Question: What is the value of using Rhinanthus minor in grassland restoration and can restrictions on its establishment be overcome?
Location: England (United Kingdom).
Methods: Two experiments were established to determine the efficacy of inoculating R. minor on a suite of four agriculturally improved grasslands and the efficacy of using R. minor in grassland restoration. In Experiment 1, the effect of herbicide gap creation on the establishment and persistence of R. minor in grasslands ranging in productivity was investigated with respect to sward management. In Exp. 2, R. minor was sown at 1000 seeds/m2 in conjunction with a standard meadow mix over a randomized plot design into Lolium perenne grassland of moderate productivity. The treatment of scarification was investigated as a treatment to promote R. minor.
Results: Gap size had a significant role in the establishment and performance of R. minor, especially the 30 cm diameter gaps (Exp. 1). However, R. minor failed to establish long-term persistent populations in all of the agriculturally improved grasslands. In Exp. 2, establishment of R. minor was increased by scarification and its presence was associated with a significant increase in Shannon diversity and the number of sown and unsown species. Values of grass above-ground biomass were significantly lower in plots sown with R. minor, but values of total above-ground biomass (including R. minor) and forb biomass (not including R. minor) were not affected.
Conclusions: The value of introducing R. minor into species-poor grassland to increase diversity has been demonstrated, but successful establishment was dependent on grassland type. The scope for using R. minor in grassland restoration schemes is therefore conditional, although establishment can be enhanced through disturbance such as sward scarification.
Nomenclature: Stace (1997).