Management of Grassland-like Wildflower Strips Sown on Nutrient-rich Arable Soils: The Role of Grass Density and Mowing Regime

  • Julien PiquerayEmail author
  • Valentin Gilliaux
  • Virginie Decruyenaere
  • Jean-Thomas Cornelis
  • Roel Uyttenbroeck
  • Grégory Mahy


Wildflower strips (WS) are proposed in many European countries as a strategy to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services in arable fields. To create and maintain WS on nutrient-rich cultivated soils reveals challenging. Flowered species may be outcompeted by grasses due to high phosphorus content in soil. We studied during 5 years seed mixture (grass density in the seed mix) and mowing regime influenced the ability of WS to provide environmental benefits (flower provision for insects and landscape purposes, reduction of soil nutrient load) and respond to farmer concerns (noxious weed promotion, forage production). Lowered grass density increased flower abundance, but not diversity, only in the first 3 years. In the last 2 years mowing effects became determinant. Flower cover and richness were the highest under the twice-a-year mowing regime. This regime also increased forage quantity and quality. Flower colour diversity was conversely the highest where mowing occurred every two years. Potassium in the soil decreased under the twice-a-year mowing regime. Other nutrients were not affected. No management option kept noxious weed to an acceptable level after 5 years. This supports the need to test the efficacy of specific management practices such as selective clipping or spraying. Mowing WS twice a year was retained as the most favourable treatment to maintain species-rich strips with an abundant flower provision. It however implies to mow in late June, i.e. at the peak of insect abundance. It is therefore suggested to keep an unmown refuge zone when applying this management regime.


Agri-environment Schemes Plant diversity Soil nutrients Weed management Wildflower strips 



The authors acknowledge Dirk Verhulst and Marie Legast for the implantation and management of the experiment. Natagriwal is a non-for-profit association funded by the Walloon government.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

267_2019_1153_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (14 kb)
Supplementary Information


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natagriwal ASBL, site de GemblouxGemblouxBelgium
  2. 2.Walloon Agricultural Research Centre (CRA-W)—Production and Sectors DepartmentGemblouxBelgium
  3. 3.Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, Department BIOSystem Engineering (BIOSE),Water - Soil - Plant ExchangesUniversity of LiegeGemblouxBelgium
  4. 4.Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, Biodiversity and landscape UnitUniversity of LiegeGemblouxBelgium
  5. 5.Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, TERRA - AgricultureIsLifeUniversity of LiegeGemblouxBelgium

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