Reduced fertilization and grazing intensity do not enhance the number of plant species on a grassland in the Netherlands, after fifteen years

  • Published source details Neuteboom J.H., t'Mannetje L., Lantinga E.A. & Wind K. (1994) Botanical composition, yield and herbage quality of swards of different age on organic meadowlands. 15th Meeting of the European Grassland Federation, 320.


Restoring plant diversity in agricultural grassland is a conservation priority for many European countries, and grazing is preferred to mowing from a farming perspective because it is cheaper.

A 6.6 ha grassland in the Netherlands (location unknown) that had been fertilized (at 200 kg N/ha), grazed and mown for silage for many years was the subject of an extensification experiment from 1973 until 1988. From 1973-1985, fertilizer application was reduced to 50 kg N/ha, with no phosphorus or potassium. The stocking rate was five steers/ha from April to July, then 3.5 steers/ha until October. From 1986-1988, no fertilizer was applied. Three paddocks of 2.2 ha each had stocking rates of 2.3, 3.6 and 4.9 steers/ha from April to October.


From 1973-1985, the number of plant species hardly increased, and the abundance of herbaceous (non-grass) species decreased. From 1986 onwards, there was no increase in the number of plant species. By 1990, only two herb species (cuckoo flower Cardamine pratensis and meadow buttercup Ranunculus acer now R. acris) were present in more than 5% of 100 vegetation samples.

The authors suggest that plant diversity did not increase because of the dense growth of a small number of competitive grass species, since species that could have colonised were present on the field borders and ditches

Note: If using or referring to this published study, please read and quote the original paper.


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