In the French Département of Haute-Saône, a group of farmers is working with locals to take advantage of the different services that hedges can bring: for the environment, the economy and animal welfare.
A true windbreaker, hedges protect soils from erosion. The trees and plants that it is composed of maintain humidity levels and bring fertility thanks to the soil created from dying leaves. This is a living environment for numerous animal species, particularly insectivores (toads, lizards, blackbirds, ladybugs, chickadees, etc.), limiting predators in the fields they border.
Hedges allow farms to be more resilient in the face of climate change. In summer and in winter, the temperatures are milder in hedges. It isolates cold in the winter and provides shade in the hot summer, a measure of animal welfare in livestock.
The wood created there can be ground to create mulch in the place of straw when the herd comes in for the winter. The chopped mulch is more economical (€48 per ton), is healthier for the animals because it better absorbs excrement and limits the spread of pathogens. Mulch also remains drier for longer and frees up more time for farmers. Hedges are also a source of food for animals and humans. When prairies are dry in the summer, the leaves of trees that remain green become an important food source, for example.
In order that all of the positive applications of hedges remain, they must be correctly maintained. There is an entire ecosystem around tree that must be sustained, both in environmental terms by the habitats it provides, and in economic ways through the materials that can be used. A hedge can help farmers from one generation to the next.