Fencerows are a remnant of a bygone era in many parts of Canada. In years past, fencerows were the last remaining bits of forests that covered what is now farmland. When that land was divided, cleared for farming and separated into parcels, rows of trees and shrubs were left as a means of marking off the borders between properties.
Farming trends have evolved over time, which has led to many fencerows being completely cleared, or at least thinned out. But is clearing out the fencerow really the best strategy for farmers?
Ultimately, you are the only person who can determine what is best for your farming processes, but there are some advantages and disadvantages of clearing those fencerows that you should consider before making that decision.
Advantages of clearing out old fencerows
Fencerows can cast a fair amount of shade for part of the day. Depending on the type and amount of crops you are trying to grow alongside those fencerows, this could pose problematic for your farming processes.
Fencerows can often make natural shelter for animals. Deer, for example, often use fencerows for cover, and can wander into the nearby fields to eat what you have growing there. Depending on how big of a problem this becomes for you, you could lose some crops as a result. Clearing out fencerows to eliminate the underbrush can help to keep deer populations in the area under control.
Farmers often have to put more effort into weeding and maintaining fencerows that are located along the edges of horse and cow pastures, because certain types of plants that grow in those rows can make the animals get sick. Specifically, black walnut, buckeye, oak, cherry and red maple trees can all sicken or even kill horses.
Disadvantages of clearing out old fencerows
One of the advantages of clearing out old fencerows can also be a disadvantage. As previously mentioned, many types of animals and other species like to use those fencerows for cover. This can bring in a diverse range of species to control insects in areas where you’re growing crops. If you enjoy watching birds, leaving fencerows in place gives them more area to relax and increases biodiversity.
Perhaps the biggest reason to keep fencerows in place is erosion control. Topsoil erosion is a common problem for farmers of field crops. Maintaining a dense fencerow can help you provide a natural wind barrier to prevent topsoil erosion.
There are also aesthetic reasons to consider. Your fencerow might make your property look better!
To clear or not to clear? The decision is yours, but these are the issues you will want to consider in making that choice. For more tips and information about fencerow clearing and maintenance, contact us at Soil Advocates