30 June 1995

Report shows benefits of three-year hedge cut

HEDGES should be cut with flail-type machines only, once every three years, and not on an annual basis, says the Devon Hedge Group.

A report commissioned by the group and produced by Silsoe College claims flailing once every three years can make sound economic sense and is more beneficial to wildlife.

The study assessed the financial implications of hedge management on a variety of farm situations – both stock and arable – and involved interviews with farmers and contractors.

Results reveal that the environmental gains of cutting on a three-year cycle outweigh higher costs. For slow growing hedges, such as those containing hawthorn, beech or oak, there is an overall saving of 15%, even taking into account reduced crop yield through shading. Costs are said to rise only where there are hedges containing fast-growing species such as ash, sycamore or willow.

The report has been welcomed by Exmoor Park Principal Conservation Officer David Lloyd. "This is good news – particularly for Exmoor where so many of the hedges are slow growing," says Mr Lloyd.

"Flailing once every three years will bring new life to them and provide a better environment for wildlife to flourish." &#42