As demonstrated by the recent Government announcement of a new forest comprising more than 50 million trees in the north of England, there is political backing and attractive grants available to plant more trees.
Trees increase biodiversity, absorb air pollution, provide a space for recreation and leisure and, through their timber, they offer an excellent means to store capital. They are also a form of diversification that farmers and landowners should take seriously: integrating them into a farming system or estate infrastructure can have environmental and economic benefits.
Even on a small scale, new plantings can improve landscapes and boost agricultural productivity, while providing high-value timber for the future. Rough, unproductive corners of land could be suited to trees which could be used for biomass or for improving a landscape and with predictions of a global shortfall of timber in the next 20 to 30 years, plantings could be set to increase again.
There are grants available in England, Scotland and Wales to encourage planting yet statistics from the Forestry Commission show that only 1.35 million trees have been planted since 2015, which is far less than the target.
Woodland and forest plantations do not have to be large areas – it is really just as important to plant appropriate species in areas with good access. It is therefore essential to research before planting commences and think well ahead. Rotations for some species can be more than 150 years. Also bear in mind the impact climate change may have on a particular species and assess the risk of different tree diseases.
There will always be a use for wood and the demand for timber is only increasing, not least because of the rise in timber as a building material.