Multispecies swards are grass swards that contain a range of plant species including plantain, timothy, chicory, and clover. Multispecies swards have a higher protein and energy content than standard grass swards which can improve animal health and performance, while they have the potential to reduce nitrogen fertiliser requirements and increase carbon sequestration.
- Multi-species swards can produce similar yields to standard swards at lower rates of N fertiliser.
- White and red clover fix Nitrogen from the atmosphere. This means they absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into protein providing protein-rich grass without the need for artificial fertilisers.
- Multispecies offer a more balanced diet, improve animal performance and there is some evidence of parasite prevention in livestock.
- Deeper root depths mean multispecies have a higher rate of carbon sequestration, higher drought resistance and increased aeration and drainage improving overall soil fertility.
- More species allows opportunities for biodiversity, attracting more insects and pollinators.
How to Establish Multispecies
- Similar to grassland reseeding, best conditions for multispecies is a warm, moist seedbed (~10°C) between April and August.
- Having optimal soil fertility is important for multispecies swards.
- Choose grazing paddocks over silage fields.
- Lime should be applied, if necessary, as per a normal reseed. Aim for a pH of 6.2 – 6.5.
- Multispecies mixtures contain broadleaf species therefore post-emergence herbicides should not be applied.
- After sowing allow eight weeks before grazing.
- Persistence of some species can be an issue in some swards. Herbs like chicory and plantain can last 3 to 4 years after which they will need to be over sown.
Smart Farming is a voluntary resource efficiency programme, run by the Irish Farmers’ Association in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency.
For more information on the Smart Farming programme visit www.smartfarming.ie .