In the mountains, hay harvesting represents a significant task for farmers. To make this job easier and speed up the harvest, farmers are gradually replacing rakes with leaf blowers. The Swiss nature conservancy organisation Pro Natura and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Research Station Agroscope are currently evaluating the potential effects of leaf blowers on the plant diversity of dry grasslands – habitats which are already under severe threat. In this study, plant surveys are carried out annually on a meadow where plots with the two types of harvest alternate. The analysis of the data collected in 2013 does not attest to any impact of blowers on plant diversity species composition, the presence of target or characteristic species, or moss cover. By contrast, position on the slope has an influence on the number of species, which is higher at the bottom of the slope on all plots. Moss cover is greater at the top of the blown plots and at the bottom of the raked plots.
Those wishing to promote biodiversity in agriculture by means of result-based schemes need meaningful indicators. An overview of proposed and used indicators highlights developments and challenges.
Foods of animal origin – friend or foe? It all depends on the needs of consumers and on local production conditions, as shown by a major review in which Agroscope took part.
In vegetable production it is usual to leave crop residues on the field. Measurements carried out by Agroscope researchers show that removing these residues significantly reduces nitrate leaching.