Impacts of cutting frequency and position to tree line on herbage accumulation in silvopastoral grassland reveal potential for grassland conservation based on land use and cover information (2021)

Schmiedgen A., Komainda M., Kowalski K., Hostert P., Tonn B., Kayser M., Isselstein J.

Annals of Applied Biology, (),



In agricultural grassland, high herbage utilisation efficiency (HEFF), which is the proportion of gross live‐green herbage production that is utilised before entering senescence, is ensured by frequent defoliation. The decision upon which defoliation frequency to apply depends on the farming intensity. Assuming a reduced total herbage accumulation near trees in silvopastoral systems, frequent defoliations with high HEFF become less worthwhile—at least in specific spatial configurations. This makes an extensive management near trees an interesting option because it promotes other grassland‐related ecosystem services such as biodiversity. The present study first analysed the interaction between defoliation frequency and position to trees on the total, dead and live herbage accumulation and the HEFF at two silvopastoral sites with short‐rotation coppices in Germany. In addition, the total grassland–tree interface in Germany was assessed from land use and land cover maps of Germany based on satellite data to approximate the potential of grassland extensification near trees. The total herbage accumulation near trees declined by up to 41% but the HEFF was not affected by the position. Consequently, any intensification is not paid‐off by adequate productivity and herbage quality in terms of HEFF and tree‐related losses in herbage accumulation are expected up to a distance of 4.5–6 m. Applying a 4.5 m border on satellite data, we found that up to 4.4% (approximately 2200 km2) of the total grassland area in Germany is at a tree interface and potentially suitable for extensification. These findings indicate substantial potential for biodiversity conservation in grasslands with low trade‐off for high‐quality yield.