BACKGROUND

Somerford Mead investigates how seeding and grazing management can help re-establish floodplain meadow communities on arable land.  

Prior to agricultural management the site was dominated by a low-fertility plant community. From 1960 to 1985 the site was under arable cultivation and receiving fertilisers. The site produced hay and silage between 1960-82 and barley between 1982 - 85. 

In 1985 the site was taken out of agricultural production and the experiment was established, with a view to provide information to farmers and land managers who want to restore former flood-plain grassland on arable land. 

TREATMENTS

In 1986 the site was sown with seeds harvested from low-fertility grassland at Oxhey Mead. The site was grazed by a mixture of 12 heifers and 50 sheep in the autumns of 1987 and 1988.

Since 1989 there has been an annual hay cut in June, which is followed by four weeks of grazing in October.  

The experiment is a randomised block design with nine 0.4ha plots. Plots are grazed by cattle or sheep and compared to ungrazed control plots.

The experiment has shown that grazing helps restore flood-plain plant communities. Grazed plots have higher plant and invertebrate diversity than the ungrazed controls, with plant communities most similar to that of Oxhey Mead.  


CONCLUSIONS

The experiment has shown that grazing helps restore flood-plain plant communities. Grazed plots have higher plant and invertebrate diversity than the ungrazed controls, with plant communities most similar to that of Oxhey Mead.  

The experiment has show that it may take decades to restore the plant community typical of the local flood-plain target site.