THE grant rate for the manual and mechanical control of bracken in Scotland will be more than tripled. 

Scottish Forestry officials have confirmed the payment will rise from £225 to £720 per hectare, in a bid to increase the country's woodland creation levels. 

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

READ MORE: Croft Woodlands Project brings bounty of trees to Scotland’s Western Isles

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.

Forestry Journal: Mairi Gougeon confirmed the news on Wednesday Mairi Gougeon confirmed the news on Wednesday

“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 we have reported, the country only created around 8,000 hectares of new woodland last year, the first time the figure had fallen below 10,000 ha/annum in half a decade. 

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

Meanwhile, new crofts are set to be created on land previously transferred from Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) to the local community. 

Glengarry Community Woodlands (GCW) and the Communities Housing Trust (CHT), which between them acquired 70 ha of land through FLS’s Community Asset Transfer Scheme in September 2022, have submitted a planning application for six homes to Highland Council.

Forestry Journal: FLS officials recently visited the croft sites FLS officials recently visited the croft sites (Image: FLS)

The proposed Lower Ardochy development includes four affordable homes and two woodland crofts with croft houses.