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Species enrichment in an agriculturally improved grassland and its effects on botanical composition, yield and forage quality

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Abstract

In a field experiment, the effects of different management treatments on the botanical development and productivity of a previously species-poor, intensively managed, lowland permanent grass sward were investigated over a 4-year period. Fertilizer inputs were stopped and nine main treatments, based on three pre-sowing and three post-sowing cutting regimes, were applied. Half of each treatment plot was oversown with a mixture of forb (wildflower) species and half left unsown. The aims were: (1) to investigate the effect of cutting regimes on the establishment of introduced forb species, (2) to assess the development and dry-matter (DM) yield potential of these introduced species, and (3) to compare the DM yield and forage quality of swards with and without introduced species. Seedling establishment was recorded until the end of the second year. From the third year onwards, a common twice-yearly cutting regime was imposed on all treatments, and the development of the introduced species was recorded. The DM yield of the nine oversown sub-treatments was compared with the sub-treatments not oversown. Frequent cutting after oversowing resulted in the greatest number of established plants and three times greater harvested DM yield of introduced species, compared with infrequent cutting. Plantago lanceolata and Trifolium pratense were the best performing introduced species. By years 3 and 4, there was proportionately 0·15 and 0·23, respectively, additional herbage DM yield harvested from the oversown treatments compared with unsown treatments, and up to 0·60 more in some treatments. The introduction of forbs increased the crude protein concentration, but decreased the digestibility of the forage.
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Keywords: cutting frequency; nitrogen content; productivity; seed addition; wildflower establishment

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2005

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