The Sheep and Trees initiative: a first step towards integrated agroforestry in Scotland?

Georgina Weston, Lorna J Philip

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The Sheep and Trees initiative was introduced by the Scottish Government in 2017 as part of wider efforts to support farm diversification and the promotion of tree planting aligned with meeting sustainable development objectives. Designed to promote integrated forestry in upland farming across Scotland, the initiative has, to date, had a very low uptake. This study explores attitudes within the Scottish upland farming community towards integrated forestry in general and the Sheep and Trees initiative specifically in an attempt to understand why uptake has been low. We found that although upland farmers had positive attitudes towards certain types of integration, reinforcing the findings of previous studies, negative attitudes were also widespread which could act as a deterrent towards participation in the Sheep and Trees initiative. The species of trees and styles of planting supported by the Sheep and Trees initiative appear to be misaligned with the preferences of farmers wishing to adopt an integrated forestry system. The paper concludes with some recommendations for refining the Sheep and Trees initiative which could enhance its attractiveness to large scale, commercial concerns and to other upland farmers interested in planting trees for amenity and environmental benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-162
Number of pages23
JournalScottish Geographical Journal
Issue number1-4
Early online date18 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Rois-Díaz et al. () found that farmers recognise the benefits of, and have positive attitudes towards agroforestry, as did Langenberg et al. (). However, these studies both identified barriers to agroforestry adoption, including the voluntary nature of agroforestry and the lack of targeted (funded or subsidised) schemes. A need for financial support was also identified in Bullock et al.’s () English study. Although some studies (e.g. Howley et al., ) have highlighted that farmers’ behaviour is controlled by more than financial implications, others (e.g. Burgess & Rosati, ; García de Jalón et al., ; Graves et al., ; Rois-Díaz et al., ) have shown that farmers who are interested in agroforestry are discouraged from introducing it because of the associated costs. In contrast to commercial forestry, which has been planted and managed separately to agricultural activities and incentivised through subsidies for many years, agroforestry (explicitly integrating agricultural and forestry activities) has not received similar financial support. Large-scale European studies reported that 50% of farmers were interested in agroforestry, specifically silvoarbale practices (Graves et al., ; Sereke et al., ), with the main barriers to adoption here being reputation (Sereke et al., ) and complexity of work. García de Jalón et al. () found that, for livestock agroforestry, systems costs and additional management were the main barriers to adoption.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • integrated forestry
  • upland farming
  • Sheep and Trees Initiative
  • Integrated forestry
  • Sheep and Trees initiative


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