Farming and forestry can be successfully combined in "agro-forestry" ventures - despite often being seen as two separate parts of East Anglia's landscape, farmers were told.

About 60 farmers attended a meeting in Halesworth, jointly hosted by the Suffolk Coastal branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and accountancy firm Lovewell Blake.

Guest speakers Fe Morris from the Forestry Commission and Esther Rosewarne from the Woodland Trust made the case for farmers to plant new trees and improve the management of existing woodland.

"It is important to say that this is not about asking farmers to take good quality agricultural land out of food production – food security is increasingly important," said Ms Morris.

"But we also have to face the reality that we are looking at a climate crisis. Trees and woodland mitigate against climate change, and are at the centre of climate change policy and strategy, all over the world."

Ms Morris outlined the benefits of planting trees on farmland, from protecting livestock to maintaining arable yields.

"Trees and woodland provide shade and shelter for livestock and protection from increasing severe weather events," she said.

"For arable set-ups, they protect against erosion and desiccation, and prevent loss of soil from agricultural land. They also reduce the damage done by strong winds, which can reduce crop yields and lead to lower profit."

Eastern Daily Press: Esther Rosewarne from the Woodland TrustEsther Rosewarne from the Woodland Trust (Image: Newman Associates PR)

The shared benefits to farm businesses and the environment has made the combination of farming and forestry a hot topic, said Esther Rosewarne, who also outlined a number of schemes to incentivise farmers to plant more trees.

"Agro-forestry is having a bit of a moment," she told the meeting. "It is not about taking land out of production; it’s about balancing productivity with environmental protection.

"It’s about looking at the land in three dimensions, and seeing all of the benefits of trees, both in terms of immediate value to the farm business, and the longer-term role of mitigating the effects of climate change."

Lovewell Blake agricultural partner Ryan Lincoln, who chaired the event, said: "It is important not to see initiatives to create farm woodland as something which goes against what most farmers want to do, which is to produce food.

"Investing in one should not be seen as to the detriment of the other; there is a clear benefit to be had in both business and environmental terms."