19 January 2021
Intercropping for sustainability

Two-day Conference with AAB, DIVERSify and ReMIX at Reading University

6 September 2021
Organic World Congress 2021

New date! Postponed from September 2020

30 July 2020
ORC welcomes the National Food Strategy

The first major reviewof our food system in 75 years

24 July 2020
The future of organic farming and the environment

All to play for if full benefits of organic farming for wildlife, the environment and health are to be realised

29 April 2020
Tim Bennett is the new Chair of ORC

Former NFU president takes on chairmanship of Organic Research Centre

Towards Eco-energetic Communities



Contract period:

1 January 2013 to 31 December 2015

Project webpage:


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

Project aims

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.

Project Objectives:

  1. Collate available knowledge, experience and information about all aspects of realising the economic potential of using biomass on a local scale.
  2. Develop a basic planning tool to make the utilisation of biomass from landscape elements possible, taking into account ecological and social constraints.
  3. Jointly work out a specific application of the planning tool for each partner region and test it in pilots of local short chain systems using biomass from landscape elements in different parts of the NWE region.
  4. Integrate the knowledge and developed tool in local, national and European policy.

ORC's role

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

Key achievements

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

  1. A best practice guide on harvesting woodfuel from hedges and
  2. A protocol to monitor the impacts of hedgerow harvesting on the biodiversity of a hedge network.

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:

  • Identify the current condition and value of a hedgerow network to biodiversity
  • Identify and monitor the potential impacts of altering management
  • Aid management decisions for both biodiversity and woodfuel production
The protocol is designed for use by farmers, landowners and advisors and is largely based on a set of indicators selected to provide quantitative links between, for example, habitat quality or structural diversity and biodiversity. Indicators were selected using a range of sources including a review of current literature and a synthesis of existing knowledge. Methods for measuring each indicator were tested in the field during the protocol development phase. The protocol consists of three main components: an Excel assessment tool, a User guide, and a series of surveys (with accompanying survey notes) carried out on the hedges and on associated taxa (butterflies, bumblebees, birds, and ground flora).

Project leader and partners

Lead Partner

Regional Landscape Lage Kempen, Belgium

Other Partners


Summary: TWECOM project, Interreg IVb NWE programme

Best Practice Guide: Harvesting woodfuel from hedges

Growing local energy. Hedgerow harvesting machinery trials report.

Technical Guide: Green heat with small-scale wood combustion

Report: The carbon sequestration potential of hedges managed for woodfuel

Report: Management Impacts on Ecosystem Service Provision of Landscape Elements: TWECOM Partner Perspectives

Report: Adapting the PG tool to incorporate management of landscape elements for woodfuel

Hedgerow Biodiversity protocol 2015 (4 files)

  1. User guide
  2. Biodiversity assessment tool
  3. Survey notes
  4. Biodiversity protocol development report

Other output

Videos available on TWECOM website

ORC videos on youtube

Photo albums

All sources of funding