Can species-rich grasslands be established on former intensively managed arable soils?

Claire A. Horrocks, Katherine Heal, Barbra Harvie, J. B. Tallowin, Laura M. Cardenas, Jennifer A. J. Dungait

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Land use change from intensive arable production to extensively managed grassland is encouraged through subsidy payments to farmers under the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy. Created grasslands are sown with a species-rich seed mix and receive limited or no fertiliser application, with the aim of increasing the provision of non-production ecosystem services. In the UK these agri-environment schemes are funded for periods of 5, 7 or 10 years. This study compared the plant diversity and soil properties of paired intensively managed (IM) arable and recently created (3, 5, 8 and 9 years) extensively managed species-rich grasslands (SRG) at 4 sites in the Scottish Borders. Botanical surveys of the newly created grassland plots showed limited establishment of the species-rich seed mixes and the dominance of grasses that favour more nutrient-rich environments. Soil properties at 0–10 and 30–40 cm depths were measured over 2 consecutive years. Total and available soil nitrogen, phosphorus and soil organic carbon were not significantly different between paired plots. This study suggests that the residual nutrients from previous fertiliser applications may prevent the establishment of species-rich seed mixes for up to a decade after land use change from intensive arable to extensive grassland management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-67
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems & Environment
Early online date10 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


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