Teagasc remind farmers of the start of the hedge cutting cutting season
Hedgecutting time is here again. Young birds have flown the nest. This was the message to farmers attending a Teagasc Countryside Management Event in the Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Limerick on the topic of hedgerows and their maintenance. The next six months – 1 September to 1 March is the time for hedgerow management. Under Cross Compliance a penalty applies where there is disturbance to birds, their nests, or eggs are being deliberately disturbed at any time but particularly during the nesting season
Speaking at the event, Catherine Keena, Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist said the quest for neatness should not take precedence over ecological and landscape considerations. Increasing the variety of hedgerows on a farm in terms of height, width and shape promotes diversity in flora and fauna. Birds will only nest in hedgerows which provide adequate cover from predators. If we want birds and wildlife in hedgerows, best practice is to side trim to a triangular shape, leaving the peak as high as possible, sloping both sides from a wide base. This allows light to the base encouraging dense growth at ground level.
Ben Flanagan Teagasc adviser who organised the event said there was increasing awareness of the importance of the environmental benefits of hedgerows, which he attributed to REPS. There is a greater awareness of leaving trees such as ash. However few remember to retain a whitethorn sapling. In routinely cut hedgerows, only individual mature whitethorn trees produce flowers and fruit. The most important source of honey in Ireland is whitethorn flowers. And bees are incredibly important for the pollination of our crops. So it is important that every hedgerow contributes by leaving a new whitethorn sapling in every routinely trimmed hedgerow. Individual mature whitethorn trees provide flowers for insects and haws for birds. They are a very important of the Irish landscape which is a major attraction to visiting tourists as are our mature relict hedgerows which should be allowed to grow freely and naturally. Maintenance should be confined to the light trimming of the sides to curtail outward spread.