Reduction of soil fertility is a key factor for restoration of species-rich grasslands. However, when soil fertility is already low, a further reduction may reduce flower size and weight. Low fertilization rates could then enhance grass production and enlarge the size of the flowers of grassland herbs and legumes. To test this hypothesis we collected inflorescences of Leucanthemum vulgare and Trifolium pratense on two species-rich grasslands with three different treatments: (a) control: no fertilization; (b) application of cattle slurry; (c) application of P and K fertilizer. The length of the flowering stem and the diameter and weight of the flowers of 50 inflorescences were measured per treatment. As expected, with fertilization, grassland productivity increased as well as the length of the flowering stem for both species. A limited application of cattle slurry or P and K did not affect species-richness of the grasslands. For L. vulgare the diameter and weight of the flowers were significantly larger with slurry application, but not with P and K fertilization. For T. pratense, only the diameter of the flowers was increased by slurry application. We conclude that at nutrient-poor conditions the flower size of the L. vulgare and T. pratense could be increased by limited application rates of slurry or P and K fertilizer, without affecting the overall species-richness of the swards.
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