The rewards seen from an increasing number of species within grassland pastures come from their complementary qualities. These include an ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, greater tolerance of dry conditions and providing increased levels of nutrients to grazing livestock.
These all fit well with the need for efficient and sustainable food production, leading many farmers to try multi-species and herbal leys in their rotations. But knowing exactly which species are right for which conditions has until now remained something of an unknown.
Research into multi-species pastures
Help is at hand. Multi-species swards and herbal leys have been the subject of a comprehensive three-year trial at Germinal Horizon’s research farm. Diverse grasslands most commonly include grasses, legumes and herbs, and were reflected in the trial plots studied by Germinal Horizon scientists.
Their latest findings are being presented by grass and forage production expert Dr Mary McEvoy at Germinal’s upcoming webinar, 'Are multi-species swards right for your farm?'. Dr McEvoy will explain why this trial helps farmers understand how these species interact, the role each plays within the sward, and which work best in grazing or cutting systems and different climatic conditions.
The plant variation found within multi-species grasslands brings the environmental benefits of improved soil health and biodiversity – impressive production gains are also being seen.
Sharing his most recent results at the webinar, Professor Tommy Boland from University College Dublin will describe the improved performance he’s seen in livestock grazing herbal leys. His multi-species grazing studies involve both cattle and sheep and suggest sward diversity can impact fertiliser and anthelmintic use as well as growth rates.