Managed mown areas

Meadow with long grass in sunset, background is out of focus

Why are we leaving areas of grass unmown at Loughborough University?

Between 2004 and 2022 flying insect populations in England have declined by 65% [1].  The reason for this is related to agriculture, and the use of pesticides to kill insects and the conversion of insect rich habitats into species poor monocultures.  In the UK, 97% of our flower-rich meadows have been lost since the 1930s [2].  Often these have been ploughed up and reseeded with a small number of grass species.  These provide no useful nectar or pollen for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.  Furthermore, these grasslands are reploughed and reseeded every 3-4 years preventing even plants such as dandelions or daisies getting established.  This process also increases the greenhouse gas emissions from soils and leads to soil infertility.

At the University, we realise we are not going to solve these significant global issues single handedly.  However, we can manage our land in a way that helps to conserve insect populations and demonstrates best practices.  As such, we will be leaving areas of long grass around campus to help support invertebrate populations.  Leaving long grass during May and June allows other plants in amongst the grasses to flower.  Buttercups, daises, dandelions, speedwells, etc., pop up and flower providing nectar and pollen for pollinators.  These plants then set seed, which provide food for other insects or birds.  Most of these grassy areas will be mown and the cuttings removed in July modelling the traditional meadow management practises.  In the long term, this cycle encourages more wildflowers to establish which will provide more food for insects, and these in turn are food for birds and bats.

You may also notice some areas being left with long grass over the winter or only being mown every other year.  Long grass is an incredibly important habitat for insects to breed and over-winter.  They shelter under the long grass during our winter emerging the following spring.  By providing such habitat from one year to the next we will supply both the homes and food needed to support wild insect populations.

The University is a founding signatory member of Nature Positive Universities – making a commitment to stop biodiversity loss by 2030 and begin the process of biodiversity gain thereafter.  Our managing of the campus in this way will hopefully increase the insect populations and support other wildlife such as birds and bats that bring so much joy to our lives.

  1. UK's flying insects have declined by 60% in 20 years (Natural History Museum)
  2. No Mow May (Plantlife)