Thursday, June 9, 2016

Where have all the flowers gone? Farmers cut them down

They don't seem to have much in the way of wildflowers on meadows in the German hills we call home, do they?

This was a thought the blogster had years ago when it* first wandered around the countryside in summer. The thought did not trigger even a short investigation, though. Blame it on priorities, intellectual laziness or what you will - it did not lead to further queries until recently.

Although the blogster did make a conscious effort to add lots of bee friendly flowers to the patch of dirt around the house.

Over time, and in passing, we learned that a lot of acreage in flood zones had been converted to farm land, mostly for corn and rape seed. We learned that the built up areas of Germany had gone from some 12% to about 13.6%, in part because of a trend by companies to build single story structures.

Consolidation of small fields and meadows into large units suitable for ever bigger equipment meant fewer access roads, which in turn reduced the amount of unused roadside space for grass and wildflowers.

But only recently did the blogster learn about one improvement in productivity that may be the biggest single cause of the loss of butterfly species, 22% of large butterflies since 1989.

Meadows are being mowed much earlier than in the old days.

This means that many flowers do not have time to bloom and go to seed, in turn depriving butterflies and bees of food.

Early mowing was made possible by going from hay, which needs to be fully dry in order to keep through the winter, to silage, which likes moisture and is more nutritious, too.

So, they do have fewer wildflowers in 21st century Germany.

* Gender neutral, friends.

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