15 Mar 2012 11:33
Good farmers plant trees
Good farmers plant trees
New report shows how tree shelter belts can help support crop yields in times of drought
A new report commissioned by the Woodland Trust and written by Harper Adams University highlights the value of tree shelter belts to farmers in combating the effects of drought.
The report, Managing the drought - A review of the evidence of the benefits of native trees species for shelter on the water regime of pasture and arable crops, pulls together studies from UK and other temperate agriculture systems to show how trees planted as shelter belts help to reduce wind speeds, meaning water loss through evapotranspiration1 is slowed. This allows the sheltered crop to retain more water and use it efficiently.
In the UK such shelter belts are relatively uncommon, but studies have shown cereal yields of sheltered crops can be higher than that for unsheltered crops, particularly in years when the weather is hot and dry.
Mike Townsend, Woodland Trust Conservation Advisor said, "This report makes it clear that tree shelter belts could be of real value in the development of sustainable agriculture, especially as we face a changing climate and growing demand for food.
"Naturally, trees will compete for water and nutrients, reducing crop yields directly adjacent to the shelter belt. However, these reductions typically only occur up to a distance of one to two tree heights away. Any loss after that point is significantly outweighed by the increase in yield achieved by more efficient water use.
"More research is needed, but this is promising start and shows that good farmers should indeed consider planting more trees."
Read Mike Townsend's blog for more detail on the report at http://wp.me/penfo-12E
Download a full copy of the report from www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/agriculture
For more information or to arrange a spokesperson, please contact Alison Kirkman on 08452 935874 or 07767 213792.
Notes to Editors
1 Water is lost from crops through evapotranspiration - a combination of evaporation from the soil surface and crop transpiration (where water vapour is lost from leaf surfaces). In calm conditions, this leads to an increase in humidity around the soil or leaf surface until eventually the air becomes saturated and the process slows down. However, high winds remove water vapour leading to an increase in evapotranspiration rates and the crop losing water faster.
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About Woodland Trust
The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity championing native woods and trees. It has more than 500,000 members and supporters and its three key aims are: i) to enable the creation of more native woods and places rich in trees ii) to protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future iii) to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,200 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres). Access to all Woodland Trust sites is free.