Semi-improved grassland

Semi-improved grassland

What are they?
Semi-improved grasslands are generally permanent grasslands which have been subject to some form of agricultural improvement, making them more agriculturally productive but less valuable for wildlife. Agricultural improvement can include fertilizer application, use of herbicide, drainage, overgrazing/poaching and excessive harrowing.

What are they composed of?
Typical grass species include cock’s foot, common bent, crested dog’s- tail, false oat grass, meadow fescue, meadow foxtail, red fescue, sweet vernal- grass, timothy and tufted hair- grass. These grasslands can still retain a good number of valuable wildflowers such as red clover, common bird’s-foot trefoil, ox-eye daisy and black knapweed which are important for bumblebees and many other insects.

Natural England defines semi-improved grassland as containing less than 30% cover of rye- grasses and white clover and contains between 8 and 15 species per square metre. Cover of wildflowers and sedges is generally over 10% 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?
Grassland management should aim to remove the year’s growth, prevent the growth/spread of scrub and to control areas of rank vegetation or undesirable species. An annual management regime is important to developing unimproved (species rich) grasslands. This could be achieved by:

Traditional pasture management – grazing with animals
Traditional hay meadow management – production of hay

Enhancing semi-improved grasslands or creating unimproved (species rich) grasslands from semi-improved grasslands

Whether you need to enhance or create unimproved grassland will depend on the type of grassland you have. Semi-improved grassland covers a very broad range of grassland habitats from almost unimproved (species-rich) grassland that can recover to unimproved status with minimal intervention, to species-poor semi-improved grassland that is just slightly more species-rich than agriculturally improved grassland and would require significant resources to restore it.

Always consider managing your existing grassland traditionally for, at least, a couple of years, if you believe that it contains a number of wildflowers and grass species before you even consider using invasive restoration techniques. For more information on traditional grassland management see the box above on ‘How can they be managed for wildlife?’

For more information on enhancement and creation techniques please click on the relevant bullet point below:

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

Help available
Receive further advice and help and/or a free site visit 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 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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