20 December 2019

Field margin Saya Harvey farm East Midlands

The aim:

To increase the number and size of hedgerows to increase carbon storage and sequestration in above- and below-ground biomass.

The actions:

  • Grow larger hedgerows
  • Plant new hedgerows
  • Use hedgerows as a source of wood fuel to replace fossil fuels.

The results:

For the business:
Well managed hedges provide a wide range of on farm benefits including improved pollination through habitat creation, shelter for livestock and reductions in soil erosion. They also intercept pollutants improving air and water quality and can help with flood alleviation.
See Hedgelink for advice on making the best use of hedgerows in the farmed environment.

Savings can be made with reduced flailing. Using wood fuel can reduce energy bills and generate income from the sale of woodchip.

For net zero:
Hedgerows sequester carbon above and below ground, both in woody growth and in soils. Estimates of the carbon stock of UK hedgerows (based upon above-ground biomass) range between about 15 tonnes of carbon per hectare (tC/ha) for short hedges (1.5m height) and 30-40 tC/ha for tall hedges (2.7m), with an similar amount of carbon in below-ground biomass. Hedges across slopes capture eroding soil and can increase soil organic carbon up to 60m uphill.

The carbon sequestration potential of hedges is a relatively new area of study. Different hedgerows will sequester carbon at different rates. CFE is working with Hedgelink and others to quantify exact rates of sequestration. What we do know for certain is that hedges sequester and store carbon, so clarification on exact data should not prevent action. Our advice to farmers is to start growing larger hedges now. As data becomes available this page will be updated.


Grow larger hedgerows - Allowing hedgerows to grow larger and wider will build up carbon stocks. Try and cut every two or preferable three years, and incrementally raise the cutting height. his will also save on labour and machinery costs.

Piggy Bank

Daily calendar

Restore damaged hedgerows - Unmanaged, over-trimmed or neglected hedges can be restored.
It is not possible for a hedge to remain at the same point indefinitely (well managed hedges still require rejuvenation) and hedgerows are best managed dynamically to reflect this.

The Hedgerow Management Cycle is a useful starting point for hedgerow management. It is a 10-point scale based on the physical characteristics of a hedge. A ‘healthy’ hedge is thick and bushy, with many interwoven branches (point 5 on the scale). Click here for more on hedgerow management.


Daily calendar

Plant new hedgerows - It is best to plant along existing boundaries, fill the gaps in any existing hedgerow network or join up other woody and scrub habitats. See Natural England’s guide to planting hedgerows for more information.



Allows trees to grow within hedgerows to increase long-term carbon storage. Trees can be marked with tape or coloured rags so hedge cutting contractors know to avoid them. More guidance on trees.


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Use hedges as wood fuel
Hedges and hedgerow trees can be managed by coppicing for wood fuel<, a renewable energy source, that can replace fossil fuel usage. Total carbon gains from this may be higher than when simply allowing hedges to grow larger to build carbon stocks. The wood can either be used directly in log-burning stoves or chipped for use (where suitable) in biomass burners and boilers. Information on wood fuel can be found here.

Piggy Bank/Coins***

Daily calendar

(10-20 year cycle)

*Grants for hedgerow management and planting are available through Countryside Stewardship, a scheme which is continuing until 2023.

**The Woodland Trust’s MOREhedges programme will subsidise up to 75% of the cost of planting 100-250 metres of new hedgerows allowing a large tree to grow every six metres.

***Biomass boilers are included in the New Green Homes Grant for homeowners and also eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, designed to financially reward households using renewable energy.

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