This hay meadow donor site has been managed for diversity for over 25 years.
This hay meadow has been managed for diversity for over 25 years. It is a unique field within the farm and within the project. Visiting this field is sure to lift your spirits. Over 19 species of pollinators have been observed in this field and it is home to over twenty flowering plant species. The plants found in this field are genetically different to ones that you can buy commercially. They are as unique as the field itself. It contains grass species that have not been bred. Many species of beetles, birds, butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, mammals, microflora, moths, shieldbugs, snails, spiders, wasps and worms can be seen here.
It is thanks to the farmer and his wife that this field is so rich in biodiversity. By adding no fertiliser and cutting or grazing the field once a year, after the seed has had a chance to fall, this 4.6-hectare site provides food, safety, and shelter to at least 50 different species.
It is hoped that this site will be used as a seed zone whereby local seed can be harvested and can then be used in habitat restoration at other local sites. Native species and local provenance seed being used in habitat restoration, on a local scale, is a very positive step towards maintaining, enhancing, and protecting local biodiversity.
Two brush harvesters were used to collect the seed. One was located on the front of the tractor and the second was offset. Brush harvesting is a very gentle method of harvesting seed. The machine uses rotating brushes to collect the seed and as a result donor species are not harmed in the process. The field can still be cut for hay afterwards. Before harvesting, the track was mapped with GPS to keep a record for next years harvest (a different track will be harvested next year). A small sample of what was in the meadow at that time was harvested. The plan is to now share the seed with other local farms within the project.
Key principles are kept when harvesting seed.
- Maintain local genetic diversity
- Sustainable seed sourcing
- Traceability and transparency
- Seed quality
When harvesting, the aim is to collect a representative range of species and to not collect more than 20% of seed within a site in any one year.
Seed Cleaning and Drying
Tarpaulin was put down to give insects a chance to escape from the collected plant material. Once harvested the seed undergoes threshing (the process of removing seeds from the plant and breaking up remaining plant material into chaff). This process separates the seed from the unwanted plant material. To ensure a high-quality standard of seed it is important that all chaff is removed. Sieves are then used to screen by size. It is important to start the dying process as soon as possible. Seed viability starts to decrease once it is harvested from the plant. A grain dryer cannot be used to dry wildflower seed as the hot temperatures will kill the seed. Ambient air is used in the drying process. If the seed is damp heated air is used.
EcoSeeds is a member of the European Native Seed Producers Association (ENSPA)
EcoSeeds is a member of the European Native Seed Producers Association (ENSPA). ENSPA are working to help restore degraded ecosystems across Europe and EcoSeeds is doing this across the island of Ireland. The members of ENSPA and its associated organizations are committed to creating the conditions necessary for the development of a native seed market across all European Countries, so that native seed of appropriate local origin is available for ecological restoration in the required quantity, quality, and diversity.
Dr Saorla Kavanagh is the Project Manager of the Protecting Farmland Pollinators EIP.
Participant Farmer interviews:
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Protecting Farmland Pollinators is an EIP (European Innovation Partnership) project being administered by the National Biodiversity Data Centre. The Project is funded by the EU Recovery Instrument Funding under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2022.
Is tionscadal EIP (Comhpháirtíocht Nuálaíochta Eorpach) é an Protecting Farmland Pollinators atá á riaradh ag National Biodiversity Data Centre. Tá an Tionscadal maoinithe ag Maoiniú Ionstraim Téarnaimh an AE faoin gClár um Fhorbairt Tuaithe 2014-2022.