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Hedgerow Management

Hedges offer farmers, crofters and landowners the opportunity to enhance farm natural capital reserves without compromising productive farmland or creating new farm habitats. Creation and management of these important linear features can have a series of important benefits, including:

  • Increased farmland biodiversity
  • Improved livestock productivity
  • Farmland biosecurity
  • Increasing resilience to climate change.

Promote Biodiversity

Farmland birds have seen a significant decline since the 1950s. The addition of hedgerows on your farm can help birds like the skylark and lapwing bounce back. Hedgerows provide birds with what is collectively known as ‘the big three’:

  1. Access to invertebrate-rich habitats to feed their chicks during the breeding season.
  2. Seeds and berries to sustain populations throughout the winter.
  3. Safe places to nest and rear chicks.

At Old Leckie Farm they have seen significant benefits in terms of nature value from subdividing fields with hedges. In this video, Fergus Younger and Sandra Stewart of Farming and Conservation discuss the multitude of benefits hedge planting has brought to Old Leckie.

You can read more about Old Leckie Farm here.

Improve Livestock Productivity

Hedgerows provide shade and shelter from the weather improving not only the health and welfare of livestock but overall productivity. For example, hedges offer shelter from poor weather which reduces exposure in young lambs. Similarly, the shelter in the summer ensures that fertility and growth rates of livestock are not compromised.

Ensure Biosecurity

Hedges between fields particularly on the boundary between you and your neighbour can prevent nose-to-nose contact of animals reducing the spread of diseases such as Bovine Viral Diarrohea. A thick stockproof hedge can also be of value as the boundary in an isolation field to keep purchased stock separate from your current flock/herd when they initially move onto the farm.

Increase Your Farm's Resilience

Hedges have an important role to play in water absorption. The deep roots of hedges help soils absorb a greater quantity of water reducing the quantity of water that will run off the surface. This has additional benefits in terms of reducing soil erosion and preventing sediment reaching burns and rivers. As the climate changes and we experience increased rainfall, hedges offer a real advantage to protecting farmland and crops from flooding and soil erosion.

We have developed a range of materials to aid and inform decision making. These materials include Technical Note (TN738); a podcast with countryside manager Nigel Adams, and a video highlighting some of the benefits and important factors to consider when managing farmland hedges

Next Steps & Useful Resources

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of adding hedgerows to your farm. We’d recommend reviewing our technical note on hedges or our practical guide

The peoples trust for endangered species have a wealth of information on their website.

Hedgelink is a resource where people and organisations can share knowledge and approaches about how to cultivate hedges throughout the UK.

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