Agronomic aspects of biodiversity targeted management of temperate grasslands in Europe – A review
¹Institute of Agronomy and Plant Breeding, University of Goettingen, Von-Siebold-Str. 8, 37075 Goettingen, Germany
²Agroscope RAC Changins, Swiss Federal Agricultural Research Station,CH-1260 Nyon, Switzerland
³Research Institute of Crop Production, Prague, Grassland Research Station, Rolnicka 6, CZ-46011 Liberec, The Czech Republic
Maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity of the agriculturally utilised area has a high priority in environmental policy worldwide. Temperate grasslands in Europe make an important contribution to the biodiversity of agricultural landscapes. The species and community diversity of grasslands is a result of a traditional extensive grassland management interacting with a broad range of site conditions. Until the early decades of the last century, grassland sites were hardly ameliorated and the agronomic potential was generally low, depending on the fertility of the soils. Later on the production from grassland was markedly improved by regular fertilisation, by liming and by artificial drainage of wet sites. Correspondingly, the stocking rates and the cutting frequency increased. Thus, biodiversity strongly decreased, and unimproved species-rich swards only persisted on a low percentage of the total grassland area. The preservation of the remaining species-rich grassland is a primary goal of nature conservation. The continuation of traditional ways of grassland management that would best preserve biodiversity is often not compatible with the requirements of intensive livestock production. Therefore, this grassland is at risk of being abandoned from agricultural use. There is a need to identify and develop improved management measures that better integrate biodiversity and agronomy targets of species-rich grassland farming. In addition, compensation payments for farmers are required to support grass production on species-rich swards. Apart from the unimproved species-rich grassland, there is an increasing area of now de-intensified species-poor grassland which can be managed to increase biodiversity. Grazing at a low stocking rate seems to have the potential to facilitate the restoration of diverse swards and to support reasonable individual performances of the grazing animals.