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ACRES Scheme Requirements for Hedgerow and Tree Planting

02 February 2024
Type Media Article

Kevin O’Hara, Drystock Advisor, Teagasc Claremorris.

It is now time for farmers who joined Tranche 1 of ACRES, to sow a new hedgerow(s), native trees or orchards on their farm, if they selected any of these actions. These actions would have been decided over 12 months ago when the plan was originally drawn up, so some farmers may have to consult with their planner to get finalised locations and lengths required. A few interesting points about hedges and their geographical spread can be seen below.

  • Counties around the midlands and the border tend to have the highest density of hedgerows due to having smaller fields.
  • Cavan has the highest length of hedgerows per hectare.
  • Counties on the western seaboard have the lowest percentage of hedges because they have large areas of open upland which isn’t enclosed and generally due to climate and soil type hedges and trees do not grow well in these areas.
  • Counties like Donegal and Galway have a lot of stonewalls rather than hedgerows.

What is required for my ACRES Hedgerow?

The specification below is what is required by the Dept. of Agriculture, but it can also be a useful guide for anyone considering sowing a hedge who may not be in any scheme.

  1. Prepare the ground along a 1.5m wide strip to provide good soil conditions and as little competition from other vegetation as possible
  2. Between November and March plant a double staggered row with 5 plants per metre. One native species will now suffice due to a shortage of hedging available in the country.
  3. Identify 1 plant every 50m to be retained as a tree. This essentially means that this plant will not be cut and will be allowed to grow up and produce flowers and berry’s every summer and autumn which are essential for pollinators and wildlife on the farm.
  4. Ensure the hedgerow is protected from livestock using an appropriate fence at least 1m out from the new hedgerow. This fence will need to be moved out further as the hedge grows and expands. The type of fencing required will depend on the types of livestock on the farm. One row of electric may be sufficient for cattle but on sheep farms either sheep wire or multiple lines of electric will be needed as sheep’s wool can be very damaging to young saplings.
  5. Plants must be of a Native breed (whitethorn can now be non-native origin) and purchased from registered producers or growers. Receipts and batch certs should be retained as these may be needed in cases of inspection. It is critical that adequate numbers of plants are purchased to meet the scheme requirements. For example, 250 plants for a 50m hedge
  6. Keep free of weeds until the plants have established. This is critical in year one and two as often struggling plants will be over grown by weeds such as briars and rushes which can in turn cause them to fail. Annual weed maintenance is required until the hedgerow is fully established. Failed or dead plants have to be replaced in the following planting seasons. All of the above must be completed by 31/03/2024

What is required for my Native Tree Planting?

This can be either one of 4 options,

  1. Traditional orchard which consists of 10 native apple trees.
  2. Planting trees in Riparian buffer zones. These were to be sown in areas vulnerable to pollution and used to stop runoff into nearby streams. Many farmers took on this action as it gained them Tier 2 access if over 10 trees were applied for. Up to 200 trees were allowed in this action.
  3. Tree planting for ammonia capture. This was usually sown around a yard to reduce air pollution.
  4. Native tree planting. This was another popular option as any farmer who planted 100 trees also gained tier 2 access to the scheme.

All of the above actions have very similar requirements. All actions must be completed by 31/03/2024 and all trees must be protected from livestock in the form of fencing and must have a staked tree shelter (with the exception of scots pine). All trees must be of native origin from a registered grower with relevant documentation retained similar to the hedgerow requirements. These trees can be sown in small corners while some farmers are sowing trees in lines along boundaries or drains, whichever is more appropriate.

For exact locations to plant, types of trees or hedgerow species to plant and any further information contact your ACRES planner or read the ACRES tranche 1 specifications online.

Acres scheme hedgerow and tree planting