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Meadows and pastures in the southern Black Forest

In the German-speaking area, grassland is used to describe agricultural areas on which mainly grass and / or herbaceous plants are grown and whose biomass is used for grazing or mowing for livestock farming or, to a small extent, for the production of energy crops ( grassland management ). These are primarily anthropogenically created ecosystems that require constant use in order to prevent the regrowth of naturally existing vegetation (mainly forest ). Likewise, nature conservation areas are referred to as grassland where the use claim is only secondary or not at all, but which aim to preserve the character of this cultural landscape through appropriate nature conservation measures.

The grassland can be preserved as pasture , meadow or mixed forms. The grassland created, used and preserved by man is one of the defining elements of many landscapes in the temperate zone .

In general, there is space in climates with over 400 mm of precipitation annual average, the earlier of the potential vegetation of the respective Klimates were passed and not to Urgrasland such. B. steppe or savannah, which can be used agriculturally by humans only through natural grazing . If anthropogenic grassland in Central Europe is no longer used, it will develop into forest again over time through natural succession . This affects most of today's grassland areas in Europe. Relatively large exceptions are z. B. the grassland of the alpine altitude level, where no forest growth is possible for climatic reasons.

The naturally created grassland ( grassland , steppes , savannahs ) is usually delimited as natural grassland from the grassland ecosystems created by human activity. In Central Europe it is only available to a very limited extent (e.g. mats of the alpine altitude or salt marshes on the coasts).

Demarcation, definition, subdivision

Primeval grassland still exists today in regions where there is less than 400 mm of annual rainfall and therefore no natural succession to bush and woodland takes place. At the edges of the grassland biomes there are transition areas to other climates (for example the Canadian prairie , the central pampas or the European forest steppes), where it is often not known whether they were naturally formed or by human influences. For example, the European puszta in Hungary is often referred to as the secondary steppe, as massive human interventions in the original natural landscape took place in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some ecologists, however, see the formation in ice age processes and justify this, among other things, with the black earth soils typical of steppes.

The term grassland as a form of land use is as the agricultural open hallway as opposed to farmland  - the wrap is - to horticultural areas  - which in a broader sense and also fruit and wine growing areas. include -, as well as fallow land  - which remains temporarily unused - and the numerous forms of secondary agricultural areas ( unproductive areas ) - such as paths , creeks , groves , but also pond management areas and the like - as well as commercial forest , which is the forestry branch of the farms.

Ecology and biology

The ecology and biology, for which the agricultural grassland represents a - man-made - secondary vegetation, distinguish grassland in the narrower and in the broader sense.

A hybrid form between grassland and fruit fields is represented by orchards . Due to the permanently closed plant cover, grassland offers very good protection against erosion. At the same time, nutrients mineralized in the soil are continuously used to form plant mass due to the permanent vegetation during the vegetation period. By moving dead parts of the grassland plants, the soil is enriched with humus. The lack of tillage on permanent grassland promotes the development of a rich soil life. In summary, the factors mentioned provide excellent protection for the soil and groundwater.

Botanical species composition of grassland in Central Europe

Energy value of forage meadows depending on the alpha diversity of the plant species in Central Austria.

As a rule, today's grassland in Central Europe is destroyed natural vegetation, especially forest cleared in the Middle Ages. The major deforestation in the mountain areas of Central Europe at that time was carried out to expand the cultivation of grain with rye and oats for the increasing needs of the increasing population for their own food and livestock as well as for the many draft animals for trade, shipping and war.

The different climates, soil types, intensity of use and forms of use in grassland lead to different plant communities with different dominance and biodiversity of certain plant species, which are then referred to as different types of grassland . Well-managed economic grassland usually has a lower alpha, beta and gamma biodiversity due to intensive use, i.e. it has lower numbers of species per unit area than extensively managed forage meadows. Instead, more intensively managed feed meadows provide higher feed quality with higher energy and protein contents, which are a prerequisite for the economical feeding of high-performance breeding cattle. (See chapters intensive grassland (commercial grassland ) and extensive grassland )

A study carried out on behalf of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in 2005 suggests the following identification species for a species-rich grassland by natural area, whereby at least 30 of the proposed 47 species or groups of species must be found. These are sorted according to the decreasing number of occurrences in the different natural areas :

In the central Austrian Alpine region, the biodiversity ( alpha diversity ) of grassland varies between 7 and 114 species and averages 35 plant species per 100 m² according to a compilation by Humer (2015).

Grasses - examples

as feed
precious inferior worthless
Meadow fescue Common bluegrass Common stench grass
Meadow panicle Bristles Year-old panicle
Annual ryegrass Common couch grass Honey grasses
Italian ryegrass Downy oats Smack
Perennial ryegrass Red ostrich grass Bergrispe
Timothy grass Comb grass Bristle grass
Knuckleweed Golden oats Ostrich grass
Meadow foxtail Cotton grasses
Red fescue Soft brim
White ostrich grass Sedges
Common oat Rushes

Legumes and Herbs - Examples

as feed
precious inferior worthless
White clover Common dandelions over 20 percent Bitter clover
Persian clover Plantain Bedstraw
Red clover Meadow cumin Chickweed
Swedish clover Wiesenknopf Cranesbill
Horn clover Pimpinelle Cinquefoil
Sweet peas Hogweed Meadow chervil
Meadow pea Giersch Honorary award
Lady's mantle thistle Shepherd's purse
Ribwort plantain Meadowsweet Nettle
Common yarrow Knotweed Johannis herbs
Vetch Bellflower daisy
Ordinary dandelions under 20 percent Pennywort Cuckoo carnation

Poisonous or suspected poisonous plants

The following species are plants with poisonous ingredients. Species are also listed where ingredients are suspected of having a problem with animal health. The exact effects, especially in small doses, have been little researched, healing effects on specific areas of the body are conceivable. Too high a concentration in the feed will lead to health restrictions in the animals, depending on their size and the type of plant ingested.

Meadowfoam , autumn crocus , spurge , water hemlock , Hemlock , Equisetum palustre , Marigold , anemone , columbine , Gold Yellow buttercup , Burning buttercup , Gifthahnenfuß , Ranunculus acris (greater occurrence), rattle , Thalictrum flavum , Trollblume , bracken

Site and soil conditions

A distinction is made between optional and obligatory grassland according to the location and soil conditions: On optional grassland, other fruits, e.g. B. Grains are grown. Obligatory grassland, on the other hand, is mostly a border location on which other fruits only grow with difficulty; Possible reasons for this are high rainfall (e.g. in Scandinavia ), steppe-like drought or soils unsuitable for tillage such as bog soils , floodplain soils or poorly structured marsh soils .

Form of use

Fat permanent grassland

Grassland can be used as meadow or as pasture. In addition, there are mixed forms of these two basic forms of use in many places. The growing biomass is harvested on meadows to obtain (winter) fodder for livestock by mowing (and processing). The biomass obtained in this way is rarely fed into biogas plants . When using pasture, the animals stand on the area and the cattle eat the feed directly. In the mixed forms mentioned, there is a change in time sequence between pasture and meadow use on the same grassland area ("pre-pasture" or "post-pasture").

Pure mulching of the grassland, which only serves to preserve the open land character of the grassland area, is not actually used. The growth is then not used, but only shredded and left to rot . On the one hand, this practice serves to maintain the landscape when there is no other option for using the grassland (e.g. because there are no longer any farmers in the region). Since mulching has fatal consequences for the animal world, it is to be rejected in terms of nature conservation. In other cases, mulching is used to maintain the eligibility of a grassland area. The common agricultural policy of the EU requires z. B. a (bi-) annual minimum use, which also includes fast, and therefore, in cases where there is no claim to use, economical mulching.

Permanent grassland

Permanent grassland is called forage areas that have short-grass vegetation as permanent crop for a long time. Permanent grassland is therefore a form of vegetation ( meadow or pasture ) with a relatively closed sward that is laid out for at least 5 years and is formed by a plant community of grasses, herbs and legumes . Grassland is kept free of trees or forests through more or less regular mowing and / or grazing and is used for biomass production, as fodder, for energy production (as feedstock for biogas plants or as fuel ) or, in earlier times, as litter for animal husbandry.

Alternating grassland, alternating economy

Two historical crop rotation systems that are widespread in Europe are summarized under the umbrella term alternating grassland (a form of alternating economy ): the field grass economy and the Egart economy. In both cases, multi-year grassland alternates with annual or multi-year arable farming . The positive effect of the grassland on soil fertility (high humus content ) is used for interim use of the fields.

Annual and perennial forage cultivation in the form of forage grasses (arable grass) or mixtures of grass and herbaceous plants is not grassland, but is included in arable forage cultivation .


Around 10-year-old meadow fallow with thistle and nettle

A grassland fallow represents a plant community which - possibly for shorter or longer periods of time (years or decades) - is no longer used by humans and is then subject to certain natural succession processes . The fallow land is characterized by the lack of any agricultural or other use of the vegetation (e.g. social fallow land ). If the use of grassland were not used permanently, forests would emerge again over time (= potential natural vegetation ). For the purposes of this definition, however, fallow land must be strictly differentiated from so-called rotational and permanent fallow land on arable land . These are mostly short-lived fallow stages that are consciously brought about by agricultural policy with the aim of relieving the pressure on the market.

Intensity of use

The botanical species composition of the green areas is decisively influenced by the level of use. This results in part from the location and the intensity of the fertilization. If it is used intensively through multiple cuts or if there is a high number of animals when grazing, the species diversity of the grassland is reduced. Due to the large number of grassland and plant communities and the different nomenclature of grassland types , a three-part rough division according to the intensity of use is common:

Intensive grassland (commercial grassland)

Commercial grassland with an expected yield of 120 dt DM / ha with 5 uses

The term intensive grassland is not yet defined as agricultural technical standard or norm not specified. There is no standardized use of this term in the entire German-speaking area. Responsible agricultural authorities rarely use this term. On the other hand, the term is used more often by environmental activists , ecologists and in common parlance and then has a negative connotation. The grassland botanist and ecologist Gottfried Briemle defines intensive grassland as follows: "Commercial grassland is a type of grassland that is used so heavily that the production of basic forage for dairy farming - in competition with silage maize  - is economically worthwhile." Depending on the natural area and location, between 4 and 7 uses per year (as pruning, pasture or forage pasture).

Juicy, fresh green forage from a new meadow with the best forage quality with knaulgrass, white clover, red clover and ryegrass in Deutschbach Lower Austria

The livestock stocking of intensively used pastures is usually given as over 2 livestock units per hectare (LU; corresponds, for example, to 2 adult cattle) and can be up to 6 LU / ha. In Austrian agriculture, up until 2014, livestock stocking of 2 LU / ha was the upper limit for funding in the agri-environmental program (2007).

The number of plant species is typical for very productive economic grassland with 15 to 20 per 25 m² reference area (for example for north German grassland). However, this is a multiple of the species diversity common in arable forage production. In the Austrian North Styrian grassland areas, the biodiversity fluctuates on the intensively managed forage meadows with four cutting uses per year between 7 and 52 plant species and averages 28 plant species per 100 m².

Extensive grassland

Extensive grassland with an expected yield of 60 dt DM / ha with 2 uses

Under extensive grassland - or species-rich grassland - are understood to be predominantly 1-3 schürige Hay and Öhmdwiesen. However, it also includes extensively farmed pastures at high altitudes. Such grassland is used appropriately for the location and experiences only a partial return of the nutrients via farmyard manure (manure, liquid manure, liquid manure). The plant populations have an average feed value and also occupy a middle position in the species inventory between the economic and biotope grassland. The number of plant species is comparatively high at 30 to 45 per 25 m² of reference area and the aspects are brightly colored (see also flower meadow ). Central European grassland can, with particularly favorable local conditions and extensive use, achieve a diversity of plant species per m² that is otherwise only to be found in the tropical rainforest. A maximum of 89 plant species were found on one square meter. The extensive grassland category also includes the two mesophilic grassland types, lean, lowland hay meadows (FFH code 6510) and mountain hay meadows (FFH code 6520), which are protected by the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive (FFH).

The livestock stocking of extensively used grassland is 0.3 to 1.5 LU / ha with pasture use. The frequency of cuts when using meadow is 1 to 2, rarely 3 cuts per year.

A distinction must be made between extensive grassland and “extensive grassland”, which developed out of species-poor economic grassland through a reduction in the frequency of use and fertilization, but generally does not (yet) have the nature conservation value of extensive grassland.

Biotope grassland

Biotope grassland (wet meadow rich in orchids)

Biotope grassland is a collective term for grassland that no longer serves primarily for agricultural fodder or litter production (see litter meadow ). These are poor meadows or pastures in extreme site conditions, where the general availability of nutrients is low, usually either because the soil is too dry or too wet . Examples of biotope grassland are: semi-arid grassland and Kleinseggenwiesen. The order of magnitude of the natural biomass production is at the level of the lean grassland and thus below 35 dt DM / ha. The plant society represents the most species-rich ecosystem in Central Europe: up to 70 vascular plant species occur on a 25 m² reference area. Biotope grassland has often been under nature protection for a long time (e.g. juniper heaths , marsh grass litter meadows), or the areas are maintained on behalf of the nature conservation administration (“ contractual nature conservation ”). The livestock stock is usually below 0.5 LU / ha.

Example: fodder meadows in Hungary

In Hungary the grassland already has a distinctly different character than in neighboring Austria. In western Hungary, the areas are often heavily wetted at times and they are often 10 to 100 times larger than in Austria, lined with moats and meter-wide strips of wood. Previous observations between 2000 and 2016 show that in western Hungary the grassland is only mowed once or twice and hardly or not at all fertilized because the forage is hardly needed there due to the lack of widespread, extensive livestock farming. Scrub up unused meadows. Hunters mow driving aisles in the overgrown meadows in order to get free firing paths and access aisles to the high seats. The meadows there are a paradise for game and birds like storks. In the last few years, a number of smaller new grazing farms have emerged there by promoting animal husbandry. Since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1990, livestock farming on the large farms has almost disappeared and with it the extensive use of meadow forage in this region.


The aboveground plant biomass of the grassland, which is harvested one to six times a year, depending on the intensity of use, is used fresh, ensiled or dried mainly as feed for cattle (dairy cows, beef cattle ). Biomass is increasingly being used to generate biogas . Also possible, but rarely practiced due to procedural and emission-related difficulties, is the incineration of the dried crop as stalk-like biomass . The material utilization of the harvested crop from intensive economic grassland by using the fibers is only carried out by individual companies.

Feed value

The forage value reflects the purely economic value of the harvested material and differs from the total social value of the species. An emphasis on this classification is due to the increased concentration on content values ​​of plants used for agricultural production in recent decades. The following tables and lists give a feed value evaluation of some grassland plants as part of the determination of quality classes of pasture fodder in the GDR from 1986. There is a connection between the low feed value and the degree of risk according to the Red List .


In comparison to the forms of grassland management that were common up until the middle of the 20th century, today's grassland management differs in a number of features. As a result of the transition from grazing to year-round stable keeping, the use of meadows for mowing increases at the expense of pasture use, and liquid manure management is predominantly carried out instead of the previously common solid manure management . Due to the transition from dry fodder preparation ( hay ) to silage , the time of first growth is earlier in the year today and thus allows more uses per year overall.

Fiscal-legal classification

In terms of EU state aid law, there is the following distinction between permanent grassland and arable land: Arable land is "land that is regularly cultivated and is generally subject to crop rotation ". A threshold of five years is set for the distinction between arable land and permanent crops or permanent grassland. That means: A new meadow sowing, for example, becomes "permanent grassland" after 5 years.

A conversion of grassland into arable land (“ upheaval ”) is no longer easily possible under EU law in Germany for ecological reasons.


  • K. Buchgraber, G. Gindl: Contemporary grassland management. 2nd Edition. Leopold Stocker Verlag , Graz 1994, ISBN 3-7020-1073-4 .
  • G. Briemle, M. Elsäßer, T. Jilg, W. Müller, H. Nussbaum: Sustainable grassland management in Baden-Württemberg. In: Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry. Springer Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg / New York 1996, ISBN 3-540-61090-1 , pp. 215-256.
  • H. Dierschke, G. Briemle: Kulturgrasland. Meadows, pastures and related herbaceous vegetation. Ulmer, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-8001-3816-6 .
  • Heinz Ellenberg : Vegetation of Central Europe with the Alps from an ecological point of view. 3rd, improved edition. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-8001-3428-4 .
  • E. Klapp: meadows and pastures. 4th edition. Parey-Verlag, Berlin / Hamburg 1971.
  • W. Opitz v. Boberfeld: Grassland theory - biological and ecological basics. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-8252-1770-1 .
  • G. Voigtländer, H. Jacob: Grassland farming and forage production. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1987.
  • N. Schoof, R. Luick, G. Beaufoy, G. Jones, P. Einarsson, J. Ruiz, V. Stefanova, D. Fuchs, T. Windmaißer, H. Hötker, H. Jeromin, H. Nickel, S. Schumacher, M. Ukhanova: Grassland protection in Germany: drivers of biodiversity, influence of agri-environmental and climate measures, regulatory law, dairy industry and effects of climate and energy policy. (= BfN script. 539). BfN, Bonn - Bad Godesberg 2019, ISBN 978-3-89624-277-8 . (

Web links

Commons : Grassland  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Gottfried Briemle, Conrad Fink, Claus-Peter Hutter: Meadows, pastures and other grassland: recognizing, determining, protecting biotopes. Weitbrecht Verlag, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-522-72010-5 , pp. 8th ff . ( Google Books [accessed October 19, 2015]).
  2. a b c d e Nicolas Schoof, Rainer Luick, Guy Beaufoy, Gwyn Jones, Peter Einarsson, Jabier Ruiz, Vyara Stefanova, Daniel Fuchs, Tobias Windmaißer, Hermann Hötker, Heike Jeromin, Herbert Nickel, Jochen Schumacher, Mariya Ukhanova: Grünlandschutz in Germany: drivers of biodiversity, influence of agri-environmental and climate measures, regulatory law, dairy industry and effects of climate and energy policy (=  BfN script . Volume 539 ). Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Bonn - Bad Godesberg 2019, ISBN 978-3-89624-277-8 (257 pages, ).
  3. Georg Grabherr: Color Atlas of Ecosystems of the Earth. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-8001-3489-6 , p. 286.
  4. Klaus-Ulrich Heyland (Ed.): Special plant cultivation. 7th edition. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1952, 1996, ISBN 3-8001-1080-6 , pp. 13-15.
  5. Wolfram Güthler, Rainer Oppermann: Further develop agri-environmental programs and contractual nature protection With agriculture to more nature: Results of the R + D project "Offer nature protection" . Ed .: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. Bonn 2005, ISBN 978-3-7843-3913-9 .
  6. a b J. Humer, A. Blaschka, A. Bohner, E. Poetsch: Biodiversity span of fodder grassland in Austria. In: Forage meadow expert Humer, January 28, 2015, accessed on May 8, 2016 (English).
  7. EM Pötsch, A. Blaschka: Final report on the evaluation of MAB data for the evaluation of the ÖPUL with regard to Chapter VI.2.A "Species diversity". Gumpenstein, December 2003, 37 pp. (PDF) BMLFUW, 2003, accessed on May 6, 2016 .
  8. SOURCE Briemle MISSING; please prove.
  9. a b c M. Bunzel-Drüke, C. Böhm, G. Finck, R. Kämmer, E. Luick, E. Reisinger, U. Riecken, J. Riedl, M. Scharf, O. Zimball: Wilde Weiden - Practical Guide for year-round grazing in nature conservation and landscape development. Working group for biological environmental protection in the Soest district V. (Ed.) - Sassendorf-Lohne 2008, pp. 114–116.
  10. J. Schultz: The ecological zones of the earth. Ulmer, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8252-1514-9 , p. 197.
  11. ÖPUL 2007, special guideline of the BMLFUW for the Austrian program to promote environmentally friendly, extensive agriculture that protects natural habitats (Ö PUL 2007); GZ BMLFUW-LE.1.1.8 / 0073-II / 8/2007. (PDF; 497 kB) In: BMLFUW and AMA Austria, 2007, accessed on May 8, 2016 .
  12. ^ Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture: Species-rich grassland - result-oriented grassland use. 2017, accessed July 31, 2017 .
  13. Example: Biowert Industrie GmbH: Agricell. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
  14. a b H. Olschewski: Instructions for determining and evaluating the forage quality on pastures . Ed .: Rat d. District Fachorg. for agriculture, forest and Food industry. Karl-Marx-Stadt April 1986.
  15. Hartmut Dierschke, Gottfried Briemle: Kulturgrasland: meadows, pastures and related herbaceous vegetation . Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8001-5641-2 .
  16. Agricultural statistics decision 2000/115 / EG of the EU Commission .
  17. ↑ A ban on plowing up permanent grassland was ordered. Website of the North Rhine-Westphalia Chamber of Agriculture, press release from the Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia dated February 11, 2011, accessed on May 9, 2016.