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Hedge and Tree Planting Requirements for ACRES Tranche 1

Hedge and Tree Planting Requirements for ACRES Tranche 1

Martina Donnelly, B&T Drystock Adviser, Teagasc Galway/Clare, tells us that many farmers have now begun preparing for their tree and hedge planting options under ACRES, and explains the hedge and tree planting requirements of the scheme.

The dates for the completion of these options for ACRES tranche 1 is the 31st March 2024. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 farmers will plant 2,000km of new hedges under ACRES adding to Ireland’s extensive network of hedgerows. Farmers will also plant trees, orchards, trees in a riparian zone and also tree belts for ammonia capture from farmyards. 

Hedge Planting

The new hedge must consist of at least 5 plants per metre in a double staggered row. All newly planted hedgerows must be protected from livestock with an appropriate permanent stockproof fence. This fence may need to be moved out further as the hedgerow grows and expands. Grass and other vegetation must be controlled around the plants annually to aid establishment. Plant one tree at least every 50m and let mature without cutting or you can leave a hedgerow species mature into a tree every 50 metres. These should be protected with a tree guard or shelter. Prepare the ground along at least 1.5m wide strip to provide good soil conditions and as little competition from other vegetation as possible.

There have been some amendments to the planting of hedges for ACRES. Due to the increased demand for hedgerow plants, the Department of Agriculture have announced that participants who select the Whitethorn species as their chosen hedgerow species, will no longer have to meet the Irish Provenance or Irish Origin requirement when purchasing plants from DAFM registered professional operators. This amendment relates only Whitethorn species only; it does not encompass the other seven hedgerow species that are listed in the specification documents for the hedge planting action. It is also no longer a requirement to plant at least three species or to have not more than 85% of one species making up the total. Other suitable species include blackthorn, dog rose, guelder rose, hazel, holly, spindle and alder buckthorn that can be incorporated into hedges and all are very suited to being planted within a hedge, each bringing their own ecological benefits.

Planting Trees

Trees can be planted in either rows, groups or parkland. Trees should be pit planted in a vegetation free area. Clear the area prior to planting so plants are planted on a weed free area.

Purchased trees must be a minimum of 60cm in height. Plant at least 3 native tree species of which not more than 25 per cent of trees planted to be Scots pine. Maintain at least 4 metre spacing between each tree.  All trees need to be fitted with a staked tree shelter except for Scots Pine. These should be a minimum 75cm in height. The table below lists the trees allowable under this measure.

Tree Belts for Ammonia Capture from Farmyards

The objective of this measure is to capture ammonia emissions from livestock housing or uncovered slurry stores by directing the emissions into the tree belt and through the main canopy.

Planting of the tree belt must be completed by 31 March 2024. The tree belt must be fenced off to protect from livestock. All purchased trees must be a minimum of 60cm in height and planted at a minimum 3 metre spacing between each tree. Minimum number of trees is 1 per 10m2 of tree belt area. All plants must be of Irish Origin/Irish Provenance and purchased from DAFM registered professional operators. The table below lists the trees allowable under this measure.

Planting a Traditional Orchard

Applicants that selected this measure must create an orchard of at least 0.05 hectares by planting 10 traditional fruit trees before 31 March 2024. The orchard must be fenced off from livestock with a fit for purpose permanent fence. Trees must be spaced at least 5 metres apart. Plants must be purchased from DAFM registered professional operators. All trees planted must be of Irish provenance.

Planting Trees in Riparian Buffer Zones

The objective of this measure is to protect water quality by enhancing nutrient uptake while also supporting biodiversity. Riparian buffer zones will benefit from the planting of appropriate tree species to enhance erosion interception and provide improved bank stability. Over time the roots of the tree and the tree canopy will intercept subsurface and aerial pollutant pathways.

Purchased trees must be a minimum of 60cm in height. All trees must be fitted with a staked tree shelter of a minimum 75cm in height. The minimum spacing between trees is 2 metres.

With all these measures grass and other competing vegetation must be controlled. Under all the measures detailed trees must be protected with appropriate fencing. Also, failed plants must be replaced at the next planting season. Contact your local tree supplier soon to ensure supply.

Common name Scientific name Common name Scientific name
Alder Alnus glutinosa Sessile oak Quercus petraea
Strawberry tree Arbutus unedo Pedunculate oak Quercus robur
Silver birch Betula pendula Goat willow Salix caprea
Downy birch Betula pubescens Grey willow Salix cinerea
Hazel Corylus avellana Bay willow Salix pentandra
Holly Ilex aquifolium English whitebeam Sorbus anglica
Crab apple Malus sylvestris Where possible, Mc Griggors (Crab) Cavan Sweet (Crab) Lough Key (Crab) Whitebeam Sorbus aria
Scots pine Pinus sylvestris Rowan Sorbus aucuparia
Black poplar Populus nigra Irish whitebeam Sorbus Hibernica
Aspen Populus tremula Rock whitebeam Sorbus rupicola
Wild cherry Prunus avium Wych elm Ulmus glabra
Bird cherry Prunus padus