Public: Ecology
Highway Hay   (+10, -4)  [vote for, against]
Make hay where the sun shines

Governments spend fortunes mowing grass in highway medians and shoulders. In North Carolina, I've heard that flower bed plantings in some of these areas save enough in mowing fees to nearly or completely outweigh the cost of the planting. Meanwhile, for at least the last two years, animal farmers (at least in the U.S.) have suffered from widespread hay shortages.

So why not grow and harvest hay in highway medians and shoulders where the higher grass would not present safety (visibility) issues? Local hay farmers wouldn't want the government to be in competition, so perhaps the government would lease the hay-growing and -harvesting rights to the farmer. Even if lease income were not high, mowing costs would be eliminated and the hay supply problem would be reduced.
-- beauxeault, Jul 06 2000

Bales http://www.agr.stat.../stats/hayalert.htm
The situation is bad in the south. Indigestable hay here causes horses a lot of misery. [reensure, Jul 06 2000]

mribeme: That's ridiculous.

Have you ever driven through the midwestern US? Roads going through hay fields are, let's say, not exactly uncommon, and I've never heard of accidents (let alone lawsuits) resulting from people being distracted by hay balers (of all things!).

More to the point, of all the vaguely interesting and potentially distracting things that happen by the side of roads, um, you're worried about *haybalers*? I mean, they're kinda neat and all, but...
-- egnor, Jul 08 2000

Wouldn't it be bad to feed hay to animals that has been badly polluted by millions of cars' exhaust, and litter thrown into them in the medians and shoulders?
-- magnetbox, Jul 11 2000

Screw the hay-growing and the hay baling...let the animals graze directly on the actual tall grass. Sweeter meat and a healthier animal results when the feed is fresh. Considering most US farm animals are injected with incredible shaqloads of antibiotics, growth hormones and chemical stimulants, a little car exhaust would be a drop in the bucket. There's miles of wheat growing along 95 through central Virginia, I'm not sure why.
-- naveline, Jul 12 2000

I understand that the chamomile used for chamomile tea often comes from "freelance" chamomile pickers, who get their supplies from the sides of highways -- and that the resulting chamomile tea is potentially laced with "uck."
-- eagle, Jul 21 2000

At the Innsbruck, Austria airport last week, I noticed tractors harvesting hay from the grass spaces between the runway and taxiway.
-- beauxeault, Sep 20 2000

How about trees as a cash crop for the medians? Fast-growing pulp woods, evergreens for that stupid holiday, sugars maples for tapping, starter trees for selling at Walmart, KMart, and Lowe's....seems a nursery/greenhouse business would be the best bet to lease the land from the state. Trees would make for the best scenery, not be affected by things thrown out the windows, and keep pumping oxygen into the air.
-- Susen, Feb 11 2001

In parts of the US, at least, there are laws against logging too close to a highway. As a result, you see narrow bits of forest called "idiot strips" along the sides of roads, which are supposed to convince tourists that they're driving through Scenic Beauty and not a pulp wood plantation.
-- moonmoose, Mar 25 2001

It is a good idea but it may be difficult to make it work. But an idea that many transport and energy engineers do consider is puting windmills along highway medians to generate power. This issues has come up a great many times Civil and Energy engineers agree this is a good idea but majority of the electric engineering comunity have voted agianst this.
-- wood2coal, Aug 31 2001

[monmoose] We have them in Australia too, although I don't think we call them idiot strips, the intention is the same.

However it has recently come to light that these strip remnants are extremely important to migratory animals, as they provide "highways" of natural bush between isolated pockets of native forest which were once contiguous.

Back to the OP: Highway agriculture/agroforestry is a great idea. Growing oil-bearing plants for biodiesel production, or sugar cane/sugar beets (climate dependant) for alcohol fuel would almost make a closed loop...

Slow growing, high value cabinetmaking timber species would make great long-term investments, and minimise the harvesting disruption.

[naveline] Aussie graziers call that "the long paddock"
-- BunsenHoneydew, Dec 09 2003

I believe you have a good idea. Anything is better then paying people to cut mulch. I like the idea of growing low crops such as soy beans or sugar beets. Anything taller is a good place to hide deer that will pop out on the road and cause accidents.
-- simon61, May 21 2004

Having worked in transportation for a decade I know that the FHA doesn’t want anything that grows higher than 18 inches to be planted. It either becomes a collision hazard or obscures the snow plow reflectors. Those are the little reflectors on short post on the sides of highways. They get mowed down all too frequently and are expensive to replace. Your proposal might work if contracted out and the contractor is willing to maintain the roadsides within FHA standards.

But there will probably be problems with oil residue, antifreeze, rain wash off chemical tankers, rubber shreds, bits of metal, lead dust and trash. It wouldn’t surprise me if most right-of-ways wouldn’t qualify as superfund sites. So I wouldn’t want to feed it to animals or eat the animals it is feed to.

Better to burn it in a power station that collects its fly ash. That might help keep the pollution from migrating to the setback. Fertilizer would have to be applied eventually.
-- cjacks, Oct 09 2006

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