A comparison of historic and current vegetation surveys of intensively managed meadows reveals a dramatic decline of species diversity in Swiss lowland grassland. In the 1950s, the most intensively managed meadows were Arrhenatherum meadows. Over 85 % of these achieved the QII standard defining meadows with «high biodiversity value», and more than a third significantly surpassed the QII threshold. A current inventory shows that since the 1950s, Arrhenatherum meadows have been almost completely replaced by species-poor, highly intensified grassland. The remaining Arrhenatherum meadows – nearly all managed and funded as «ecological compensation areas» – make up less than 2 % of the permanent grassland area in the Swiss lowlands. These remaining Arrhenatherum meadows have impoverished species richness. On average, it has declined by 30 % from 38 plant species per 100 m2 in 1950 to 27 today. The number of species characteristic of the Arrhenatherum grassland communities has declined by 64 % from 25 to 9. Today 71 % of the few remaining Arrhenatherum meadows fail to reach the QII standard. The loss of animal diversity in Swiss lowland grassland is even more severe than the plant diversity decline, a
Symbiotic nitrogen fixation by bacteria in the soil coexisting with legumes leads to reduced fertiliser requirement. It is not easy to measure this variable on farms, however. Now researchers from Agroscope have developed a method for estimating nitrogen input via symbiotic fixation at farm level.
With increasing global and regional temperatures, even in Switzerland the growing season has lengthened considerably. Using data from the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, Agroscope has traced the development of the growing season since the start of the previous century.
The phosphate mineral reserves required for fertiliser production could be exhausted on a global scale in just a few decades. This study presents a method for recycling a Swiss industrial by-product into a phosphate fertiliser.