Restoring soil quality through re-integration of leys and sheep into arable rotations
Funding sources: BBSRC/NERC SARIC programme
Background: The research at Henfaes Research Centre contributes to the main SARIC project, ‘Restoring soil quality through re-integration of leys and sheep into arable rotations’ led by the University of Sheffield. The SARIC research project has multiple split-field experiments at arable farms across England, investigating the effect of multispecies ‘herbal’ leys on soil quality and livestock health compared to a conventional grass-clover ley.
Multispecies swards containing herbs such as chicory (Cichorium intybus) and plantain (Plantago major) contain high quantities of plant secondary metabolites (PSMs) which can have secondary effects on grazing ruminants, e.g. by reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) or gastrointestinal parasite burden. Our field trial at Henfaes consists of a split-field experiment established in 2020 that will be rotationally grazed by lambs to determine the effects of herb-rich multispecies leys on GHGs and livestock health. The field trial runs from 2020-2022 and forms the basis of Emily Cooledge’s PhD thesis.
- To investigate the effects of conventional grass-clover and herb-rich multispecies swards on livestock greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. nitrous oxide, enteric methane, ammonia)
- To monitor the effects of the two swards on livestock health (e.g. gastrointestinal parasite burden) and productivity (e.g. liveweight gain)
- To measure sward productivity (e.g. biomass) and PSM content (e.g. quantity of condensed tannins)
Collaborators: Prof Jonathan Leake – University of Sheffield, Dr Lydia Smith – NIAB Innovation Farm, Dr Patrick McKenna – NIAB Innovation Farm, Dr Lisa Norton – UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Prof Adrian Collins – Rothamsted Research, Dr Sami Ullah – University of Birmingham, Dr Ian Pattison – Heriot Watt University. Industry partners include Cotswold Seeds, the National Sheep Association (NSA), Yorkshire Water, NRM Cawood Scientific, and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).