22 Nov 2023

Boost for bracken control

Scottish Forestry is more than tripling the grant rate for the manual and mechanical control of bracken in Scotland in order to help grow new woodlands.

The increase in grant funding will be particularly helpful to farmers and crofters who are wanting to expand their woodlands onto ground which is covered by the fern.

The new Forestry Grant Scheme rate for the mechanical and manual control of bracken has been increased from £225 to £720 per hectare.

Announcing the new grant increase at AgriScot today (22 Nov), Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:

“Bracken is the most common fern in the UK and is widespread in Scotland’s rainforest zone. It’s often found on sites well suited to growing trees where it spreads and regenerates very quickly, making it very difficult and costly for anyone wishing to establish a new woodland.

“There is a great deal of interest from farmers and crofters who wish to integrate trees into their businesses. The tripling of the grant rate will make a significant contribution to the costs involved in controlling bracken at a time when the cost of living is proving difficult.

“Ultimately this will help in getting new trees in the ground, resulting in a welcome boost to our yearly woodland creation targets.”  

The chemical control of bracken using Asulox was not authorised for use this season because of the risks it poses to the environment and human health. Mechanical and manual methods, involving machine or hand rolling, cutting or whipping, are being used instead.

The boost to tackling bracken is part of a series of measures that were previously announced back in June aimed at supporting new woodland creation in Scotland.  

As part of these measures, improvements have been made to riparian and agroforestry planting, as well as to community engagement and consultation guidance.

In addition, a £1 million investment in Scottish Forestry staff is being undertaken to speed up woodland creation scheme approvals and events have taken place to promote the integration of trees on farms.

The increase in support for bracken control also comes in advance of the Woodland Creation Summit which is to be held in Perthshire on 12th December.  

Industry leaders from the forestry, environmental, land-use and community sectors will convene for the summit to explore new opportunities to increase woodland creation rates, be it by planting or natural regeneration. The event is being organised and managed by the Institute of Chartered Foresters.

Scotland has very ambitious woodland creation targets which are rising year on year – reaching 18,000 ha of new woodland by 2024/5. To achieve these targets will need a collective effort from government, landowners, the forestry and environment sectors, communities, farmers and crofters.