Over the years I have been trying very hard to get policy makers and representatives of environmental NGOs to appreciate the many biodiversity benefits of biomass crops. For me, it seems unfathomable that productive crops such as short rotation coppice (SRC) willow and miscanthus, that can offer many ecosystem services and Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) would not be at the forefront of agri-environmental schemes! Alas, the small band of us involved in trying to get the biomass crops sector off the ground are still having to make these overtures. Nevertheless, I do beleive things are gradually changing.
Next week is quite an important week for me. On Wednesday I’ll be off to London to meet with DEFRA’s Energy Forestry team. The aim of course is to get SRC willow and Short Rotation Forestry (SRF) considered as part of the next round of Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) options – particularly as a tree/shrub that is eligible for the Agroforestry scheme and considered for Biodiversity Net Gain.
I’ll be making a similar journey to Wales to try and get willow and miscanthus considered as part of the Sustainable Farming Scheme options – the consultation is open until 7 March 2024. Check out this link for dates and venues for consultation events.
Then on Thursday 18 Jan at 4pm, I’ll be hosting as Biomass Connect webinar called Maximising Biodiversity in your Biomass Crop Plantation. This will include presentations by Dr Rebecca Rowe of the UK Centre of Ecology and Hydrology and professional ornithologist and wildlife detective Ed Drewitt.
This promises to be a really illuminating session. Don’t worry if you miss the live broadcast, all Biomass Connect webinars are available afterwards on the website here.
If you have any interest in the potential of biomass plantations for encouraging bird populations then you simply must check out these Biomass Connect videos. Ed Drewitt accompanied me to two farms in Devon and Somerset that are growing SRC and miscanthus respectively. Over three days we saw/heard 49 species of birds in the plantations, around the plantations and as part of the mosaic of habitats that the crops reside in. I am sure that some people will be surprised. If you work in this sphere, either as someone interested in planting a crop, someone who is writing policy or running a scheme or indeed someone who is simply a bit sceptical about biomass crops then these videos are essential viewing.
The body of evidence continues to grow. My hope is that sense will soon prevail, and truly environmental crops such as willow and miscanthus will finally make it onto agri-environmental schemes across the UK. Better late than never!