Good land-use choices can deliver multiple benefits

Pictured are AFBI Scientists and DAERA Policy makers who recently attending the workshop held at AFBI Newforge.
Pictured are AFBI Scientists and DAERA Policy makers who recently attending the workshop held at AFBI Newforge.

Good land-use choices can deliver multiple benefits to agriculture and society.

That was the message coming out of a workshop between AFBI scientists and DAERA’s policy makers where the keynote speaker was Prof Brett Day from the University of Exeter.

The key question addressed was ‘How to include the agricultural, forestry and environmental benefits of different land-uses into Government policy?’

The workshop between AFBI scientists and DAERA stakeholders aimed to demonstrate the range of benefits for everyone provided by agriculture and forestry land uses.

The event, chaired by Dr Diane Burgess (AFBI-Economics) and Mr Stuart Morwood (DAERA Forest Service), highlighted that in addition to delivering food and timber, agriculture and forestry can also provide additional important benefits such as removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, providing locations for recreation, enhancing wildlife and water quality as well as mitigating floods. The extent of each of these benefits will depend on how the land is used.

The challenge for policy makers is how to maximise these benefits provided by agricultural land. This was the focus of Professor Brett Days’ (University of Exeter) presentation as he outlined how the different land-uses affected each of these benefits.

Using a case study on afforestation, he showed how the planting of trees in alternative locations across Great Britain affected each of these benefits and identified the locations which would maximise the total benefits delivered by these new woodlands.

He highlighted how this approach is being used to inform the post-Brexit ‘public money for public goods’ debate in England.

Drs Myles Patton, Rodrigo Olave, Michelle Allen and Siyi Feng from AFBI also presented details on the development of a similar tool for policy makers within Northern Ireland, focusing on agricultural produce, timber production, capture of green-house gases and access to the countryside for recreation.

This AFBI research programme has been commissioned by DAERA with close collaboration from the Forest Service in Northern Ireland. The next step is to incorporate and integrate other benefits such as improving water quality.