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Interactions between plant species improve the performance of our meadows and pastures. But what plant species ideally complement one another in terms of producing high-quality feed in an efficient, environmentally friendly manner? Do mixed stands also represent an option for adapting to climate change? And what can be done to solve weed problems and improve the eco-quality of the meadows?
Meadows and pastures provide a variety of services that are useful for humans - so-called ‘ecosystem services'. How well they provide these services depends heavily on their botanical composition. Our aim is to achieve an improvement in the different performances of agricultural grasslands by exercising a deliberate influence on their botanical composition. The basic knowledge, which applies to temporary leys and permanent meadows alike, is developed with simple mown or grazed forage crop mixtures.
Present-day changes in climate increase the risk of drought stress in Switzerland. The deliberate use of certain features of various grassland plants is a potential adaptive strategy for mitigating the negative effects of these changes. We are investigating which combinations of grassland plants perform well under drought stress, in order to derive options for adaptation to climate change for permanent and temporary grasslands.
Once low-forage-value grasses (such as creeping bentgrass - see picture), weeds or poisonous plants have spread on grassland, it is both difficult and very time-consuming to control them. This is especially true for organic farms, which are not allowed to use herbicides. That is why we rely on farming techniques that aim either to prevent serious weed problems, or to remedy them at any early stage.
Despite the use of adapted farming techniques, keeping certain weeds such as dock in check often requires direct action. New strategies for controlling weeds of this sort without the use of herbicides are being developed. Currently, we are testing whether dock can be controlled by a native root-boring insect (picture).
‘Ecological compensation' meadows and pastures are extensively managed habitats that play an important role in encouraging biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. However, in the lowland areas, their floristic diversity often fails to meet targets. We are investigating cultivation measures that may contribute to an improvement in the quality of their flora.
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