Every year the number of Irish research projects examining the use of multi-species swards in agriculture grows. These projects cover a range of topics from animal performance and GHG emissions to the effects multi-species swards can have on-farm systems and the wider environment.
Already, Irish researchers hav made significant contributions to the worldwide knowledge surrounding multi-species swards with published data on animal and grassland performance, drought tolerance and biodiversity.
This work, combined with the results of on-going and future work, is vital to our understanding of multi-species swards and will inform the development of management strategies to maximise the benefits a multi-species sward can have on farms across Ireland.
The SMARTSWARD project at University College Dublin is following up on the exciting results of the earlier Smartgrass project by taking an in-depth look at multi-species swards in dairy and calf-to-beef systems. Some of the studies undertaken aim to shed light on managing multi-species swards in grazing systems and the effects on forage production, animal performance and sward persistence.
At Teagasc Johnstown Castle researchers are examining the potential environmental benefits that multi-species swards can bring to grass-based systems. From the work being carried out at Johnstown Castle it is clear multi-species swards will play a big role in helping Irish farmers adapt to a changing climate while increasing the sustainability of their farm system.
Waterford Institute of Technology is the latest research institution to begin working on multi-species swards and the regenerative approach taken by Mike Walsh and his team will look to assess all aspects of multi-species swards without the use of inorganic N fertiliser.
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 mixture for your farm, call Thomas Moloney, DLF 087 396 1265
Links to more research