30. June 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: News, Plants

The BBC reports on the continuing decline of hay meadows in the UK, which are generally being replaced with silage fields. The latter is a field in which a few specific grass species are cultivated then mown and fermented to provide a wet feed for cattle in the winter. This is cheaper and easier than the traditional practice of mowing and drying hay, which requires a sustained spell of fine weather and more intensive labour. Hay fields though are traditionally extremely species rich, full of many grass varieties, wild flowers, bees, butterflies, beetles etc. and this change of farming practice is having a major knock-on effect.

The article describes how some action is being taken to protect remaining hay fields, but it seems unlikely that the trend will be reversed.

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  1. I’ve just come back from a rural part of Switzerland, where we saw plenty of people making hay. It looked like hard work, and they were working in the hot sun. The fields over there were very pretty and natural-looking. Many of their fields were very hilly and so there seemed to be no option but to do this work the hard way – by hand.

  2. Similarly in a recent BBC article (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/10405966.stm) about the threat to the German Riesling vineyards, it mentions how the vines are tended by hand because the slopes are unsuitable for machines.

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