Planting trees on farms

There are many benefits to planting trees on farms. These include beautification, the environment, providing protection and food for stock, biodiversity and profit.

Why trees are good for farms

There are many reasons why trees are beneficial to farms.

Aesthetics or beautification

Trees soften the lines in your environment and help to beautify your landscape. They provide a sense of wellbeing and can enhance the feeling of pride you have in your farm.

Environmental

Environmental reasons for planting include:

  • erosion control
  • biodiversity – attracting birds and bees
  • improving water quality through reduced sediment loss or riparian planting
  • climate change carbon sequestration
  • wetland restoration
  • windbreaks.

Financial

Trees can provide a profit through:

  • timber production
  • honey
  • increased property value
  • better resilience to climatic events
  • retention of productive soils
  • carbon return
  • firewood.

Stock

Trees can provide:

  • shade and shelter for stock
  • fodder for stock.

DairyNZ have a range of tree planting guides for planting on farms.

Trees on farms – DairyNZ

How trees fit into farming

Richard and Rebecca Riddell farm beef, sheep, peas and trees. They have a mixture of exotic plantations including eucalypts, redwoods and pines.

04:15

[Video begins with an aerial view of Olrig station and a 4WD driving on a farm road. Title shows: Planting One Billion Trees Together By 2028]

[Olrig Station owners Richard and Rebecca Riddell appear on screen with a view of their farm in the background as Richard begins to speak. The Riddells and their dog then drive up to a paddock gate]

Richard Riddell: I’m Richard Riddell and this is my wife Rebecca. We live in Olrig Station which is in the district called Maraekakaho, which is about 30 kilometres west of Hastings. It’s been run as a sheep and beef property, trading winter lambs and recently growing peas for McCain’s.

[While Rebecca speaks:  The Riddells walk up to the paddock gate and looks at their farm]

Rebecca Riddell: We want to plant trees here for a couple of factors; we’ve got erosion issues and also we’re wanting to protect our waterways and also lock down some carbon.

[While Richard speaks: The Riddells' dog appears on screen. Scene moves to an aerial view of native forest on the Riddels' farm and a stream flowing between the trees appear]

Richard Riddell: Olrig Station is 850 hectares. There’s already 15 hectares of forestation scheme. We’ve just planted 55 hectares of pine in the areas which are not good for stock and also very difficult for us to get water to the stock. There’s quite a large native blocks on the property which probably total up roundabout 25 hectares, and some waterways which will be planted off, which would be there just left to go back in the bush. We’re looking to introduce a few more native species to help get that underway.

[While Rebecca speaks: A variety of native trees and a closer shot of the flowing stream appears on the screen]

Rebecca Riddell: We’ve got this great stand of native bush, a lovely stand of Kahikatea and Kōwhais which are flowering. There’s Totara and Mānuka and through the middle of it runs this lovely stream that we’re locking away, and we’re going to restore more natives into the area.

[While Richard speaks: The Riddells again appear on screen. The scene moves to an aerial view of the Riddells and their dog driving on their farm. The scene then moves to a flock of birds flying over tree tops, followed by scene of cattle grazing]

Richard Riddell: Yeah-no I think we have to feed the world and I find that a great challenge and one that we’re always going to have to change. And I think this bit of land that is part of an ecosystem which is great for the environment as well as also delivering food, whether that be a vegetable or a meat or a protein of some sort, has got to be a good thing. The benefit of trees to us is that it’s going to offset the carbon footprint so we’ll grow trees that will absorb the carbon and we can have a farming environment that is going to have a zero footprint on the world.

[Dr Adam Forbes, Restoration Ambassador for One Billion Trees appears on screen. Title shows: Dr Adam Forbes. Restoration Ambassador. One Billion Trees Programme.]

[While Adam speaks: Grazing cattle appears on screen. The scene then moves to Adam and Richard sitting behind a computer inside the Riddells' house followed by the two men admiring a variety of trees as they walk through a section of the Riddells' farm. Adam then enters the Olrig Station barn to join Madeline Hall, Senior Catchment Advisor at Hawke's Bay Regional Council on screen. The two converse whilst looking at and discussing a map of the Riddells’ farm on a computer]

Adam Forbes: There is multiple benefits to restoring forest cover in riparian land. It’s about firstly retiring stock out of the areas so the stock aren’t really getting into the waterways. The vegetation has a filtering effect on runoff so it tends to cleanse the water that’s entering a stream. Having no stock in here is going to help the streambanks be intact, it’s going to reduce the amount of nutrients getting into the stream and it’s going to benefit not just the stream reach but also stream reaches further down. When Richard brought me down and showed me this area he knew that he wanted to retire the area but he wasn’t sure how best to establish native forest into the area. So the 1BT funding was really useful for Richard and Rebecca’s proposal here. So what we did was we looked at the different options - we looked at the diverse native planting option, the Kānuka planting option and the retirement option and because of the nature of the environment here I feel we don’t need to plant a great diversity of species but it’s just about planting a canopy and Kānuka was a really good option for that.

[While Richard speaks: The Riddells appear on screen. Scene moves to a close-up of the flowing stream, followed by an aerial view of the farm and forest]

Richard Riddell: Adam and his expertise in forestry world has been fantastic in coming and making recommendation on what we can plant native-wise which will help other natives help come up in the future. We just planted 350 poplars in some erosion prone areas in conjunction with the Hawkes Bay Regional Council.

[Madeline appears on screen and title shows: Madeline Hall, Senior Catchment Advisor, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council]

[While Madeline speaks: Richard and Madeline appear on screen and shake hands. They sit down at a table inside the Riddells’ house and talk. Madeline and the Riddells then appear on screen and talk]

Madeline Hall: My drive is to help farmers really keep the soil where it’s supposed to stay. So sometimes that means establishing poplars and willows so that grazing can still occur underneath those areas. Sometimes that means establishing native permanent cover on highly erodible areas. And really the challenge for landowners is to figure out where to find the money that suits their needs and their project and so that’s where councils can really fit in. My role at council is to connect landowners like Richard and Becks with people like Adam who can help them get the funding and go through the application process.

[While Rebecca speaks: The Riddells and their dog appear on screen]

Rebecca Riddell: In 50 to 100 years I hope grandchildren will be just loving this native bush we’ve planted, loving this beautiful farmland that grows great animals and enjoying the same life we are.

[Video ends with an aerial view of the farmhouse. Title shows: Get Involved. Phone: 0800 00 83 33. www.teururakau.govt.nz]

Tree species and site selection

Good planning is the key to success. You need to think about:

  • what you want to achieve – are you planting for a specific purpose like a shelterbelt or for water quality?
  • where you want to achieve it – what are the environmental factors your plants will need to deal with, such as pests, soil type, climate and terrain?
  • how much time and resources are available for planting and ongoing maintenance?
  • how practical is it to harvest your trees in the future – for example, is there road access, or a port or processing site nearby?

Choose the right trees for your location

You can find out what grows well where you live by:

  • contacting your local council for advice
  • confirm species availability with your local nurseries
  • looking at what is growing in neighbouring areas
  • talking to your neighbours.

Ecosource your native seedlings where possible.

Costs of planting on your farm

Costs include:

  • land preparation, which can include spraying or crushing of weeds, such as gorse, broom and blackberry, and installation of access tracks for planting
  • fencing in some situations
  • seedling or cost of planting material including poplar and willow cuttings (known as poles)
  • pre or post-plant releasing costs – this might be physical removal of grass and weeds, spraying or mulching
  • thinning and pruning costs
  • pest control.

If you're looking at planting trees to harvest, see our plant trees to harvest page.

Plant trees to harvest

What are the risks?

There are some risks to planting trees, such as:

  • costs – trees can be expensive both to plant and their ongoing maintenance
  • financial returns – your stock holding capacity may decrease with the change in land use, however, your overall profitability may increase especially if it leads to better quality land
  • time – you need to commit to maintaining your plantings over several years
  • animals – some trees can be toxic to animals. For example, rhododendrons can poison sheep and cattle, and other trees can cause cows to abort like oak and oleander
  • post planting management – managing weeds, wilding trees (if you are planting conifers), pests and fire control.
Get planting advice and help

Regulations when planting

There are rules and laws governing tree planting and harvesting, including the Resource Management Act. Under this Act you need to be aware of:

  • the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF)
  • freshwater acts and regulations. 

You may need to get resource consent to plant.

National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry – Ministry for Primary Industries Freshwater > Acts and regulations on freshwater – Ministry for the Environment Resource consents

Farm Forestry New Zealand case studies

Farm Forestry New Zealand have many members videos. These videos show how forestry has been successfully integrated into farming operations.

They also have videos for trees on farms. These videos show the many benefits trees have on farms, such as for shade and shelter, soil conservation and farm production.

Farm Forestry New Zealand member profiles – YouTube Farm Forestry New Zealand, Trees on Farms – YouTube