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Opportunities, barriers and constraints in organic techniques helping to improve the sustainability of conventional farming
Towards Eco-energetic Communities
Contract period:1 January 2013 to 31 December 2015
Main funder:INTERREG 4b NWE Programme/ Ashden Trust
Contact staff at ORC:Ms. Sally Westaway
Other staff involved:Meg Chambers, Mary Crossland,Jo Smith, Bruce Pearce, Catherine Gerrard, Laurence Smith
The aim of this project is to demonstrate that local short chain systems using biomass from landscape elements for local energy or heat production are economically feasible. Through realizing these short chain systems and bringing together experiences from different partners and regions in North Western Europe, we want to demonstrate that this currently unused biomass from landscape elements can contribute to local sustainable energy production, with respect to ecological, social and cultural aspects.
We have worked with farmers, land owners and the local community to develop a pilot energy co-operative using woody biomass from local landscape elements.
This pilot has been used as a platform to generate information to feed into the other project work packages. The ORC had a joint leadership role for Work Package 2 - assessing, monitoring and evaluating the impacts of the energetic use of landscape elements. We have been adapting the rapid assessment tool developed to assess UK organic systems to assess the sustainability impacts of harvesting energetic landscape elements, as well as developing new protocols to assess the impact of hedgerow coppicing for woodfuel on biodiversity
The project 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? Over the course of the project we have looked at these questions from various different angles investigating the impacts of hedge harvesting on our resident dormice population, hedgerow flora and soil carbon dynamics. We have tested machinery big and small to identify the best harvesting methods, weighed woodchip and measured our hedges, interviewed farmers and provided training and discussion forums to really get to the bottom of these questions.
The two main project outputs
The best practice guide is based on the machinery trials carried out on Elm Farm and Wakelyns Agroforestry. It also pulls together current and previous research, related projects, policy recommendations and management guidelines. The guide is aimed at farmers and landowners, agricultural and forestry contractors, conservation organisations and local authorities interested in managing hedges for woodfuel. It focuses on the logistics and practicalities as well as methods and machinery selection. It outlines how and why you might manage your hedges for woodfuel, includes advice on how to select appropriate hedges, how to plan the management, what the machinery and processing options are as well as the economics and any legal considerations.
The main objectives of the biodiversity protocol (see below) are to:
Project leader and partners
Regional Landscape Lage Kempen, Belgium
Hedgerow Biodiversity protocol 2015 (4 files)
Videos available on TWECOM website
ORC videos on youtube
All sources of funding