Implementing a fodder tree hedgerow system in permanent grasslands as supplementary forage resources
AgroForageTree, 2024-2028, SNSF project n°215044
Agroforestry for forage production could be a promising solution to provide additional tree-based forage, especially during summer, when risks of drought-induced decrease in forage production are the highest. Leaves of specific fodder tree species, such as Fraxinus spp., Morus spp. and Salix spp. can have excellent digestibility and nutritional value for livestock. Moreover, many fodder tree species achieve their maximum leaf production over summer and they can maintain high leaf forage quality until late summer/early autumn, i.e. when forage yield, quality and digestibility of herbaceous species generally decrease, above all during drought periods. The AgroForageTree project aims at evaluating the potential of fodder tree hedgerows to provide supplementary tree-based forage (in addition to grass-based forage) in late summer-beginning of autumn and is organized following four main objectives, i) monitoring the survival, annual growth and photosynthetic activity of five selected fodder tree species in different permanent grassland sites across an altitudinal and climatic gradient, ii) determining leaf production and leaf chemistry and digestibility of the five fodder tree species and their variation along the vegetation season, iii) investigating the impacts of fodder tree hedgerows on ecosystem biodiversity and services after the establishment of the agroforestry system, and iv) assessing the palatability and selection for the five fodder tree species by different livestock categories, as well as methane emissions, nutrient absorption and digestibility resulting from the tree-grass diet.
Determining drought-resistant mixtures for temporary mountain grasslands
DryMount, 2023-2026, Funding from Agroscope and Swiss Cantons (VS, UR, BE, TI, GR)
Throughout the last decades, the reduction of agro-pastoral activities in Swiss mountain areas has determined profound landscape modifications, with extensive reforestation processes over former pastures, particularly by green alder (Alnus viridis), which is the most expanding shrub species across all Central Europe. The project aims to investigate specific ecological dynamics, such as botanical composition evolution and N translocation fluxes, in A. viridis-encroached pastures under the challenge of targeted grazing. We propose to strategically place attractive points (AP), i.e. molasses-based salt blocks, within encroached areas to increase their exploitation by robust livestock species (here Highland cattle). With AP placement, we expect to increase the time spent by livestock herds within A. viridis-encroached areas, their consumption of green alder foliage, N content in their excreta, and consequently N translocation towards livestock resting areas. Moreover, thanks to the actions exerted by animals around AP locations, such as increased A. viridis defoliation, mechanical damages to green alder branches by trampling, as well as seed transportation, significant variations in vegetation communities are also expected, with beneficial effects on the restoration of typical pasture botanical composition. Therefore, this research could help filling knowledge gaps on the (i) forage potential of A. viridis foliage for robust animals, (ii) short-term vegetation dynamics after intense livestock pressure in green alder-dominated areas, (iii) and N redistribution fluxes within encroached pastures. As a consequence, it could provide useful insights to design innovative and sustainable grazing management systems for the restoration of A. viridis-encroached pastures.
Swiss grasslands supply multiple benefits and services as a function of their management, the plant species of which they are composed, and pedo-climatic conditions. Thanks to the development of cross-disciplinary decision-support tools, the farmer or any other decision-maker should be able to grasp these services in their multiplicity and optimise them for contrasting conditions and production systems. Managing grasslands also means managing species communities. To make the best use of these communities, we must also know about grass growth and quality, and master grassland conservation. The ‘IntoGrass’ project aims to develop tools to facilitate grassland management, grass utilization and grass quality assessment, focusing particular attention on the effect of pedo-climatic factors. Launched in 2017, this transdisciplinary project involves four Agroscope teams, and is based on a network of 32 grasslands distributed across Switzerland, which will help us better understand the impact of climatic conditions (temperature, precipitation) on grass growth and quality.