Planting trees on agricultural land could help meet GHG targets

  • Research is helping to determine the potential of agroforestry to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. The practice involves integrating trees on farm land, and offers benefits by accumulating carbon in both the trees and the soil.
  • Compared to land with no trees, agroforestry stored the equivalent of an additional 3.6 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year.  Crucially, agroforestry is able to deliver these benefits whilst maintaining agricultural production.
  • Research shows that small alterations in land use could have the potential to contribute significantly to the reduction of atmospheric carbon levels, as well as offering benefits for biodiversity, soil erosion, and nutrient leaching.

Practices are already being adopted elsewhere in Europe, and support from government (e.g. via environmental stewardship) may improve adoption in the UK.

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About Hayley Shaw

Knowledge Exchange Manager at Cranfield University's Centre for Environmental Risks and Futures (CERF). Sharing the latest news from Cranfield, and insights from across the industry. All things risk, environment, and the future.
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2 Responses to Planting trees on agricultural land could help meet GHG targets

  1. Dr M C Smith says:

    Just so long as they are not conifers! (see for example$FILE/fcrp004.pdf). Personally, I think it would be interesting to see a more joined up approach to the issue – is it the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to plant more trees or use the land more productively to reduce food miles and make the UK less reliant on imported food?

  2. Hayley Shaw says:

    Joined up is always better! I think you’re right, everyone agrees that we need to use land more productively. We need both though. Agroforestry is one tool that can help to sequester carbon without affecting productivity, whilst helping stop nutrient leaching and promote biodiversity. Also – a note to remember that it’s not all about food miles! One of CERFs studies found it’s better to import certain foods (strawberries I think) from Spain rather than try to farm them here (we’d need more energy etc. to grow them here, whereas Spain have the natural climate). Need to think much less about food miles and more holistically towards embedded environmental impacts.

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