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Organic agroforestry research yielding results

Date Published: 18/12/2008

Between us there’s always someone out and about somewhere. Development Officer, Steven Jacobs is a prolific traveller and this week he paid a visit to a Suffolk site where research is ongoing into forest gardening, which I’ll let Steve explain:

Wakelyns Farm, Fressingfield, Suffolk is a joy to behold even in the freezing fog of a dull December afternoon.

One of the trial plots at Wakelyns Farm, Fressingfield, Suffolk60 acres of organic agroforestry. Lines of mixed trees either side strips of organic arable land. The land is fed (leaf litter) and protected (physical barrier) by the trees.

The arable yields are high. Although the norm can be five tons they have seen around ten tons per ha.

Martin Wolfe initiated the project over ten years ago and is currently assisted by Zoe Hague and Helen Pearce, with support from Bruce Pearce and the team at Elm Farm Organic Research Centre, at Newbury.

The idea that it is possible to show Forest Gardening on a field scale is fantastic. Martin told me that the trees are planted north south to make the most of the sun on their broad side. He has noticed that there are marked differences in the production of foliage on the eastern side and over seed or nuts on the west. This is to do with amongst other factors what he refers to as water stress; some of the ground was less than favourable and the area was defined as partially arid when they started the project. Summers (and winters) have been significantly wetter since then.

They have ground source heating in the office and a state of the art wood chip burner fed by their own forestry.

I left as the dark mists started to envelope the small holding. My satnav struggling to make sense of the Suffolk lanes and my head spinning with thoughts oscillating between Brigadoon the musical and Yggdrasil, the one tree of Norse mythology.