Combining trees and vegetable production: UK RAIN workshop

Integrating trees into horticultural systems offers opportunities to diversify the business as well as realise environmental benefits. This workshop took place on 19th September at Tolhurst Organic was organised by the Organic Research Centre as part of the AFINET and AGFORWARD projects focused on providing practical advice and pointers on how to successfully implement an agroforestry system on your farm as well as an opportunity to learn directly from Ian Tolhurst’s (Tolly) experiences. As part of the AFINET project, participants were asked to help us decide on the focus of the UK RAIN trees and crops group.

The day centred around Tolly’s recently planted agroforestry system which has been integrated into his organic vegetable production system. Established in 2015, six single tree rows, a mixture of trees for fruit, timber and coppice products, have been planted with 20m wide cropping alleys in between. You can read more about Tolly’s agroforestry system and ORC’s research on the system here.

After a guided tour of the agroforestry system, and a design workshop led by Niels Corfield, Sally Westaway from ORC introduced the AFINET project. Workshop participants were asked to help us decide on the focus of the group and to think about:

  • Where information is lacking
  • Where it would help to get together and discuss specific subjects
  • Where we should prioritise collation and dissemination of existing knowledge

The main areas identified in the workshop were:

  • Identification of local networks and partnership opportunities. Help developing a network of local sites/ case studies to learn from and share experiences
  • A need for more information on the annual benefits of tree planting in terms of savings (cumulative from day one) and economic case studies (cost of establishment, labour and likely returns)
  • More information on the realities of growing timber in proximity of crops and the interactions between trees and vegetables
  • Help accessing and information on grants and funding sources: opportunities to share costs e.g. for specialised machinery

A full report on the workshop can be found here and you can acess AGFORWARD website

Many thanks To Iain Tolhurst and Tamara Schiopu for hosting the workshop, and to Niels Corfield and Luke Everitt for their contributions to the day.