Monday November 9th, 2020 Water Blog

Sharing a habitat


The common or soft rush (Juncus effusus) is the most widespread and can be recognised by a dense tuft of brown flowers coming from the side of the stems. Rushes are mainly a problem in pasture land and a rough grazing area. They are associated with poorly drained soils and are common in marginal and reclaimed upland areas with high rainfall. They are very common in many parts of Ireland. Rush cover will vary from sparse to dense areas in a field.  Most areas of rush pasture can be important breeding and feeding habitat for a range of insects, amphibians, mammals, and many species of birds.

Butterflies, birds, earthworms, insects and beetles and many more creatures  can all be found around the clumps of rushes. These clumps are undesirable for farming and very often require cutting or application of herbicide.  Unfortunately application of herbicide means that these chemicals end up in the water courses.  If chemicals are applied to water-logged soils that are characteristic of the rush pasture, then the chemicals will run into the water. These chemicals are polar (water loving) chemicals that can sometimes also end up in drinking water supplies. Mechanical methods of rush removal can be more time consuming but are definitely more ecologically friendly. Leaving parts of the land untouched could reveal a habitat rich in insects, birds and mammals. This approach is one that is emerging in terms of support for farmers and certainly should be rolled out when reviewing the Common Agricultural Policy and farm supplements.

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