Swiss agriculture is shaped by permanent grassland. They enable the provision of the population with high-quality protein from milk and meat which are produced in an environmentally friendly manner on the farm’s own feed basis. Grassland also makes a substantial contribution to both the multifunctionality and sustainability of agriculture. Progressive structural and climatic change as well as altered economic framework conditions are confronting the management of permanent grassland with numerous challenges, however.
The chief aim of this research project is to develop site-adapted strategies for supporting grassland-based production with minimum impact on the environment. The focus here is on the multifunctionality of permanent grassland, which can only be safeguarded through a systematic, phased management adapted to the site conditions. Here, the anticipated changes in the climate and agricultural structures are also taken into account, and attention is paid to the sustainable use of the resources of soil, nutrients, biodiversity and water.
We are developing innovative strategies for using the functional biodiversity of permanent grassland for resource-efficient forage production, for the management of swards with limited possible uses, for the prevention and control of weed infestation using organic methods, and for adapting grassland use to dry spells. In addition, we devise measures for the creation and preservation of ecologically valuable grassland swards in the lowland and mountain areas.
Agronomically valuable and stable plant populations are only possible if usage and fertilisation intensity are in harmony with the site. The prevention of serious weed problems is thus based above all on appropriate management.
Alpine farming is an integral component of Swiss mountain agriculture. It produces high-quality foodstuffs and maintains an attractive landscape, valuable habitats and vibrant traditions. Many alpine pastures are marginal agricultural sites that must be managed with great care in order to maintain valuable forage ressources for grazing animals and preserve biodiversity.
Current changes in climate are increasing the risk of drought stress in Switzerland. The deliberate use of certain traits 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 deduce options for the adaptation of permanent and temporary leys to climate change.
Meadows and pastures provide a variety of services that benefit people –so-called ‘ecosystem services'. How well they provide these services depends to a large extent on their botanical composition. Our aim is to achieve an improvement in the different performances of agriculturally used grassland by deliberately influencing plant composition.