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New hedges on tillage farms

A new hedge, 1.2 km in length, was planted on the Teagasc Crops Research Farm in Oak Park last spring in March 2020. Catherine Keena, John Hogan and Michael Hennessy outline the steps taken to plant and establish new hedges in Oak Park which can be replicated on tillage farms around the country

Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist, John Hogan, Farm Manager, Teagasc Oak Park and Michael Hennessy, Head of Teagasc Crops KT discuss planting new hedges on tillage farms.

How it was done

A new hedge, 1.2 km in length, was planted on the Teagasc Crops Research Farm in Oak Park last spring in March 2020.  The ground was sprayed off with glyphosate to get rid of all the perennial weeds, scutch grass and whatever. First of all a 3 m wide strip was ploughed, cultivated with a power harrow, got a nice level seedbed and planted directly into that by slit planting using a spade.  

Bare rooted plants were used at six plants per m in a double staggered row. There are two types of hedge - a low diversity and a high diversity hedge in 50 m lengths. The low diversity hedge has 6 plants per m: 5 whitethorn and 1 blackthorn. The high diversity hedge has 5 whitethorn and a mixture of guelder rose, spindle, holly, crab apple interspersed through that hedge.

Left to Right: Whitethorn, blackthorn, guelder rose, spindle, holly and crab apple

Mulching and Irrigation

When planted, mushroom mulch was spread, as much to keep in the moisture as to keep down the weeds. The spring was very dry so the hedge was irrigated using a slurry tanker to drive alongside the hedge with the pipe converted at an angle and kept it well watered for good establishment. There was a very good establishment, with very few losses. It is expected that the hedge will supress the weeds and blank out any growth. There’s no doubt that this hedge will bring a lot of biodiversity into the farms, as indeed has another relatively new hedge planted twenty years ago.

Tillage Environment

In general tillage farmers have become more aware of hedges, habitats and biodiversity on their farms and increasingly are trying to manage them a little better. Some may be over- managed at present but in general farmers want to do a better job for the environment.

Many tillage farms with a good rotation including oilseed rape and beans combined with hedges and field margins have a wide diversity and combination of habitats. A well-managed margin allows more space for the hedge to do its job and also provides cultural or biological weed control for problem grass weeds such as sterile brome. Hedges and grassy margins on a tillage farm can act like corridors or networks for nature through the farm for birds and bats and bees and live alongside the tillage crops, complimenting the crops.

All Hedgerow Week information is available here