Multispecies ley plot at Grassland & Muck 2017© Tim Scrivener

Farmers could benefit from using multispecies grass leys to lower anthelmintic resistance and improve soil quality.

Multispecies leys combine complementary grass, legume and herb species and typically contain 40% legume herbs with 60% grasses, Helen Mathieu of Germinal told told Farmers Weekly at Grassland & Muck 2017.

See also: More news from Grassland & Muck 2017

They are becoming increasingly popular in low-input systems and arable rotations where clover can fix up to 150kgN/ha a year, said Ms Mathieu.

The varying root structures of chicory, plantain and clovers also help to penetrate the soil, making it more drought-tolerant while improving microbial activity, she added.

While it is slightly more expensive – at about £65/acre – than the cost of a high-sugar grass at about £60/acre, the additional benefits can far outweigh the extra establishment costs, said Ms Mathieu, who added that plantain and chicory also have anthelmintic properties.

Establishment advice

“They are better in a clean seed-bed, probably following a plough, rather than trying to stitch them in.”

For cutting mixes, Ms Mathieu advised using different species.

“There are certain species you wouldn’t use. You would drop chicory because once closed up, it really bolts, and maybe use vetch or crimson clover.”

Examples of plant species to use:

  • Grass – perennial ryegrass and Timothy
  • Herbs – plantain and chicory
  • Legumes – red and white clover

Advice:

  • Choose varieties from the Recommended List that complement each other 
  • Prepare a clean seed-bed

When to sow:

  • End of March to early April, depending on location and climate