Countryside Stewardship

The importance of planting hedging & trees

17 August, 2018
The importance of planting hedging & trees
The relaunched Countryside Stewardship Scheme includes a wealth of provisions for the planting of hedging, woodland, parkland and orchards. It’s estimated that an approximate 160,000 metres of hedging were removed between 1960 and 1985 in order to amalgamate fields, replace hedging with fences and to allow for road widening. The effects of this were not also environmental, but reinforced growing public misconceptions that farmers were responsible for destroying the countryside. The Countryside Stewardship Scheme provides support for farmers looking to change this approach and there are a number of reasons why you should consider planting this season.
Trees and hedgerows provide boundaries to both define ownership and divide fields whilst maintaining a sympathetic, natural appearance within the rural landscape. They can also provide valuable shelter for crops, game and livestock as well as creating excellent habitats and rich larders for birds, wildlife and insects. To take this a step further, conservation corridors can be created between areas of woodland separated by agricultural activity, creating vital links to improve genetic diversity and reduce the effects of habitat fragmentation. In addition, the visual amenity and security of buildings can be improved by planting trees and hedging to create natural screening and soften their impact on the surrounding area.

An increasing problem is the effect of our changing climate; high winds and heavy rain sweeping across ever larger fields can lead to flooding and soil erosion. The planting of trees and hedgerows helps to create a natural barrier to flood water, reduce sediment being drawn into watercourses and increase water absorption into the ground. They also capture pollutants contained in run-off such as fertilisers and pesticides and provide habitats for natural predators.

It is essential that hedges are maintained. One of the biggest challenges for song birds in the UK is loss of good quality hedgerows. This, together with monocultures of rye grass and crops, use of fertilisers, pesticides and reduction of habitat means that they have to work increasingly harder foraging to provide for young whilst needing to spend more time defending their nests against predators because the hedges are thinner. This skews the perceived effect of predators on song bird populations, making corvids appear to be a problem when actually the change in habitat is responsible for increased predation.
Wildflower hedgerow
There are also heritage benefits to replanting areas such as historic orchards or parkland. Retaining the character of the landscape brings aesthetic benefits by restoring an intrinsic feature of the countryside and provides a mosaic of habitats to support a range of plants and animals.

There are several keys to success and proper ground preparation is key prior to planting. Adequate protection from pests whilst the plants get established should not be underestimated either. Weeds can present a problem for newly established plants, particularly where guards are not used, as the application of herbicide is more difficult and weed removal has to be carried out by hand. AF works closely with our suppliers not only to source native species but to ensure that a range of plant and tree guards are available and our Crop Protection team are available to discuss any future herbicide requirements.
Farmers and land managers have until 31st August 2018 to submit an application for the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. If you need to discuss your planting scheme or would like to price a scheme up, get in touch with the team today.
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If you have any queries or would like to find out more please get in touch. 01603 881881Honingham Thorpe, Colton, Norwich, Norfolk NR9 5BZ