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John Dunne September/October 2023



  • Riparian Buffer Strips – An action to improve water quality
  • Management of the Extensively grazed Pasture
  • New hedgerow planting - environmental benefits and planning starts now for planting in spring 2024


Riparian Buffer Strips

A Riparian Margin is the land that lies adjacent to rivers and streams and other bodies of surface water. The objective of riparian margins is to protect the river by creating linear buffer zones where little or no agricultural activity takes place thereby helping to intercept nutrients transported via overland flow and stabilises the riverbank. These areas also provide suitable habitats for biodiversity and help to take carbon out of the atmosphere. 

Fenced Riparian Buffer Zones adjacent to watercourses, rivers and streams act to protect the water by creating linear buffer zones where little or no agricultural activity takes place. In turn these areas;

  • Intercept nutrient, sediment and pesticide before reaching the waterbody,
  • Prevent livestock from accessing river banks and watercourse, thus helping reduce erosion and sediment addition to the watercourse,
  • Provide a natural habitat for flora and fauna to establish and allow for greater biodiversity in the area,
  • Serve as carbon sinks as the growth of vegetation will store carbon in undisturbed soils


 Picture 1: John has put in 2973m of fencing to create a riparian margin 

Picture 2: The vegetation in the riparian margin will be allowed to grow naturally

Management of Extensively Grazed Grassland

John has 8.3ha of lowland type grassland adjacent to the river Barrow. It is an area of unimproved grassland and due to its location along the river is liable to some flooding .  As a result John applies no slurry to this area and it is grazed during the summer months. It is an area that is very suitable for this action. Under the acres scheme , John must abide by the following conditions;


  • No ploughing, cultivation, reseeding or drainage;
  • No mowing or topping between March 15th and July 1st;
  • Maximum nitrogen (N) application is 40kg N/ha (organic or chemical);
  • No pesticides or herbicides (except spot spraying of noxious weeds or invasive alien species);
  • Rushes can be controlled by topping, grazing, weed wiping or spot spraying after July 1st;
  • Where no natural barrier exists, any watercourse present must be fenced at least 1.5m from the top of the bank when bovines are present (drinking points are not permitted);
  • Do not cut hedges below 1.8m – escaped hedges should be side trimmed only – there is no requirement to cut hedges in ACRES; and,
  • No silage feeding is allowed. Hay may be fed to sheep

New Hedgerow Planting

Under his acres plan , John has to plant 95m of a new whitethorn hedge. This hedge will  be planted over the winter of 2023/2024 . John is making a few phone-calls to source and secure  his whitethorn plants  as there will be big demand for hedging in the new year.

Native species of native Irish provenance must be planted . This means the plants are grown in Ireland from seed collected from Irish trees. Species native to Ireland grown in another country from their seed act differently. Native Irish species are in tune with each other with timing of flowering suiting associated dependent species. Using native provenance hedging stock is better for biodiversity, reduces the health risk to our native trees and hedges .

John will have to decide what type of hedge would best suit the farm - either Topped or Escaped as below.

The majority of the existing hedgerow on the farm is in the “topped category” so to add variety the un-topped hedge could be an option for the new hedge.

 Picture 3: an example of an existing hedge with holly


 Picture 4: Great variety of plants in the existing hedges which provide valuable food sources and shelter

Picture 5: An example of an existing topped hedge on the farm 

Picture 6: Variety of plant types adds to the biodiversity. Sow, holly, dog rose, spindle when planting the new hedge. 

Teagasc Best Practice when planting a new hedge;

  • Mark out the line of the new hedge using wire, twine or lime
  • Cultivate with a digger or mini-digger - to make it easier to plant and give plants a great start
  • Protect roots from drying out during planting by keeping plants in the bag until needed
  • Plant in a double staggered row – with 330mm (just over a foot) between the rows and the same between the plants within the rows – often the length of a boot
  • Plant to the same depth as was previously planted. Don’t bury the stem or expose the roots
  • Firm in
  • Identify a few whitethorn (maybe 5 / 100 m) to be retained as trees and protect with tree guards or shelters
  • Prune all other plants except holly down to an inch or so above ground level with a sloping cut to leave a sharp point
  • Push a 4 foot or 1.2m wide strip of compostable film or used silage plastic down neatly over the cut stumps.
  • Press the edges of the plastic into the ground to hold it down
  • Protect from livestock including rabbits if The aim is to remove that wire in a few years


For more info see link below