Agriculturally improved grassland

Agriculturally improved Grassland

What are they?
Agriculturally improved grasslands can be permanent (uncultivated) or part of an arable rotation. They have been modified specifically for agriculture or recreation, by:

  • Addition and regular use of organic (e.g. manure) and inorganic fertilisers and herbicides and/or
  • Sown with grass seed mixes, often containing perennial ryegrass.

The aim of this type of grassland is to generate a maximum yield for:

  • Grazing livestock, which is usually the commercial breeds (e.g. texel sheep, holstein cattle) which need a high protein diet.
  • Production of silage (wet partially fermented grass)
  • Production of hay.

These grasslands are now the most common type in the three counties.

What are they composed of?
Consist mainly of perennial ryegrass with italian rye- grass, cock’s foot, timothy and yorkshire fog and a few flowers such as buttercups, docks and thistles. Although there may be high numbers of these plants, they have little value for wildlife.

Natural England define improved grasslands as having more than 30% cover of rye- grasses and white clover, less than 8 species per square metre, and less than 10% cover of wildflowers and sedges excluding white clover, creeping buttercup and injurious weeds (creeping thistle, spear thistle, broad leaved dock, curled dock and common ragwort).

How can they be managed for wildlife?
Wildflower grasslands can be created from agriculturally improved grasslands. This can be done by sowing local and native seeds or strewing green hay. Ground preparation prior to sowing is key to creating wildflower grassland. For more information about wildflower grassland creation click here.

Even if creating wildflower grassland is not feasible, you can still help to encourage wildlife by leaving all or some of your grassland unfertilised. A good place for this would be around the margin of the field.

If the field is cut for silage or hay, leaving the margins uncut (as well as unfertilised) will help encourage a great diversity of wildlife and wildflowers. These areas can be managed by rotational cutting (cutting every two to three years in rotation). It may be necessary to prevent the encroachment of scrub and brambles by more regular cutting. Alternatively, these margins could be managed by grazing.

Weed control
Control of rush, nettles and docks
Control of thistles
Control of ragwort

Help available
Receive further advice and help from a Wildlife Sites Officer
If you would like your grassland to be grazed, you can register your land by clicking here
If you would like your grassland to be cut for hay, you can register your land by clicking here
There are some opportunities for getting funding

Chloe Granger

Admin at Cut & Chew
The admin of the Cut and Chew website, and activist for improving the UK grazing landscape.

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