Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, Zurich-Reckenholz

Wild flower strips and rotational fallow: experiences from the practice

Farmers from different cantons in Switzerland have been interviewed to obtain insight into their experiences made with wild flower strips and rotational fallow fields. Additionally, their fallow fields have been surveyed with respect to selected spontaneous and sown species. The interviews showed that most of the farmers estimate the management effort for fallow to be lower in comparison to the previous crop rotation. The effort, however, depends strongly on the intensity of care, the previous crop type and the age of the fallow. The farmers are generally satisfied with the aspect of their fallow and people not related to agriculture respond positively and enjoy the diversity of flowers. The interviewed farmers are mainly afraid of the lowering of the subsidies paid by the state as well as the expansion of undesirable species. The botanical surveys of fallow fields showed a dominance of the two sown species Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and Corn Cockle (Agrostemma githago) in the first year, while Lucerne (Medicago sativa), Common Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) were the most abundant plants in older fallow fields. Cases with persistent dominance of a species after the first year give important indications for the periodical adaptation of the seed mixtures by the FAL. Among the spontaneously emerging plants grasses were the main dominant species. They seemed to be especially favoured by a winter cut. Application of a total herbicide before sowing did not reduce the proportion of undesired species such as Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius), Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense) and Quackgrass (Agropyron repens). On the other hand appropriate weed control during the development of the fallow lead to a reduction in abundance of Broad leaved Dock.

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