Without farmers we would have no hedges. In the past they were an essential part of farm management, in particular for keeping cattle and sheep in or out of fields. Although wire fencing has to some extent taken over this role, many hedges remain as important living fences and they are increasingly valued for other agricultural reasons, such as providing shelter and shade (especially importance with climate change), conserving soil, and increasing numbers of pollinators and predators of crop pests. Devon hedges and modern farming gives a detailed account of the advantages and disadvantages of hedges.
In 1994 the Hedge Group commissioned The economics of sustainable hedge cutting , a study by Silsoe College on the economics of different frequencies of hedge cutting. The results are supported by other research carried out at a national level during the development of agri-environment schemes like Countryside Stewardship and remain valid today. The study found that under most circumstances cutting on a three year rotation results in significant savings for most Devon hedge types.
Detailed, practical guidance on how to manage hedges and keep them, or restore them to, a healthy condition, is given under Management advice.