Agroscope, Institute for Sustainability Sciences ISS, Switzerland

Leaf blowers as an alternative to rakes: impact on vegetation after four years

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.

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