Regularly flailing hedgerows is the “best possible practice” farmers can undertake to minimise their production of green waste when managing hedges, the Department of Agriculture has been told.

Flailing bushes also has the “significant added advantage” of increasing hedgerow biodiversity, as the flailed material is incorporated back into the hedge, rather than being gathered up by farmers.

The Irish BioEnergy Association (IrBEA) was commissioned to compile a study on the sustainable management of green waste, where it outlined the alternatives to burning that farmers can use when maintaining hedges.

It stated that flailing is an “excellent method of maintaining hedgerows without generating green waste” that must be otherwise disposed of or managed by the farmer.

The report found that more than four out of every five farmers had not considered alternative uses for the material cuts from farm hedges other than burning.

Temporary exemption

An exemption order was granted to farmers to burn green waste in limited circumstances by the Department of the Environment.

The exemption will close on 1 March 2023, before reopening between 1 September 2023 to 30 November 2023.

The Department said this would be the last such exemption from the burning ban and that it would examine the non-burning alternatives put forward by IrBEA in its report.

A “large majority” of farmers surveyed as part of the study were unaware that the burning exemption had been due to end on 1 January 2023.

Alternatives to burning

The space for nature and non-productive feature elements of the new CAP should reduce the overall amount of green waste generated on farms over the coming years, the report forecast.

It outlined that chipping, piling bushes in the corner of fields to rot and composting were other potential alternatives.

Chipped material has the possibility to be used for bedding livestock or used to fuel industrial heating outfits.

In some of these cases, the green waste generated by maintaining hedges has an economic value and, in situations with large enough quantities of material, it is possible for contractors to carry out the work free of charge.


Delivering supports through the inclusion of chipping and mulching equipment under the new Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) would help the uptake of these alternative options to burning bushes.

Any move towards leaving cut bushes to decay in field corners must not be accompanied by non-productive area penalties, either in terms of the nitrates area calculations or land payment eligibility rules, the study advises.

The Department was told that policies, such as the promotion of green waste drop-off points, should also be looked at.

Subsidies would be needed to cover transport costs to these composting points, which could be run by local authorities.

The study recommended that a detailed cost estimate of the different burning alternatives should be compiled as some of the alternatives identified had increased costs, both on the financial and labour fronts.

Burning and firewood

Firewood was reported to be an “excellent sustainable source of energy” and that “continuing to utilise this material on farm to heat the domestic home is a practice that should be encouraged”.

The report stated that most firewood results from the rejuvenation of hedges that are cut in long rotations.

Any firewood grown on farms must be adequately dried/seasoned to below 20% moisture content in line with air quality rules.