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  • CarbonCrop Team

Poplars in pastures: On farm planting for shade and carbon credits

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

In this webinar CarbonCrop co-founder Nick Butcher was joined by 2022 Farm Forester of the Year, Nisbett Estate Manager (and landholder) Steve Treseder, to discuss how landholders can make the most of their on farm planting and get the removals recognised by the ETS.

In our recent webinar, we delved into the world of agroforestry with on-farm planting discussing the benefits including land stabilisation, livestock feed, and (of course) carbon credits. Featuring insights from Steve Treseder, 2022 Farm Forester of the Year, Farm Manager of Nisbett Estate, and landholder. We were also joined by Warwick Hesketh, Hawke's Bay Regional Council Catchment Management Advisor who added valuable insights into this discussion. 

Background and Experience of Steve Treseder

Steve Treseder, a farmer with over 30 years of experience, has been key in transforming Nisbet Estate into a model of sustainable agroforestry. His journey, earned him the 2022 Farm Forester of the Year award, recognising for his deep commitment to the land and sustainable farm practice. Steve's approach combines practical farming with environmental conservation, setting an example for future generations of farmers. 

It's a long game, you know, it doesn't happen overnight.

The Role of Poplars and Willows in AgroForestry

The webinar emphasised the environmental and economic benefits of integrating agroforestry into farming practices. Trees such as poplars and willows play a crucial role in stabilising soil, reducing erosion, and providing essential shade for livestock. These trees contribute significantly to the farm's carbon sequestration efforts, aligning with the goals of the New Zealand ETS. Steve’s experience using poplars and willows for on-farm planting, illustrated the multifaceted benefits of these trees, ranging from soil conservation to providing shade and fodder during droughts, to carbon income. His experience underscored how agroforestry could enhance both the ecological footprint and the economic viability of farms.

Practical Aspects of Planting and Managing Trees

Steve shared his valuable insights into the practical aspects of tree planting and management, discussing the importance of considering tree spacing, maintenance, and the impact on different types of livestock. The balance between maintaining pasture productivity and achieving environmental sustainability was a key focus, offering practical advice for farmers embarking on similar ventures.

Economic Viability and ETS Considerations

An important topic covered was the economic viability of participating in the ETS. Steve's experience provided a real-world perspective on the financial benefits of integrating carbon sequestration into farming operations.

"An average sheep and beef around here would, would need to return around 500 a hectare. That's probably been reasonably optimistic. So anything above that is hugely beneficial, and we're getting way above that with these [trees]. It's not for the long term, but..... a lot of people have planted these trees, as I have for erosion control, not even realising that you can actually cash in and make quite substantial money"

The discussion also touched on future adjustments in ETS policies and their potential impact on agroforestry, highlighting the need for farmers to stay informed and adaptable.

Vision for Sustainable Farming and Environmental Resilience

Steve's vision for the future is clear and focuses on sustainable farming and environmental resilience to ensure there's a farm left for the next generation. This aligns with broader global efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainable land use.

I've always been of the opinion that you farm for the next generation, or the future. You're leaving it for someone else......I'd like to think what I've done there is trying to set it up for the future. Doing my bit while I'm around.

Our "Carbon Curious" webinar with Steve Treseder provided invaluable insights into the world of agroforestry, demonstrating its potential for enhancing farm productivity, carbon sequestration, and environmental resilience. Watch the full video for the discussion in the video above.


Questions and Answers Summary

  • Can I graze animals with newly planted trees? If yes, how?

    • With protective measures like Dynex sleeves, sheep can graze around newly planted trees. However, cattle, especially larger ones, might need to be excluded for about five years to prevent damage to young trees.

  • What is the harvesting age for poplar as timber?

    • It’s best to consult a professional regarding the conditions on your land to ensure you are getting the most accurate information for your situation. In general an ideal age for harvesting poplar for timber varies, but it can be around 20-25 years. This depends on the growth rate and site conditions. Steve mentioned a specific example of a poplar tree potentially worth $800 unpruned at around 20 years of age.

  • What is the impact of plantings on emission taxes?

    • It was clarified that while registering trees in the ETS doesn't directly offset agricultural emissions, the financial benefits from carbon credits can help offset emission taxes. There's also potential for future recognition of smaller-scale plantings in farm net emissions schemes.

  • Are poplars effective for erosion control?

    • Steve emphasised the effectiveness of poplars in erosion control, primarily due to their extensive root systems. These trees are specifically bred and selected for soil stabilisation, making them an ideal choice for erosion-prone areas. If you are considering planting for erosion control, please consult a professional as every site is different.


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