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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Agroforestry has been shown to extend the grazing season by up to 15 weeks’

Agroforestry in Ireland

Agroforestry involves growing trees on farmland within a wide range of spatial configurations.

It can support land-use systems in dealing with climate mitigation and resilience. Furthermore, it can deliver a range of other key environmental benefits.

That is according to the Irish Agroforestry Forum, which recently launched its new website to act as a dissemination hub of information tailored to the “growing” interest in agroforestry.

It says there is scientific evidence, much of it from the island of Ireland, that agroforestry can deliver a “wide” range of ecosystem services and align and facilitate these into sustainable agriculture and forestry land management policies.

Agroforestry in Ireland

According to a spokesperson, introducing trees into farming systems “dramatically enhances” the opportunity for a much more comprehensive range of biodiversity, including numbers and species of pollinators.

Trees have a proven role in protecting watercourses in riparian buffer zones. Trees planted as agroforestry improve soil structure across the landscape. This allows the soil to soak and filter water at much larger volumes over abroader area.

Tree roots extend “well” below the understorey roots and absorb excess nutrients that would otherwise end up in the groundwater.

Benefits 

The spokesperson said:

“There is a huge opportunity to offset agricultural emissions by increasing the carbon storage potential from farmland through soils, crops and trees.”

“This will help meet climate change directives and implement mitigation and resilience strategies.”

“Silvopasture brings real benefits in terms of animal welfare. In silvopastoral systems, animals have access to ‘browse’ or leaf material. This broadens their range of diet, addresses mineral deficiencies and reduces methane emissions.”

They noted that “agroforestry has been shown to extend the grazing season by up to 15 weeks through improved carrying capacity of the soil and better grassland utilisation”.

This, they added, also has a significant positive impact on ammonia emissions from housed stock.

Furthermore, agroforestry is “well placed” to deliver “high-quality” hardwood timber and contribute to the broadleaf deficit in Ireland.

In turn, this reduces a dependency on expensive non-native imports. Also, it creates a resource for local sawmills and woodland culture into communities.

Silvopasture

With carefully planned silvopasture, the body suggested that all farms could integrate trees into their operations with minimal loss in pasture area.

This would enable them to produce integrated harvests of timber or tree crops, all the while mitigating

emissions, enhancing the environment and increasing farm resilience to climate challenges.

The spokesperson said:

“The wide body of interest in agroforestry within the farming, forestry, horticulture, and environmental sectors on the island of Ireland prompted the formation of the Irish Agroforestry Forum (IAF) in 2021.”

More information

You can visit its new website

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