Trees for farm health

Trees on farms have benefits of improving productivity and land health, as well as capturing and storing carbon.

Trees store carbon in their branches, stems, leaves, bark and roots. As trees grow, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and convert this into carbon to make wood. When wood rots or is destroyed (such as by fire) the carbon is returned to the air.

When carefully integrated into farms, trees can improve soil, water and biodiversity conservation, provide shade and shelter to livestock, rehabilitate unproductive land and improve the look and feel of a property. Farm productivity will increase as a result, with improved farms often having a percentage of land planted to trees which complements agricultural production.

Trees on farms can store carbon, which could offer an offset against a farm business’s greenhouse gas emissions and may be combined with other benefits such as shelter, timber production, environmental protection, added biodiversity and improved aesthetic value on-farms.

Good planning for strategic planting of trees ensures they become an asset not a liability. Well managed trees may provide extra income if harvested following appropriate approval processes.

Management options

Many farmers have revegetated degraded or unproductive sections of their farms or waterways. Farmers have shown that they can revegetate from 5 per cent to 20 per cent of their farm without loss of food or fibre production.

Identify on your farm plan areas that might be suited for shelterbelts, woodlots or wildlife areas, or for managing problem areas (unproductive or erosion prone areas) — most farms have some parcels of land that are less productive and make sensible locations for plantings.

Ensure tree species match the site conditions (such as soils and climate) and the farm objectives.

Establish new tree plantations and ensure species selection and site preparation are geared towards optimal survival and growth – find out from a local expert suitable tree species, establishment techniques for your site, suitable nurseries and revegetation contractors.

Consider growing some woodlots with tree species that can be used on-farm (for fodder, fence posts, poles or firewood), ensuring not to use species classified as weeds.

Encourage regeneration of native trees and shrubs, (for example by fencing out established native vegetation), according to a well thought-out farm plan.

Protect and manage existing native trees and shrubs from loss or damage by fire, land clearing or animals.

Use an appropriate carbon calculator to estimate how much carbon is being stored in your farm woodlot.

You could also consider participating in carbon credit or incentive schemes, noting that:

  • the rate of carbon sequestration of farm trees is directly related to the type of trees, their age and how fast they grow.
  • carbon credit schemes are subject to ongoing conditions and contracts, which should be thoroughly investigated before proceeding.
  • or maybe you might just want to measure and record your farm carbon to balance against your own farm emissions for use in trade, market or low emissions food-fibre verification schemes (such as carbon neutral wine, milk or meat).

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Page last updated: 04 Jan 2024