The study is part of the NERC Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme. This project investigated the links between quality food production and biodiversity protection by asking the question: can production systems that use and maintain biodiverse natural grasslands, translate that into a source of additional product value in the production of meat and cheese and therefore benefit rural economies? The aim was to inverse the conventional understanding of landscape or environmental quality as the outcome of well managed farming to explore the idea of natural grassland biodiversity as an input into more sustainable farming and as an integral component of product quality. This dataset consists of the grassland botanical composition and chemical soil analyses resulting from this project. A botanical field survey of a number of sample grazing sites on selected case study farms records the plant species present within a representative area of phytosociologically homogeneous vegetation and the percentage cover that each species vertically projects onto the ground surface. Soil analyses of sample sites determines soil composition, pH and minerals. Land management, consumer opinion and nutritional data from this study are available at the UK Data Archive under study number 6159 (see online resources). Further documentation for this study may be found through the RELU Knowledge Portal and the project's ESRC funding award web page (see online resources).
Publication date: 2008-09-18
Research funded by Economic and Social Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Award Number: RES-224-26-0041 Botanical inventory and soil analyses on 42 selected case study farms with biodiverse grassland types: 12 lamb farms, 15 beef farms, 12 cheese farms, 3 control farms. Three grassland communities (mesotrophic, acid and calcareous) were so selected, represented by saltmarsh, moorland and heather for sheep farming; acid, calcareous and wet-neutral grasslands for beef farming; and circumneutral for on-farm cheese production. These were located using existing vegetation maps and surveys. For the botanical survey plant species were identified and their frequency recorded, as well as site and vegetation description, soil profile, soil depth, slope, aspect, stand area, sample area, mean height of layers of vegetation, altitude and geology. The data recorded on species cover and the calculated frequency class was then used to assign the assessed stand of vegetation to a published community or sub-community. For soil analyses 100 g soil samples were taken for each site to determine: - sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium in soil by ICP-AES - phosphate-phosphorus in soil by colorimetry - pH in soil and water