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Introducing ... Heath & Hedgerow Sir Benfro

Updated: May 10, 2023


Heather and gorse by Stuart Madeley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Are you a farmer or land manager? Would you like to cut costs, explore innovative uses of waste products, reduce waste and sequester carbon? Then read on!

Heath & Hedgerow Sir Benfro is a project run by Cwm Arian Renewable Energy (CARE) from May 2022 - June 2023. It aims to support land owners and managers to realise ecological and monetary value, and mitigate climate change, through managing organic material (biomass) and waste products.

Biomass such as hedgerow cuttings, brash, bracken, heather and gorse, which are often seen as undesirable or unproductive in agriculture, can become valuable resources. They can help farmers and land managers reduce input costs, increase fertility, reduce environmental harm and benefit from ecosystem services.

Heath & Hedgerow Sir Benfro will:

  • Pilot innovative uses for waste biomass.

  • Provide support and training.

  • Create networking opportunities.

If you are interested in getting involved, accessing training, piloting an intervention on your land or just finding out more - get in touch with us!

Email biomass@cwmarian.org.uk or phone 01239920345.

What will the project do?

Heath & Hedgerow will focus on three main work streams

  • Biochar production/use

  • Composting

  • Animal bedding


Biochar Pile by USDAgov, Public Domain Mark 1.0.

Biochar

Essentially, biochar is a charcoal like substance that's made by burning organic material (also know as biomass) in a low-oxygen environment, controlled process known as pyrolysis.

Successful applications of biochar in livestock farming, arable and horticulture settings are gaining interest.

Biochar can provide the following agricultural benefits:

  • Improvement of soil fertility and crop yields.

  • Better water retention and drainage.

  • Reduction of soil acidity.

  • Adsorption of soil pollutants.

  • Reduction in nutrient run-off.

  • Increase in plant disease resistance.

  • Capturing and storing carbon.

  • Reducing ammonia, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, from animals fed biochar.

  • Improved viscosity and reduced odour of slurry.

Biochar has many applications, including as animal feed, slurry amendment, carbon store and water filter. We will be investigating some of these uses - get in touch if you're interested.

CARE hot composting workshop

Composting

One of the inspirations for this project is the ongoing cycle of nutrients from decomposition of biomass to fertile soil in the natural world. Compost is a key component of most growing techniques and is considered by most to be essential to a successful crop.

Our composting activity aims to create the most nutritionally dense compost which can enrich soils with long-lasting benefits. We have already started creating our first exploratory batches of biochar hot composts which we are hoping to refine. We'll be offering training, knowledge exchange and support to others to produce high-quality compost.


20110419-RD-LSC-0511 by USDAgov, Public Domain Mark 1.0

Animal Bedding

Waste biomass can be used as an alternative bedding material for animals. Woodchip and heath-land plants (heather, gorse, bracken) make good animal bedding. When sourced responsibly, these products can also increase biodiversity through managing important wildlife habitats.

Adding biochar to animal bedding can reduce odours through its properties as a biofilter. There is also a great secondary benefit as the bedding can then be composted and the biochar becomes pre-inoculated and activated by the beneficial microbes, creating a more complex and richer compost.

To get involved or learn more, contact biomass@cwmarian.org.uk, visit www.cwmarian.org.uk/heathandhedgerow, or call 01239920345.


This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.



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