Great advice on managing hedgerows as hedgecutting season opens this week

The hedgecutting season opens this week and runs from September 1 until March 1, allowing farmers to manage hedges around the country.

New legislation to allow hedgecutting and burning at certain times on a two-year pilot basis was to be introduced this spring but was delayed due to the formation of a new Government.

Teagasc has said that the quest for neatness should not take precedence over ecological and landscape considerations.

No single method of management is appropriate for all. Consider the long-term effect of current management, it has advised.

It recommends drawing up a management plan for all hedgerows on a farm and to decide on objectives for sections of hedgerows.

Having a plan with objectives will prevent inappropriate management being carried out in the meantime.

Teagasc has the following advice for farmers when it comes to managing hedgerows:

Hedgerows with a dense base

Trim from a wide base with sloping sides to a triangular shape, leaving mature trees and new saplings, including thorns at irregular intervals.

‘Escaped’ hedgerows

‘Escaped’ hedgerows occur through lack of management and are hedgerows that have grown high and escaped, losing their dense base, but not yet becoming a line of mature trees with a full canopy.

These hedgerows are typically thin at the base with gaps and no longer stockproof. Allow grow into relict hedgerows (as below) or rejuvenate by laying or coppicing.

Relict hedgerows

Relict hedgerows are where the shrubs have grown to mature trees with a full canopy, while others have died out and have not been replaced, leaving large gaps.

Teagasc advises leaving these alone. The wildlife value of these relict hedgerows is in the canopy, which provides food, shelter, home and highway for bats, birds and other species.

It is too risky to rejuvenate by laying or coppicing. Fencing off stock from both sides prolongs their life by preventing deterioration by tramping through the gaps.