Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: A review recommends management for maintaining or restoring upland hay meadows in UK, including spring and autumn grazing, a mid-July cut, no inorganic fertilizer, and (for restoration) introduction of seed, including Rhinanthus minor hay rattle

Published source details

Jefferson R.G. (2005) The conservation management of upland hay meadows in Britain: a review. Grass and Forage Science, 60, 322-331

This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Add yellow rattle seed Rhinanthus minor to hay meadows Farmland Conservation

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.


Maintain species-rich, semi-natural grassland Farmland Conservation

A 2005 review (Jefferson 2005) of seven studies exploring the role of cutting, grazing and fertilizer in maintaining species richness of upland UK hay meadows concluded that the best management involves spring and autumn grazing, a mid-July hay cut and no inorganic fertilizer. The review recommends using only low levels of farmyard manure as Edwards et al. 2002 and Tallowin 2005 found that it can lead to a shift towards improved grassland plant communities, and is unlikely to assist seed dispersal.

Additional references:

Edwards A.R., Younger A. & Chaudry A.S. (2002) The role of farmyard manure in the maintenance of botanical diversity in traditionally managed hay meadows: the effects of rumen digestion on seed viability. Pages 159-162 in: J. Frame (ed.) Conservation Pays? Reconciling Environmental Benefits with Profitable Grassland Systems. Occasional Symposium No. 36, British Grassland Society, Reading, UK.

Tallowin J.R.B. (2005) The impact of organic fertilizers on semi-natural grasslands. Defra BD1415.

Restore/create species-rich, semi-natural grassland Farmland Conservation

A 2005 review of six studies exploring the best management for restoring upland hay meadow vegetation on semi-improved grassland in the UK (Jefferson 2005) suggested that the highest plant species richness is produced by spring and autumn grazing, a mid-July hay cut and no inorganic fertilizer. Addition of seed from outside the site (either from natural dispersal or sowing) is also likely to be necessary. Three studies found that adding Rhinanthus minor hay rattle seed can help the colonization of other sown species (Smith et al. 2003, Pywell et al. 2004, Smith 2005). One study in North Yorkshire (Smith 2005) found that adding farmyard manure had a generally harmful effect on restoration of upland hay meadow communities, and recommended that this should be avoided, at least in the early stages of restoration. However, results were based on using larger quantities of manure than under traditional management.

Additional references:

Smith R.S., Shiel R.S., Bardgett R.D., Millward D., Corkhill P., Rolph G., Hobbs P.J. & Peacock S. (2003) Soil microbial community, fertility, vegetation and diversity as targets in the restoration management of meadow grassland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 40, 51–64.

Pywell R.F., Bullock J.M., Walker K.J., Coulson S.J., Gregory S.J. & Stevenson M.J. (2004) Facilitating grassland diversification using the hemiparasitic plant Rhinanthus minor. Journal of Applied Ecology, 41, 880–887.

Smith R.S. (2005) Ecological mechanisms affecting the restoration of diversity in agriculturally improved meadow grassland. Defra Project BD1439.