• The Agrodiversity Experiment: three years of data from a multisite study in intensively managed grasslands

      Kirwan, Laura; Connolly, John; Brophy, C.; Baadshaug, Ole; Belanger, Gilles; Black, Alistair D; Camus, Tim; Collins, Rosemary; Cop, Jure; Delgado, Ignacio; et al. (Ecological Society of America, 11/06/2014)
      Intensively managed grasslands are globally prominent ecosystems. We investigated whether experimental increases in plant diversity in intensively managed grassland communities can increase their resource use efficiency. This work consisted of a coordinated, continental-scale 33-site experiment. The core design was 30 plots, representing 15 grassland communities at two seeding densities. The 15 communities were comprised of four monocultures (two grasses and two legumes) and 11 four-species mixtures that varied in the relative abundance of the four species at sowing. There were 1028 plots in the core experiment, with another 572 plots sown for additional treatments. Sites agreed a protocol and employed the same experimental methods with certain plot management factors, such as seeding rates and number of cuts, determined by local practice. The four species used at a site depended on geographical location, but the species were chosen according to four functional traits: a fast-establishing grass, a slow-establishing persistent grass, a fast-establishing legume, and a slow-establishing persistent legume. As the objective was to maximize yield for intensive grassland production, the species chosen were all high-yielding agronomic species. The data set contains species-specific biomass measurements (yield per species and of weeds) for all harvests for up to four years at 33 sites. Samples of harvested vegetation were also analyzed for forage quality at 26 sites. Analyses showed that the yield of the mixtures exceeded that of the average monoculture in >97% of comparisons. Mixture biomass also exceeded that of the best monoculture (transgressive overyielding) at about 60% of sites. There was also a positive relationship between the diversity of the communities and aboveground biomass that was consistent across sites and persisted for three years. Weed invasion in mixtures was very much less than that in monocultures. These data should be of interest to ecologists studying relationships between diversity and ecosystem function and to agronomists interested in sustainable intensification. The large spatial scale of the sites provides opportunity for analyses across spatial (and temporal) scales. The database can also complement existing databases and meta-analyses on biodiversity–ecosystem function relationships in natural communities by focusing on those same relationships within intensively managed agricultural grasslands.
    • Ash dieback on the island of Ireland

      McCracken, A.R.; Douglas, Gerry C.; Ryan, C.; Destefanis, M.; Cooke, L.R.; European Co-Operation in Science and Technology (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 2017)
      On the island of Ireland it is estimated that there are over half a million kilometres of hedgerows (400,000+ km in the Republic of Ireland (Rep. Ireland) and 113,000+ in Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland). Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is the second most important component, after hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), in large proportions of this hedgerow network. In the Rep. Ireland over 20,000 ha of ash have been planted since 1990, primarily for sawlogs and to provide material for the manufacture of hurleys, which are used in an important national sport called hurling, and for camogie sticks used to play camogie. Ash dieback, caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, was first identified on the island in October 2012 and since then has been detected at 306 sites (195 in Rep. Ireland and 111 in Northern Ireland). In the vast majority of cases the outbreaks have been on young, imported trees planted within the previous 5 – 6 years and it was evident that the pathogen had been introduced on trees for planting. On a small number of occasions there was evidence of the pathogen cycling within a plantation or moving from the plantation to infect neighbouring hedgerow trees. One possible mechanism by which the pathogen can build up sufficient inoculum is by the formation of apothecia on infected woody tissue high up on the plants. Rep. Ireland and Northern Ireland have strict policies of eradication and containment, as set out in the All-Ireland Chalara Control Strategy. To date over 2.1 million trees have been destroyed as part of an eradication strategy. It is considered that this prompt and far-reaching action has had a significant impact, significantly mitigating and preventing the rapid establishment of the pathogen and limiting its spread. The interventions since the disease was first confirmed have helped to protect the considerable investment in ash plantations of the last 20 years. The pathogen has not, however, been eradicated from the island of Ireland and it remains to be seen how widespread, and how quickly ash dieback will become established on the island of Ireland. The latest figures from the Republic of Ireland are that 733 hectares of ash plantation has been reconstituted with another species as a result of Chalara and this has cost our state €2.6 million so far; in addition, Chalara has been found and confirmed in all 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland to a greater or lesser extent. As a result the current policies and procedures regarding Chalara are under review.
    • COST E42 Growing Valuable Broadleaves Silviculture Matrix: An Irish example

      Short, Ian; Bulfin, Michael; Radford, Toddy; European Co-Operation in Science and Technology; COFORD (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland & Coford, Ireland, 2008)
      The purpose of developing the silvicultural matrix in COST E 42 was to provide a vehicle whereby information on silviculture of valuable broadleaved species could be gathered from as many participating countries as possible. The aim of this matrix is to determine what are considered the optimum silvicultural treatments for each of our target species in countries across Europe. In many cases only one or two countries will have experience of a particular species. Also it must be realised that, for many of the larger countries in Europe, there are different climatic regimes and no single matrix can encapsulate the recommendations for that country. In this case a number of climatic regional matrices would be preferable. For this reason, not all countries felt in a position to contribute a matrix and preferred to provide a narrative discussion on various species. As an illustration of how the matrix can provide a guideline for farmers wishing to plant, the example of ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) in Ireland is taken. Based on the research we carried out, we developed a set of guidelines to assist farmers in making critical decisions. These guidelines now form the basis for government support to farmers.
    • European Mixed Forests: definition and research perspectives

      Bravo-Oviedo, Andres; Pretzsch, Hans; Ammer, Christian; Andenmatten, Ernesto; Barbati, Anna; Barreiro, Susana; Brang, Peter; Bravo, Felipe; Coll, Lluis; Corona, Piermaria; et al. (Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA), 2014-11)
      Aim of study: We aim at (i) developing a reference definition of mixed forests in order to harmonize comparative research in mixed forests and (ii) briefly review the research perspectives in mixed forests. Area of study: The definition is developed in Europe but can be tested worldwide. Material and methods: Review of existent definitions of mixed forests based and literature review encompassing dynamics, management and economic valuation of mixed forests. Main results: A mixed forest is defined as a forest unit, excluding linear formations, where at least two tree species coexist at any developmental stage, sharing common resources (light, water, and/or soil nutrients). The presence of each of the component species is normally quantified as a proportion of the number of stems or of basal area, although volume, biomass or canopy cover as well as proportions by occupied stand area may be used for specific objectives. A variety of structures and patterns of mixtures can occur, and the interactions between the component species and their relative proportions may change over time. The research perspectives identified are (i) species interactions and responses to hazards, (ii) the concept of maximum density in mixed forests, (iii) conversion of monocultures to mixed-species forest and (iv) economic valuation of ecosystem services provided by mixed forests. Research highlights: The definition is considered a high-level one which encompasses previous attempts to define mixed forests. Current fields of research indicate that gradient studies, experimental design approaches, and model simulations are key topics providing new research opportunities.
    • Vegetative propagation of dieback-tolerant Fraxinus excelsior on

      Douglas, Gerry C.; Namara, J.M.; O'Connell, K.; Dunne, L.; Grant, Jim; European Co-Operation in Science and Technology; FP1103 (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 2017)
      Ash trees which are tolerant to Hymenoscyphus fraxineus may be selected in all age classes among heavily infected populations. They may be produced also by controlled crossings of disease tolerant trees, because the genetic component of inheritance for disease tolerance is high. For mature and juvenile plant material, the deployment of disease tolerant genotypes could be potentially achieved by vegetatively propagating selected genotypes. We describe a system to vegetatively propagate selected ash genotypes and we discuss the prospects and options for using vegetative propagation on all age classes of trees. Mature trees were rejuvenated through the process of micropropagation to establish mother plants in large trays which were cut back repeatedly (hedged) to produce at least two crops of cuttings per year. The rooting capacity of ten genotypes was tested by a commercial nursery over a period of three years, to assess the feasibility of using hedged mother plants for efficient propagation. Commercial practise was to treat cuttings with 0.25% IBA, insert them in plug pots and maintain them covered with fine plastic within low plastic tunnels in a non heated greenhouse and without supplementary heating at the cutting base. In the first year, the mean rooting rate was 53 % for the first crop of cuttings and 35 % for the second. In the second and third years the rooting rates improved to over 80% for each crop of cuttings as experience was gained in handling the material. Rooting rate varied among the genotypes. We assessed the growth and development of micropropagated ash trees in the field from an observation clonal trial, consisting of four mature genotypes which had been established in 2002 in five replicate plots. The micropropagated trees were generally similar in height and dbh to seed derived control trees and developed normally. These observations are discussed in the context of using vegetative propagation as a tool in breeding and for the large scale deployment of ash with tolerance to H. fraxineus.