of establishing new woodland on marginal areas of their farm, and to illustrate the support available to help.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to host a seminar at AgriScot – albeit online this year – which will allow us to outline these benefits and answer any questions farmers may have. We are partnering with the woodland management firm, Scottish Woodlands, for the seminar and are grateful for their support.”

Scottish Woodlands director of investment, David Robertson, commented: “We are seeing increasing numbers of farmers and landowners realising that forestry adds value short-term in relation to stock health and management and also long-term in the provision of income and increased capital values of their properties.”

Farmers can receive grants of up to £6210 per hectare towards new woodland planting, with additional monies for fencing and tree protection. Under current rules, land planted under the FGS remains eligible for the Basic Payment Scheme. Scottish Forestry has also worked closely with the Farming Advisory Service so that farmers and crofters can now get up to £1000 to buy in specialist forestry advice to help create new woodlands.

Landowners located within the Central Scotland Green Network Area – a swathe of the country stretching from Ayrshire and Inverclyde in the west to Fife and the Lothians in the east – may also be eligible for an additional contribution of up to £2500 per hectare. In that CSGN Area alone, since October 2015, 488 woodland creation cases worth over £52 million have been approved, covering 8719 hectares.

One farming family to recently receive funding for woodland creation were the Imrie’s of Hillhead Farm, Torrance, near Glasgow. Matthew Imrie commented: “With Brexit, we realised that small family farms must adapt in order to absorb any potential risk/downturn to the industry. We therefore set out to maximise business efficiency by diversifying a small portion of unproductive moorland. Various options existed for adding value to the site, but forestry was preferred, given our desire to preserve the farm's agricultural personality.”

Ms Harden Scott concluded: “I would encourage people from farming families and farming business throughout Scotland to register, free of charge, for AgriScot online to tune into our seminar. Properly planned forestry can play a key role in ensuring farm succession as there is an Inheritance Tax exemption for commercial woodland and from any capital gains tax liability arising from timber sales.

“FGS applications are accepted all year round, so we hope to whet the appetite of farmers and see an upsurge in applications post-AgriScot.”.

The Scottish Forestry / Scottish Woodlands seminar will take place at 9.30am on November 18 as part of AgriScot online. Registration is free at