Hay news item by PhD student

Have you seen the new news item on front page (yes I know no change to news items then two come along at once). Anyway there is more info here:
Hay Days: Management of floodplain meadows for sustainable productivity

The role of hay as an agricultural product, and the way that it is made, is changing. Are you a livestock farmer, grazier, haymaker or conservation land manager? Do you make hay on species-rich meadows, or buy in species-rich hay for livestock use? We’d like to hear your views on all things hay. Read on to find out more, or jump straight to the survey https://openuniversity.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/hay-days

Floodplain meadows are an ancient and species-rich feature of the farmed landscape that have evolved their unique botanical diversity in response to traditional haymaking practices. In turn, this botanical diversity, which can be as much as 40 species per square metre, supports a wealth of fungi, invertebrate, bird and mammal life. These meadows also provide wider benefits through improved flood alleviation, water and air quality, carbon storage, and cultural and heritage value. However, some 97% of our wildflower meadows have been lost since the Second World War to agricultural intensification, land use change and development.

Floodplain meadows are naturally fertile as a result of phosphorus-rich sediments deposited by flood events and were very highly valued prior to mechanisation and the introduction of artificial fertilisers. Today they represent a sustainable low-input system, producing a nutritious species-rich livestock fodder that leads to meat and dairy products with a healthier balance of nutrients and fats. The presence of medicinal phytochemicals produced by many meadow species can also reduce the need for chemical antibiotics and anthelmintics.

Agricultural management can have a big impact on meadow biodiversity, which depends on haymaking and aftermath grazing to balance soil nutrients and maintain species-richness in the sward. The timing of hay cutting is critical and has often been constrained by the requirements of agri-environment schemes. With the changing policy landscape post-Brexit, it is important to better understand how agricultural production and nature conservation can be harmonised as part of a sustainable agricultural future.

This PhD study with the Open University will be examining how factors influencing the quality and yield of hay respond to cutting date. It will also look at the acceptability of different approaches to haymaking to various stakeholders. The aim is to collect data to identify synergies between sustainable agricultural production and biodiversity to inform policy and practice.

The project is supported by the Floodplain Meadows Partnership and will run until 2023. This pilot questionnaire seeks to find out which factors relating to the production and use of hay are most important to you. For your chance to be a part of this research, please complete the following survey and let us know your thoughts.
Enter Survey

Author: Vicky Bowskill (PhD student), School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences,