Continued support offsets hedge costs

As spring fieldwork kicks in perhaps it’s time to consider work on field boundaries as well.

The season for planting new hedge stock is typically November to March, according to specialist growers.

This is dependant on several factors such as leaf drop in winter and the appearance of new buds in spring defining the “optimum” planting conditions.

Although the new Entry Level and Higher Level Schemes for environment management offered within the framework of the Single Farm Payment will gradually replace all former Countryside Stewardship agreements, capital support remains unchanged.

New plantings are expected to come under the Higher Level Scheme, according to DEFRA.

Capitals costs are awarded on the basis of costs of 8.40/m, with producers receiving 60% or 5/m towards outgoings.

For the time being the status quo is maintained.

Suppliers say that hedge plant prices are keen at 13-15p/whip, supplied traditionally in bundles of 50 or 100 (see Sales & Services: Seeds & Plants in Marketplace).

As expected, demand from producers has been under par this winter as they juggle both finances and the adoption or transition to the new environmental scheme, report nursery managers.

Suggested costs for planting new stands vary from 2.80-3.50/m to include seed stock, guard and stake, say contractors.

That has remained largely unaltered for the past few years despite rising labour costs.

For some producers, the option to establish and manage field margins as a stop-gap may be considered under the new environment management options.

This does give a degree of flexibility to alter plans as farm businesses adjust to the new support era, admit nurseries, but hedgerows are an integral part of both farm infrastructure and countryside enhancement and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Despite this year’s disruption, it shouldn’t be forgotten that producers have already made a huge contribution to the re-establishment of hedgerows since the dark days of the mid-80s.

Back then grain prices were significantly higher and area aid payments and intervention fuelled farm incomes.

Today, with more emphasis on generating income from environment management the balance is returned in the hedgerow’s favour.

DEFRA statistics suggest since 2000 a substantial 17,500 miles of hedgerow have been planted and 1300 miles of dry and stone walls replaced.

Maintaining boundaries remains a key feature of farming and countryside landscapes and there’s still opportunity to undertake more plantings ahead of this spring.

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