Nature’s hay plays role on our super-highways

SEPTEMBER has brought a bonus for organic farmers who took a late cut of hay.

Already assured of demand from farmers short of winter fodder, they have found a useful new market “on the side of the road”.

They have sold the equivalent of hundreds of round bales to the National Roads Authority (NRA).

As a result, motorists will enjoy spectacular displays of wildflowers on the verges and embankments of our newest highways.

The NRA are using hay from local, semi-natural grasslands (not necessarily organically farmed), which contains the seeds of desirable native broadleaved herbs and grasses. Hay is cut in late August or September, before the seed has dropped.

It is spread loosely, and the seed germinates under the protection of the hay covering in the following spring.

It’s a labour saving method, compared to collecting seed by hand, or mechanically.

Hay from the farm of Tom Coffey at Carnahalla, Cappawhite, Co Tipperary, is being used on the N7 roadsides between Nenagh and Roscrea. NRA officials inspected Tom’s crop before he cut it in September, when the seeds had ripened.

He harvested about seven bales per acre.

The material meets the NRA’s requirement for a locally appropriate indigenous seed source which will result in biodiversity conservation, environmental aesthetics and restoration of landscape quality during the construction of the N7.

Tom Coffey says his farm has been organic for decades.

He has been funded by the LEADER rural development programme to turn his farm into a tourist attraction with a museum and visitor centre, where impressive biodiversity, two miles of scenic trails, and more than 20 sites of archaeological note can be seen and enjoyed.

For more details, see the website.

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