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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Add yellow rattle seed Rhinanthus minor to hay meadows Farmland Conservation

Key messages

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Supporting evidence from individual studies


A randomized, replicated controlled trial in 1995-1997 in Oxfordshire, UK (Coulson et al. 2001) found that yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor could be effectively established on a pasture field by ‘slot seeding’. Different management treatments, cutting, grazing or both, did not affect survival or establishment. However yellow rattle seeds were spread a greater distance when hay was cut in July than without a hay cut. Seeds were sown in strips previously sprayed with herbicide by a tractor-mounted slot seeder, in October 1995. Four management treatments were replicated five times in 20 x 10 m plots. The treatments were cut once (July), cut twice (July and September), cut July and autumn grazed. Monitoring of plant dispersal was carried out using seed traps at the soil surface, from June to October 1997.


A 2005 review (Jefferson 2005) found three studies looking at the role of yellow rattle Rhinanthus minor as a tool when restoring upland hay meadow vegetation on semi-improved grassland. One study in North Yorkshire, UK (Smith et al. 2003) found that sowing key functional species (legumes and yellow rattle) helped other sown target meadow species to colonize. At the same site, Smith (2005) found that when more yellow rattle was present, herbaceous species increased at the expense of perennial rye grass Lolium perenne. The rate of nitrogen mineralization was also faster in the presence of yellow rattle. One study (Pywell 2004) found that when restoring species-rich grassland on a semi-improved grassland site, more plant species were found when yellow rattle was present.


Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Dicks, L.V., Ashpole, J.E., Dänhardt, J., James, K., Jönsson, A., Randall, N., Showler, D.A., Smith, R.K., Turpie, S., Williams D.R. & Sutherland, W.J. (2019) Farmland Conservation Pages 291-330 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.