Argentan, june 2020
A constituent element of the Normandy landscape, hedgerows need to be replaced and improved to ensure they fully play their part – both economic and environmental. Renewal involves introducing new hedges or replenishing existing rows that are ageing. Every action serves various purposes. In a livestock farming system, hedgerows give shade for animals in summer, as well as acting as windbreaks and providing protection; in a cropping system, they attract auxiliary insects. Planted at the break in slopes, hedgerows are especially good for retaining soil during thunderstorms since they act as barriers and filters. Furthermore, developing hedgerow timber through the wood energy sector is a way of replacing fossil fuels and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
Introducing hedgerows must be well throught-out before starting. In addition to the challenges of planting, it’s also important to choose the right species and sequences, as well as the methods of implementation, types of mulch, and protective barriers.
This is why 35 farmers in the Argentan region turned to Bois Négoce Energie for help with their planting project. This project, which began in the summer of 2019, was completed in early 2020 thanks to significant support from the association A Tree For You and Conseil départemental de l’Orne (departmental council).
After a particularly rainy winter, preparatory work began in March: decompacting planting rows, breaking up the soil, then adding biodegradable mulch to protect the plants from drought and grass growth. Despite the Covid-19 health crisis, work has proceeded normally; agriculture has been largely unaffected by lockdown. The next step involved planting trees and shrubs, following specific sequences established according to the soil type, climate, and objectives of each farmer.
Fifteen different species were selected: high-stemmed trees like sessile oak, intermediates like field maple, and shrubs like hazel. In total, 11,020 trees and shrubs have been planted across 18 villages in the Argentan region.
This diversity is positive since it ensures each row introduced contributes, both directly and indirectly, to improving biodiversity. Further to introducing the trees, each one is wrapped with a protective sleeve to prevent wildlife (rabbits, hares, deer) from eating them. By June 2020, all the plantations were completed. Information panels set up on the sites present the projects and farmers involved.
Starting this first vegetative year, all these young plantations will adapt to their new environment by growing roots. The next steps will be mid-summer maintenance work and replacing any dead plants the following winter. As summer approaches, initial feedback from the farmers is positive. New requests for plantations on the territory have been received for several weeks now – confirming the beneficial impacts of this operation.
Planting hedgerows certainly has a bright green future in Normandy!
Written by Luc Bertrand