A new concept known as green hay, has been introduced to Fermanagh and Tyrone recently, with the aim to spread wildflower seeds present in the grass.

It is part of the Save our Magnificent Meadows programme now fully established in both counties. An acre of species rich grassland was identified on Boa Island and agreement was reached with the landowner to cut ‘hay’ on demand for this innovative process. A trial cut was then taken with the fresh grass from the ‘source site’ simply forked onto a trailer and taken to a field in Tyrone.

The Tyrone field had been prepared by a recent cut, with as much bare ground opened up as possible. This pre-prepared ground is known as the receptor site, and is where the hay from the source site is spread out and managed as hay. In the following days, the green hay was then spread around repeatedly, knocking its seed load onto the ground below.

With the pilot up and running, more green hay was then cut and baled with the crop destined for CAFRE in Enniskillen. This was now a full blown trial, with staff at the College willing to support, participate in and demonstrate this exciting technique. On this occasion, two fields low in nutrients had been identified as receptor sites on the college farm. According to Giles Knight of the Save Our Magnificent Meadows programme, given the right conditions and preparation, one acre of species rich green hay can recreate three acres of species rich grassland. The cut hay needs baling (not wrapped) and transporting quickly to the receptor site, where the field must be recently cut, is low in nutrients and with up to 70% of bare ground exposed.

With this in mind, four big bales of green hay were ready to go by midday, as farmers and visitors from as far afield as Down, Antrim and Derry gathered to discuss and witness the operation. The group, invited by Giles Knight, followed the bales to Enniskillen and then helped to spread the grass as the bales were cut open. Giles said that with many hands making light work, a group of 15 then welcomed the arrival of the college tedder as it tossed the seed-heavy crop across 1 ½ acres of land. The other half of each meadow was left as it was, to act as a control. With information previously gathered on the content of all fields, it will now be interesting to see how many species successfully colonise the new sites. CAFRE staff will ensure that good seed to soil contact is achieved, something that both stock and machinery can deliver. This year, the green hay will be tedded several times before a roller comes into the field. Stock will then graze off what remains.

Giles commented: “As a means of re-creating some of our famous wildflower meadows, green haying could become a trusted technique in years to come. Farmers can increase their habitat acreage and be rewarded financially and personally for their efforts. He added: “The big turnout was really pleasing and in tandem with local farmers and CAFRE offering crops, ground, machinery and time, it bodes well for the future. Rather than accepting continued wildflower meadow declines, we can actively turn them around.”