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Rotational grazing could boost biodiversity and maintain productivity

Staff Writer | March 14, 2017
Researchers from France and Italy have published findings on a biodiversity-friendly rotational grazing system, which their work suggests can provide benefits for plants and insects.
Rotational grazing
Farming   Researchers from France and Italy
Grazing management has been highlighted as having an important role in plant and insect biodiversity - both of which are under pressure in Europe. In Britain, reports on the fortunes of wild species of plant and insect have shown that farming is having a greater effect than climate change on species decline.

The researchers, who included scientists from France’s state agricultural research institute (INRA), said that very few studies have looked at both the impact of adjusting grazing pressure on both wildlife and the economic sustainability for farmers.

Their study compared continuous grazing (CG) to an innovative rotational grazing system (the biodiversity-friendly rotation – BR), where a subplot was excluded from grazing for two months during the main flowering period.

The researchers looked at both sheep and cattle grazing and measured the impacts on bees, butterflies and ground beetles to assess biodiversity benefits, as well as herbage mass and animal performance on the farm-income side.

BR grazing appeared to be better for insects, improving the numbers and variety of visiting insects, and researchers noted that cattle grazing had the best environmental performance, with “Almost all the endangered and locally rare species” visited flowers in the BR cattle grazed areas. However, neither the species grazing nor the grazing system used appeared to affect the number or variety of ground beetles.

Livestock performance was “Comparable” between the two grazing systems, which the researchers said indicates that “BR could be a useful management system to enhance grassland flower-visiting insect assemblages whilst meeting farm production objectives, especially in protected environments where insect conservation is a major target.”