Managing traditional hedges for biofuel
12th European International Farming Systems Association (IFSA) Symposium, Social and technological transformation of farming systems: Diverging and converging pathways
With around 700,000 km, hedges are the most widespread semi-natural habitat in lowland Britain. As well as being an important landscape feature in their own right, hedges fulfil many functions and are increasingly recognised for their importance in regulating environmental processes. However, the 2007 Countryside Survey found that just 68% of Britain’s hedges are managed. Recent research has sought to address this by investigating the economic potential of using biomass from hedgerow management for local energy or heat production. This work has brought farm hedges back into focus and sought to answer questions about whether biomass can be sustainably and economically harvested from hedgerows, and as such, whether hedges can be a viable source of woodfuel? Here we outline the results of trials carried out in Southern England to assess the efficiency, cost and viability of coppicing hedges as a local and sustainable source of woodfuel. Machinery and methods were tested at different scales and the impacts on the local environment assessed. Building on work in South West England and Northern France the trials demonstrated that that hedges can be managed effectively and economically to produce woodfuel of reasonable quality which meets industry standards. However, the introduction of coppice management of hedges for woodfuel is likely to have both positive and negative impacts on the wildlife of individual hedges and on biodiversity at a landscape scale. To addressthis, alongside the trials a protocol was developed to assess the likely impacts on biodiversity of managing hedgerows for woodfuel.
Author(s): Westaway, S, Chambers, M, Crossland, M, Wolton, R, Smith, J
Journal: 12th European International Farming Systems Association (IFSA) Symposium, Social and technological transformation of farming systems: Diverging and converging pathways