Hedgerows are very important habitats for wildlife and, needless to say, they must be maintained in good order if their value for biodiversity is to be retained, preserved and continued.
Fortunately, there is a wealth of helpful advice available from organisations like Teagasc, the state agency that provides advisory and educational services in the agriculture, horticulture, food and rural development sectors.
The hedgerow maintenance period is now in full swing and will continue to the end of February. The importance of farmers, landowners and machinery contractors cutting hedges in a way that promotes wildlife was highlighted at the recent launch of 'Teagasc Hedgerow Week' at that agency's Kildalton Agriculture and Horticulture College, Piltown, Co Kilkenny.
Andrew Doyle TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, launched the hedgerow event saying: "Hedgerows are important habitats for wildlife and play an important role in maintaining and improving the biodiversity in our countryside. I am delighted to launch this initiative and urge all farmers and contractors to follow best practice when maintaining hedges."
Teagasc Countryside Management Specialist, Catherine Keena said: "We are asking contractors and farmers who are trimming hedges to shape the hedge to a triangular profile from a wider base to allow light at the base, leaving the peak at least 1.5 metres (5 foot) from ground level, or the top of the hedge bank, and allow occasional thorn saplings to grow up into individual trees.
This will create the ideal conditions for birds to nest, providing cover from predators above and below the nest, and providing flowers in summer for bees and other pollinators, and berries in autumn for birds and small mammals". Catherine stressed 'the quest for neatness and tidiness should not override ecological considerations.
Francis Quigley, Machinery Specialist with Teagasc based at Kildalton, said; "We have met the contractor organisations, Farm Contractors Ireland (FCI) and PAC Ireland and they are very supportive of this initiative. We also have the support of FTMTA (Farm Tractor and Machinery Trade Association)."
Teagasc Director Professor Gerry Boyle concluded saying: "Hedgerows give the Irish landscape its distinctive character and field pattern. They provide important wildlife habitat for woodland flora and fauna, comprising invaluable networks for nature throughout the farmed landscape. Increasing the variety of hedgerow types in terms of height, width and shape promotes diversity in flora and fauna."
Landowners and contractors play a hugely important role in conserving our valuable hedgerow resources.