Feedback wanted – on Molinia and a specific management problem under Glastir Agreement

Andrew Martin (our Chairman) gave a talk recently to the Dyfed Smallholders’ Association on the Meadows Group. After the talk, a discussion on various aspects of grassland management threw up two problems some of the smallholders were having. Andrew couldn’t offer any advice as he had not had any experience of either.  

One was that, having introduced yellow rattle to their field (a proven way of speeding up the establishment of other flower species), the couple have found that it has become so dominant that they are not going to get much hay crop from it this year – and they need the hay!  The usually recommended way to sort this out is to mow some of the field before the yellow rattle has seeded, and because it’s an annual it won’t come back that year (it has a relatively short life in the seed bank also).  The problem is that they are not allowed to cut any of the field early because of the terms of their Glastir advanced agreement.  So, what should they do? Any suggestions, please add a comment after this post.

The second problem was from a different couple who have found that their previously flower-rich meadow is becoming dominated by purple moor grass Molinia which is outcompeting the flowering herbs.  Unfortunately, we are not sure where exactly they are or the soil type, or its nutrient status, or whether they manage it by grazing or mowing.  But if anyone has any experience of having to control Molinia for this reason, again do please add a comment after this post.

thanks

11 thoughts on “Feedback wanted – on Molinia and a specific management problem under Glastir Agreement

  1. An ecologist/farmer I knew in Scotland had a meadow like the first one – in their case, the vegetation went through cycles where the Rhinanthus ‘ran out’ of grass and was knocked back, following which the grass recoved.  Not a solution, just a comment! On the Molinia, last year my Highlanders were very limited in where they could graze due to the water situation, but we found that not only did they (as is well known) eat the Molinia quite keenly/preferentially early in the growing season, but having done so they kept the tussocks in a state of perpetual youth and continued palatability for weeks or months thereafter. Gwyn

    From: Carmarthenshire Meadows Group – Grŵp Dolydd Sir Gaerfyrddin To: dgl_jones@yahoo.co.uk Sent: Tuesday, 14 May 2019, 13:45 Subject: [New post] Feedback wanted – on Molinia and a specific management problem under Glastir Agreement #yiv9066737937 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9066737937 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9066737937 a.yiv9066737937primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9066737937 a.yiv9066737937primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9066737937 a.yiv9066737937primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9066737937 a.yiv9066737937primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E !important;color:#fff !important;}#yiv9066737937 WordPress.com | earlypurpleorchid posted: “Andrew Martin (our Chairman) gave a talk recently to the Dyfed Smallholders’ Association on the Meadows Group. After the talk, a discussion on various aspects of grassland management threw up two problems some of the smallholders were having. Andrew cou” | |

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  2. They could try grazing it in May once the rattles come up to remove it, and take a later cut in August. It might have to be silage rather than hay, depends on weather windows in August.

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    • Or could cut it in May (can probably just leave the little amount of cut material on the ground. then its done (rather than spend 2 wks grazing it down) – would save time.

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  3. The Molinia is probably coming in because they’re not mowing and perhaps not grazing enough – or perhaps with sheep only at wrong time of year. Although traditional management did involve periodic burning – so wet/acid land may just always follow a cycle of Molinia abundance and control. I believe Molinia is best grazed by cattle in late spring when it is most palatable, the issue usually is getting rid of the old tussocks, which was the reason for burning – but you could maybe do with cutting. If they can mow it early in the year Molinia should not proliferate but possibly not easy to mow then, if wet as Molinia would indicate. They should maybe get in touch with PONT for advice.

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  4. We had a similar problem with yellow rattle becoming rampant for a few years -across our 5 acre field we didn’t mind because we were worried about Hay – but lake the previous reply after a couple of years rampant the yellow rattle has declined radically so some form of balance has occurred. Sorry this doesn’t help the hay problem but might give you hope for the future regards. Derek Blaen Tir

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  5. I’ve found a good way to control unwanted species is to wander round periodically and just keep spot strimming them out, either with a lightweight rechargeable strimmer or a small petrol one – works really well if they are isolated or in patches and has very minimal impact on the hay crop, especially using the electric one because you can adjust the head angle right down so it slices into the base of the stems without taking out a big circle of surrounding grass and wild flowets.
    Obviously if they are scattered throughout a very large area it becomes much less practical but it’s worked well for me with thistle and moor grass; ragwort’s easier to just pull out; haven’t had to deal with rampant yellow rattle yet but I have seen reserves in Dorset where it’s taken over huge swathes of meadow. Hope that helps someone. Gary, Whitland

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  6. If there is molinia grass present it means there is a very low nutrient level which is very good for many herbs and interesting plants. It will need to be grazed, cattle are the best grazers and tramplers too as they eat long vegetation. Otherwise I can only suggest topping it occasionally perhaps in the winter. Burning is bad for insects and encourages molinia.
    I found in areas of my hay field where the yellow rattle is very successful that if you leave that area as a headland for at least a year it hugely reduces the population. Glastir loves flowery headlands.

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  7. Yellow rattle – agree with grazing or cutting early, but another option is to roll when the plant is young.
    Molinia – burning encourages Molinia, so not a good option, and also very destructive to invertebrates. If the Molinia has become tussocky then best option is to hit it hard with a flail mower late winter/early spring – providing you don’t have marsh fritilary !
    Mike

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  8. As the people concerned with the overabundant hay rattle problem you might like to hear “what happened next” – and a bit of background.
    The field in question is six acres and represents a substantial proportion of our hay crop. We had not noticed any hay rattle in the field prior to 2016 but it appeared of it’s own volition in 2017 in one relatively small area – we have it elsewhere on the farm. It’s appearance coincided with our entry into Glastir Advanced and we designated this field as “hay” under the scheme – which means we were committed to five years hay management – closing the field up no later than 15 May – growing for a minimum of eight weeks and not cutting before 15 July. Only hay or haylage to be made.So options for limiting growth of hay rattle are limited. In 2018 the weather really didn’t help and the hay rattle took a really strong hold to the point where a hay crop was almost meaningless – but none-the-less “had to be taken” to satisfy Glastir. This year the problem became even worse despite early grazing and we spoke to our Glastir contact about removing the field from the scheme or possibly “converting” it to a grazing field. Initial reaction from the “powers that be” was “No way” – but fortunately our immediate contact at Glastir happens to be an active farmer and understood our problem and took up our case with the higher ups – armed with several photographs showing the situation. She eventually got an agreement that we could possibly be given a derogation to cut the field early and on this occasion not make hay from the field. To achieve this she made a site visit and took her own photos and presented the case directly to her “top boss”. We got the derogation and were able to cut the field in mid June. This was already a bit late as seed was starting to form but we wont know how successful the outcome is until next year. No crop was taken and we were allowed to graze immediately.
    The Glastir rules are generally very inflexible – but on this occasion we got some joy – but only through persistence. Designating individual fields as “hay” or “grazing” for a five year period is not sensible farming practice. Hay rattle is fine if you are not relying on a regular crop to feed your livestock.
    We are not averse to hay rattle on the farm – but on this occasion it got quite out of hand. In another of our designated hay fields we do still have hay rattle – and this year we have discovered what appears to be greater butterfly orchid for the first time – a single plant – which we need to give special attention to in the hope it might increase in numbers. So now we have a new “problem” to consider – but this time in a rather more positive way!
    Alan & Margaret Pritchard

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  9. Thanks, Alan and Margaret, for letting us know how the yellow rattle story ended. Hope you got it cut soon enough – you’ll know next spring. Nice to kow that there is some flexibility in the system..

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