It’s a huge experiment, with a lot of scientific investigation. As we are at the point of massive change within agriculture, we thought Elston Farm might as well give this trial a go. As someone who likes to have wildlife around my farm it is an option that appeals to me, whilst the science may prove whether it is just as productive as more conventional ways of farming.
The fields won’t be stocked with livestock for at least five years, though it will depend on the speed of the growth of the trees and their bark, how quickly the secondary thickening grows. This will be key to protect the standard trees, the ones we want to grow tall and produce a canopy. Sheep and cattle will strip the bark if it hasn’t developed the harder layers.
There are seven other farms taking part in this trial including the Rothamsted Research Centre, an agricultural research centre in central Devon. Between us we have three different types of planting, on Elston Farm we have planted trees in 14 metre rows, 3 meters apart within the rows. Every other tree is grown to produce a canopy, these we have protected with three hawthorns. Between these standards we have tasty shrubs of various species. They are to provide the livestock with something to eat as well as low cover to stop the wind. All the trees are indigenous. The taller standards are oak, alder (which fixes nitrogen), Scot’s pine, downy birch, lime, sycamore, and field maple. (We have also planted walnut, apple, and chestnut as cash crops, whilst not strictly indigenous, they are at low density) The low bushes we have planted are spindle, elder, holly, willow, hazel, and witch elm.