Grazed Orchards in England and Wales

Description of system

Burrough et al (2010) report that there are 25,350 ha of 'traditional orchards' in England and Wales, however Defra (2013) suggest that the total commercial orchard area in England and Wales in 2012 was 17,600 hectares. The main commercial crop is apple (14,500 ha) followed by pears and plums. Defra (2013) report that there are about 7000 hectares of commercial cider orchards; approximately a quarter are 'traditional orchards' and three-quarters are 'bush orchards'. Traditional orchards typically have open-grown trees (tree density of less than 150 trees per hectare), whilst bush orchards can have 600 trees per hectare. Both types of orchard have grass understoreys which need to be kept short to enable apple harvest. Grazing is practised in some traditional orchards, but the use of animals in mature bush orchards is less common.

If you would like to know about the activity of this group, please contact Paul Burgess at Cranfield University.

Initial stakeholder meeting

The 'Grazed Orchards in England and Wales' group had its first meeting in Ledbury, Herefordshire on 9 June 2014 in conjunction with a Soil Association Field Lab.

The meeting was attended by 14 stakeholders, of whom 11 are actively involved in the management of orchards.

A key innovation arising from this meeting was the use of Shropshire sheep for grazing orchards, as it is considered that this breed (which is valued for meat production) are 'tree friendly', and can reduce mowing costs.

Download the initial stakeholder report

An initial stakeholder report was produced in July 2014.

Download the initial research and development protocol

A protocol was produced in February 2015.

Download the system description

A system description describing a grazed orchard trial and some initial modelling was produced in April 2016.

Further reading

Burrough AE, Oines CM, Oram SP, & Robertson HJ (2010). Traditional Orchard Project in England - The creation of an inventory to support the UK Habitat Action Plan. Natural England. Commissioned Reports, Number 077. Available Online.

Decouzon J (2011). Introduction of Sheep in Commercial Cider Orchards: Sheep and orchards: a promising association for more sustainable cide apple production. Unpublished report.

Defra (2012). Survey of Orchard Fruit at October 2012, England and Wales. 30 May 2013. Available Online.

Geddes P, Kohl R (2009) Shropshire sheep control weeds in orchards. Pesticide News 86. Available Online.

Mayr U, Spath S, Bruder A, Kohl R (2007). Report on the trial with Shropshire sheep grazing in apple orchards at the Research Centre for Fruit Growing, Lake Constance, Bavendorf, Germany, Obst und Garten, Issue 05/2007. 5. LUBW- Landesanstalt.

Parrett S (2010). Public and private policy affecting the grazing of animals on commercial cider apple orchards in the UK. The Bulmer Foundation, University of Worcester. Report commissioned by Heineken UK Ltd.

Shropshire Sheep Breeders’ Association (2008). Two Crops from One Acre: A Comprehsnive Guide to using Shropshire Sheep for Grazing Tree Plantations. Available Online.

Townsend M (2012). Benefits of Trees on Livestock Farms. Woodland Trust Report. Grantham,Lincolnshire: Woodland Trust. Available Online.

UK BAP Biodiversity Reporting and Information Group (BRIG) (2010) Traditional orchards In: UK Biodiversity Action Plan; Priority Habitat Descriptions 89-91 (Ed. Ant Maddock) (Updated July 2010). Available Online.