Socio-economic drivers of farm afforestation decision-making.

  • Mary Ryan
  • Cathal O’Donoghue Dean of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies, NUI Galway.
Keywords: Farm afforestation, decision-making, behaviour, carbon sequestration, GHG mitigation.


The decision to convert land from agriculture to forestry has previously been considered in a number of studies which have variously assessed attitudinal and economic factors affecting the afforestation decision. However, none of these studies has fully taken into account the heterogeneity of individual farms in Ireland, particularly in terms of farm and farmer characteristics. This review paper presents a summary of recent research undertaken by the authors which delves deeper into the economic decision-making process at the individual farm level by examining the characteristics of the farms and farmers that planted land and comparing them to those farms without forests over almost 30 years, using data from the Teagasc National Farm Survey. The results show that soil type and the agricultural market income and subsidies prevailing in the year of planting all have an effect on the economic attractiveness of afforestation. The potential relative returns to both agriculture and forestry on these farms was also investigated and was found to be a significant driver of the afforestation decision. The research presented also shows that the drivers of afforestation decisions may be influenced by contemporaneous farm management decisions. The results of an additional survey undertaken in 2012 highlight the magnitude of the challenge facing policy makers in designing afforestation incentive schemes as 84% of farmers surveyed would not consider planting in the future, regardless of the financial incentives offered. This challenge is particularly important in relation to national objectives to move to carbon neutral farming in the medium term. Drawing on the behavioural economics literature, the authors present a range of policy measures that go beyond financial incentives that could potentially increase afforestation rates.
How to Cite
Ryan, M. and O’Donoghue, C. (2016) “Socio-economic drivers of farm afforestation decision-making.”, Irish Forestry. Available at: (Accessed: 22July2024).