Ridgeway is Going Green: Tree Planting for Earth Day

Protecting our environment and reducing our carbon footprint are extremely important to us here at Ridgeway Research. We work closely with the agricultural sector and know how essential holding back climate change is. As global temperature increases and biodiversity loss is accelerated, agriculture is feeling the pinch.

Carbon dioxide emissions

With technology the way it is, at the moment, carbon emissions are an unfortunate fact of life. Although renewable energy and sustainable processes are developing all the time, in the UK we still rely on fossil fuels for around 41% of our power, although this is down from 78% in 2019. As a result, it is crucial that we mitigate this as much as possible.

In 2015, as part of the Paris Agreement, the UK pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. Across the country, businesses and individuals are changing their ways to make this happen. Here at Ridgeway, we have set ourselves the target of reaching carbon neutrality in the next five years. This means that our carbon footprint will be net zero and any emissions we do produce will be offset.

Last week, we talked about regenerative agriculture and how soil quality can have a huge impact on farming. This week, we’re taking a look at the one of the steps Ridgeway is taking to reach our carbon goals.

Tree planting

Tree planting is a team effort!
Tree planting is a team effort!

Planting trees is one of the best known and most effective ways of combating climate change. Trees store carbon by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. This carbon then stays in the tree until it eventually dies and decomposes – hopefully many years later! Much of the UK’s forests have been lost but there are many different initiatives to plant more trees and start bringing them back.

As part of our ongoing scheme to be more green, last week we celebrated Earth Day with a tree planting party! We gathered our spades, saplings, tree guards and watering cans and marched into the hay field.

After a quick demo on how to plant saplings, we got to work. The field we were planting in has a long history of use as a hay field or for livestock. These days, the hedge is a little threadbare, so we used this opportunity to firm up the boundary with 70 oak saplings and 10 hazel saplings.

Why these species?

Huge and ancient oak trees are a quintessential part of the British countryside. While our saplings are only tiny at the moment, they are already starting to take root and build up the extensive root systems they will need to thrive. While they take around 30-40 years to reach full size, these beautiful trees can live for over 500 years. Oaks are not just beautiful, but extremely valuable too. Their root systems grow particularly fast when the trees are young, shielding topsoil from erosion and protecting watersheds. As native trees, they cope well with seasonal changes and survive through harsh winters and hot summers. Fully grown trees provide complex habitats that support wildlife and provide shade for livestock. Oak trees actually support greater biodiversity than any other native tree species in the UK.

We gave each sapling a tree guard to protect it from predators.
We gave each sapling a tree guard to protect it from predators.

Hazel, on the other hand, is a relatively fast-growing tree. It is popular as a hedge tree because of its hardy nature and fast growth even on poor quality soil. Hazel is extremely popular with local wildlife too, from deer and rabbits which will happily eat new shoots and bark, to squirrels and birds who enjoy the hazelnuts older trees produce. Coppiced tree are perfect nesting sites for ground birds like nightjars and willow warblers, and the rare and vulnerable dormouse has long been associated with these trees.

Protecting saplings

After a few hours of digging, all our saplings were in the ground. But young saplings are prone to damage, especially from the aforementioned rabbits! To protect them, we placed tree guards around each sapling. Then it was time to water them. With some skilful manoeuvring of the company tractor, the team were able to carry large barrels of water to the field. Filling our watering cans from the barrels, each tree received a thorough sousing and we were done!

Tree planting is just the start

Planting trees is just a small part of Ridgeway’s plan to go carbon neutral. While moving any commercial enterprise towards sustainability is no small undertaking, we are fully committed to our vision for the future. Watch this space for more on what we’re doing and the climate issues that affect the wider agricultural community.