Questions: Can seed addition enhance the success of establishing species-rich grassland on former arable land? Are sowing date and cutting regime important in determining success?
Location: Aberdeen and Elgin, northeast Scotland, United Kingdom. Methods: A field experiment was conducted at two sites to assess the effect of seed addition, sowing date and cutting regime on the vegetation developing on former arable land, the aim being to compare the success of different treatments at producing a species-rich grassland.
Results: Sowing a seed mix resulted in the establishment of vegetation very distinct from the species-poor vegetation dominated by perennial grasses which otherwise developed, though establishment success of the sown grassland species was highly variable between sites. Where establishment of the sown species was poor, sowing date had no significant effect on species composition, whereas the cutting regime was very important. Cutting the vegetation significantly increased both the number and abundance of sown species compared with the uncut control. Conversely, where establishment had been good, the cutting regime in the first year had little effect on species composition. Cutting the vegetation at least twice a year appeared to be the most effective management over the length of the experiment.
Conclusions: Sowing a seed mixture significantly reduced the abundance and number of naturally colonising species, effectively controlling problem weed species such as Senecio jacobaea and Cirsium vulgare, highlighting the agronomic value of sowing seed mixtures on fallow farmland. The sowing of a seed mix on former arable land has demonstrated that it is feasible to create vegetation similar in character to that of species-rich grasslands.
Nomenclature: Clapham et al. (1987).