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LegacyNet is a voluntary network to investigate the yield benefits of multispecies grassland leys, as well as their legacy effects on follow-on crops in a rotation. The basic aim is to establish a common experiment across multiple sites, with the main treatment being grassland mixtures consisting of grasses, legumes and herbs (from monoculture up to six species), and a follow-on crop (cereal or grass) to reflect the legacy effect of the grassland composition.

We know of the benefits of multi-species mixtures for yield, weed suppression, nitrogen yield and forage quality. Now, we wish to investigate how to best design grassland leys within crop rotations to maximize the function of the ley as a grassland, and to maximize the carry-over effect of the grassland (supply of symbiotically fixed nitrogen, soil health and fertility). Can we identify specific grassland species combinations that are best at delivering these functions within a crop rotation?

AIMS: LegacyNet aims to implement a common experiment across multiple sites, and collect data to allow general comparisons of the effects of multi-species grassland mixtures. LegacyNet investigates the use of multi-species grassland leys as a practical farm management strategy to improve: 

  • the quantity and quality of forage yield, 
  • the resource use efficiency and ecosystem services from grassland leys and 
  • the legacy effects of such grassland leys within crop rotation systems.

MINIMUM COMMITMENT: This is a voluntary network, and participants will implement the field experiment with 52 plots without any financial support from LegacyNet. The plots will need to be established before June 2021 (ideally in 2020 or earlier), harvested for yield over a period of at least 18 months, and then replaced by a follow-on model crop (grass monoculture, cereal or maize) that will be harvested. Partners will need to pay for analysis of forage quantity and quality. There is opportunity within LegacyNet for individuals to include additional plots, and/or do additional sampling and analyses at their own site if they wish, and the protocol for additional sampling can be shared with other sites.

CURRENT COLLABORATORS: We currently have a small number of sites already established in Ireland, Germany, England, Canada and Poland, and over 20 sites that have expressed an interest. We aim to achieve a minimum of 15 sites. LegacyNet also has a statistical partner to facilitate the analysis of the multi-site data and provide support for individual site data analysis.

NEXT STEPS: If you are interested in participating in LegacyNet, please read the attached overview of the experiment. Then, please email John Finn and Caroline Brophy (john.finn@teagasc.ie, caroline.brophy@mu.ie) who are the contact points.