Initiative aims to boost sustainability in the supply chain without damaging business
Morrisons has employed a team of ‘Tree Advisors’ who will give specialist advice to UK farmers on the best species of trees to plant, where to plant them and how to manage their woodland, with the aim of having the best environmental effect without impacting upon their farm business.
The Tree Advisors will work with Morrisons’ network of 3,000 farmers to “plant the right tree species in the right place for the right reasons”, to gain government and grant funding to cover their costs, and to bring in additional income from their woodland projects.
The initiative, in partnership with Natural England and the Forestry Commission, forms part of Morrisons’ plan to become directly supplied by net-zero British farms by 2030 and net-zero for emissions by 2040. Farmers at Morrisons’ 50 net-zero blueprint farms will be the first to be offered access to the scheme, which will be rolled out more widely in the coming months.
Morrisons Tree Advisors will offer expert advice to farmers on a case-by-case basis and will work with farmers to create individual woodland planting and management plans. They will identify which trees are best in which place, how tree planting can complement farming business activity and what environmental benefit they will bring. They will also advise how to unlock government and grant funding to finance the planting of trees, as well as how to secure income from their projects
UK agriculture currently accounts for 10 per cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions, Morrisons pointed out. Trees and woodlands are a key part of farming sustainably as they can store carbon, limit soil erosion, prevent flooding, control erosion on watercourses and help provide habitats for wildlife. New government targets have outlined that approximately 7,000 hectares of woodlands should be planted by 2024.
Winter storms across the UK have contributed to the felling of millions of trees. It is anticipated that Storm Arwen in November 2021 led to the loss of eight million trees over 4,000 hectares.
In 2019, the government launched the Woodland Carbon Guarantee to boost tree-planting rates and create new woodland in return for payment. The scheme offered £50 million to land managers who planted trees to sequester carbon and who could sell ‘woodland carbon units’ back to the government. Government support has also been offered by the England Woodland Creation Offer, along with grants from the Countryside Stewardship and the Woodland Trust.
The funding has been welcomed by farmers, who whilst understanding the need for tree-planting, have also raised concerns about the investment needed to fund saplings and that planting could encroach on land set aside for food production, Morrisons said.
Sophie Throup, head of agriculture at Morrisons, said: “As British farming’s biggest customer, we have a responsibility to help our farmers overcome the challenges of working more sustainably. Many farmers, while recognising the value of trees in their landscape, are worried that tree planting initiatives will mean that valuable land is taken from food production - even when funded by the government. We want to take this worry away and help farmers identify what trees work for them on their farm, in the right places and for the right reasons.”