Belts & Blocks: Making the Distinction

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Undertaking an environmental planting carbon project is a valuable tool to unlock new revenue streams on your farm and improve on-farm productivity.


When it comes to environmental planting projects, there are a few different planting designs you might ponder, however, two commonly used under the Reforestation by Environmental or Mallee Plantings FullCAM Method are block plantings and belt plantings.


Let’s break down each…



Pros: cost-effective & simple


Block plantings consist of more than a single row of trees and shrubs, and do not otherwise have very onerous design requirements. Planting blocks of trees can help you achieve scale more easily, benefitting the farmer’s back pocket. They have minimal size and shape restrictions compared to belts and are therefore highly applicable and versatile across a range of farm landscapes.   


Block plantings can be designed to target certain soil types, making preparation and management consistent across the block. Planting in bulk, block configurations can also be more cost-effective, and easier to manage.


If you wish to reinstate livestock grazing throughout the block, in the form of a silvopastoral system, the area will need to be protected for a few years while tree cover is established, before livestock can then be reintroduced.



Pros: higher yield & integrative (i.e. two birds, one stone)


Belts plantings are generally in long, linear shapes, and can be either narrow or wide. They often perform functions as shelterbelts, wildlife corridors and windbreaks, and may run along fence lines, through or beside paddocks, or connecting sections of remnant vegetation. 


Belts are less flexible than block plantings – narrow belts must be no wider than 22m, and wide belts must be no wider than 42m. The long side of a belt must also be located 40m from other trees.


The reason for these restrictions is that a belt planting generates a higher yield of carbon by anywhere between 30 – 40%. The theory is that trees in this configuration sequester more carbon due to less competition, more access to light and therefore the opportunity to grow and draw down carbon with more vigour. While the yield may be greater, the restrictions do limit the area you can cover – so there is a trade-off. 


What is a shelterbelt?

Shelterbelts are used in livestock grazing systems to provide varied benefits including shelter from the elements, perennial fodder growth, nitrogen fixation and other benefits to the soil and therefore surrounding pasture. 


What are the benefits of a shelterbelt? 

An initiative from the ANU called Sustainable Farms found that shelterbelts can: 

  • Reduce windspeeds and windchill
  • Boost pasture production for livestock by up to 8%
  • Reduce mortality of lambs by 10%
  • Increase wool production by more than 30% and weight gain in livestock by more than 20%
  • Reduce populations of pest invertebrates like the red-legged earth mite.
  • Can enhance soil fertility
  • Mitigate the effects of soil erosion and salinity
  • Provide habitat for animals, increase biodiversity
  • Provide an ecosystem for services like pollination and natural pest control.


What is a windbreak?

Windbreaks are more often associated with cropping land, where planting strips of trees provides a semi-permeable break from wind – a major cause of topsoil erosion in broadacre cropping. 

A handy resource! Check out Sustainable Farm’s website for effective belt design considerations.


Reducing audits costs with the Environmental Plantings Pilot

The Clean Energy Regulator has also made it more affordable to participate in the Reforestation by FullCAM method by creating the Environmental Plantings Pilot. This is largely the same as the Reforestation method, except participants must use generic block plantings, plant mixed environmental species only (not Mallees) and the project must be no greater than 200 hectares. 


The advantage of using the Pilot method is that auditing is performed by the Regulator’s remote-sensing technology, reducing audit costs to zero. As audits are a big ongoing expense for carbon projects, removing this cost may improve the viability of small-scale projects significantly. 


Again, there is a trade-off if you decide to go down this path. You will need to decide whether the value of zeroing out audit costs outweighs the improved carbon yield of integrating belt plantings in project design.   


Making the right call for you

Ultimately, we recommend you let your overall tree planting objectives guide whether belts, blocks or a mix are the right choices for your farm.  All planting of trees will have co-benefits for your land, and it’s important to choose a planting style that will suit your current farming operation. 


Some other handy resources 

Could a native tree project work at your place? We have a bunch of nifty resources that further explain how to assess your tree planting opportunity and how CFF’s DIY approach can best support you. 


Keen to dip your toes into carbon farming?

If you’re keen to explore your farm’s potential carbon profitability? Get in contact with us to start the process.  


We will look at the profitability of your farm through our signature heatmaps, then can explore your whole farm potential in a more detailed environmental planting carbon feasibility report. This report unpacks the full practical and financial considerations to give you an understanding of the returns, costs and benefits of an environmental planting carbon project on your property. This feasibility is tailored to your property and covers everything from when the best time to plant the trees to tips to lower your overheads. 


Keen to hear more?

Explore our range of educational resources in our Carbon Farming Education Hub where we frequently publish educational articles, webinars, and guidebooks. 


When you’re ready to explore the feasibility of undertaking a carbon project on your property, email us at or give us a bell at (08) 6835 1140 to be connected with one of our project facilitators.

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