Hedgerow Stewardship Program
What is it?
Hedgerows are planted strips of trees, shrubs and grasses bordering the edges of farm fields. Historically, they were used as boundary markers and livestock fences – particularly in places like Europe. DFWT partners with farmers to plant hedgerows at the edges of fields to provide habitat for birds and pollinators, reduce wind erosion on soil, and support biodiversity on farmland.
Hedgerows also benefit the larger community by providing ecosystem services such as pollination of neighbouring fields and gardens, carbon storage, water filtration and wildlife habitat.
How does it benefit wildlife?
Hedgerows provide year-round wildlife habitat along the margins of farm fields, as well as corridors that allow small mammals and birds to move under cover between habitats. More than half of the bird species found on typical farmland can be attributed to hedgerows, even though they may make up only a small portion of the farm. In areas with few woods, many species of birds depend on hedgerows for their survival.
Studies show that there is greater diversity of plants and organisms – above and below ground – on farmland with hedgerows, than farmland without. Hedgerows provide nesting and foraging habitat for:
- Songbird and raptor species such as Red-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles
- A wide variety of small mammals
- A host of beneficial insects, including pollinators like bumble bees, and predators like lacewings, ladybugs, ground beetles, parasitoid wasps, and syrphid flies
How does it benefit farmers?
Farmland is expensive and scarce, and removing productive land to plant a hedgerow is a difficult decision. However, hedgerows have been shown to increase farm profitability through improved crop pollination and reductions in insecticide applications. One study found that the costs of establishing a hedgerow can be recuperated within seven years, and that every subsequent year resulted in increased profits.
- Create microclimates that help to improve field productivity
- Act as wind barriers, preventing soil erosion
- Reduce crop damage from pests and the amount of insecticide required for pest control by providing habitat for beneficial, predatory insects
- Improve crop pollination by providing habitat for native bees
- Create shaded resting places for livestock
- Help rainwater infiltrate into the soil and improve the soil’s water holding capacity
- Capture nutrients in the soil that might otherwise be leached out through flooding or pooling water
How do DFWT and farmers work together to deliver the program?
The Hedgerow Stewardship Program promotes the planting of native trees and shrubs on farmland. DFWT partners with farmers to cover the full cost of planting a hedgerow, including plant material, planting, and the installation of drip irrigation and mulching.
What our research shows:
- Hedgerows provide habitat for native bees. Optimal crop pollination occurs when both native bees and honey bees are used to pollinate crops. Honey bees can’t replace wild bees – research shows that wild pollinators are needed to reduce pollination deficits (the loss of potential crop yield as a result of suboptimal pollination).
- Yields for two common varieties of highbush blueberry in the Lower Mainland could potentially increase by 30% if pollination deficits were eliminated.
- A review of 72 independent case studies found that landscapes with higher proportions of semi-natural areas had fewer pests and higher pest control in fields.
- Research in the UK suggests that bird diversity increases in and near hedgerows.
Want to learn more?
DFWT has partnered with the University of British Columbia (UBC) in a multi-year study to assess the impact of grass margins, hedgerows and grassland set-asides on beneficial insects and pests. The study also explores the benefits of native flowering plants on overall farm management. You will be able to read more about the results of this study in the coming year.