A multi-species sward is a mixture of three or more species whose growth characteristics complement each other resulting in improved productivity compared to when each species is grown on their own. The species used typically come from three plant groups i.e. grasses, legumes and herbs, with each species bringing different benefits to the sward. Grasses such as perennial ryegrass and timothy provide strong early-season growth and quality while legumes like white and red clover feed the sward with nitrogen fixed from the atmosphere and boost protein. As well as providing excellent quality, mineral-rich forage in the summer months, deep-rooting herbs like ribwort plantain and chicory are extremely drought tolerant which is an increasing concern for many Irish farmers.
As well as providing excellent quality, mineral-rich forage in the summer months, deep-rooting herbs like ribwort plantain and chicory are extremely drought tolerant which is an increasing concern for many Irish farmers.
Multi-species swards are often thought only suitable for good quality, dry land. However, by selecting species that can better cope with wet or dry conditions, we can formulate different mixtures to suit different soil types.
A good starting point is a mixture of species that will perform on a range of soil types like perennial ryegrass, white clover, and ribwort plantain. Once we have this foundation, the mixture can be tailored towards dry or wet soils.
In particularly light, dry soils, adding species like festulolium, cocksfoot, lucerne and chicory will help keep the sward productive during prolonged dry periods.On the other hand, in heavy, wet soils, species like timothy, meadow fescue and plantain are well equipped to cope with such challenging conditions.
A mixture like DLF’s 6 Species Herbal Ley is an excellent all-round mixture that should produce large amounts of quality forage across a range of soil types.
For more information on selecting the right multi-species mixture for your farm, call DLF's Thomas Moloney, 087 396 1265