Ley farming
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LEY farming is a method in which grasses and legumes are grown for hay, silage, and pasture in proper rotation to meet full livestock needs and to enhance and maintain soil fertility. Leys are temporary short-term, especially sown pastures comprising grasses and legumes (two to five years). They are used in a succession of plows for grazing and the field is plowed after a fixed time again. It is a complex and integral agricultural system that together includes soil, plants, and livestock. Focus is imposed on the importance of grass-legume mixture in this method to obtain fodder for livestock and enhance soil fertility to obtain higher arable crop yields.

ley farming field

The best use of available land has to be made for optimum crop yield and the new crop husbandry methods are put into operation. However, this depends on the availability of scientific knowledge, in an easily accessible form, on the various aspects of agriculture.


  1. Improving the nitrogen content of subsequent plantations 
  • Legumes increase soil fertility, grain quality, and crop amount. 
  • Most of the soil’s nitrogen is used up by grains, so the improvement in legume crops has an extremely positive impact. 
  1. Restoration of the structure of soil and organic matter 
  • Legume pastures cannot achieve the desired effect if used separately; grass can become an excellent helper in this situation, as it encourages organic material production. 
  • Meadow grasses have been scientifically proven to raise soil organic matter by around 0.1 percent per year.
  1. On these pastures, cattle that eat unwanted plants will graze to manage the growth of weeds. 
  • In combating weeds annually, this method is particularly successful. 
  1. Prevention of deep runoff and erosion
  • The root system grows very well on perennial pastures, providing access to water and nutrients at a substantial depth. 
  • The top layer remains dry as a result, and the loss of water and valuable substances during drainage is avoided. 
  • The shallow soil is very volatile as it does not keep the water well, so legal pastures can become good runoff mitigation resources.
  1. Improving livestock productivity 
  • During the grazing season, animals receive elevated nutritional assistance so that higher quality milk can be obtained by farmers. 

The Science of Ley Farming

One of the main benefits of legumes in ley farming is in their ability of the present nodule bacteria (also called rhizobia) to gather atmospheric nitrogen. The bacteria that persist in the soil in between the part of the crop phases are then able to undergo the process of modulation of the legume host when it is slowly let to regenerate. The successful nodulation enables the pasture phase to help the process of replacement of nitrogen that is exported through both cropping and animal enterprises. The symbiosis of both legume–rhizobia symbiosis is a fundamental system for the health and function of global terrestrial ecosystems.

Because legumes are in the need of specific nodule bacteria which are very often absent when legumes are transported to new environments, the selection of appropriate nodule bacteria when domesticating new legumes is one of the key ingredients to successful innovation in the process of Ley farming. This is an important underlying consideration that must be kept in mind.

The next stage of the process is exposure to wide temperature fluctuation. The result of this is that the seed coat becomes extremely permeable to water so that the hard seeds are released from dormancy gradually over the autumn. They will therefore not tend to germinate as a result of sporadic/low rain events in the summer months. This is key because summer rainfall is not commonly followed by adequate rainfall to support seedling growth.

Furthermore, not all hard seeds will germinate in the same year; some will remain dormant but viable for future years. This provides a reserve seed bank in the soil, which can be crucial if there is a poor winter growing season or a major disturbance to growth, and parent plants are unable to set seed that year.

Ley farming

Legumes that form a very hard seed bank have been seen to provide great resilience to the low-input farming systems. When the paddock is then rotated to a specific kind of crop species, the seed bank continues to remain in the soil. Those seeds that then germinate in the crop are lost, but others do not tend to germinate until the paddock is rotated back into pasture in the subsequent seasons.

Farmers also commonly depend on hard-seeded legumes to regenerate quickly and provide pasturage after several years of cropping, without the need for re-sowing. This strategy further helps to reduce the financial outlay required for pasture establishment, as a heavy expenditure on seed is only required for initially introducing the legume species and the associated rhizobia.

Reducing agricultural costs and input costs are not the only benefits that are gained from self-regenerating pastures based upon the hard seeds. The farmer also gets the flexibility now, if there are persistent seed banks. The choice between crop and pasture for individual paddocks can be further  delayed into the early winters, allowing for the adaptation to changes in economic or environmental conditions 


The Ley farming systems are more profitable than continuous cropping systems. It benefits the farmers, their livestock, their soil quality, and even their produce. The benefits and advantages of Ley farming are innumerable since it has proved to benefit the soil quality to great extents. If you think that this blog has helped you understand whether Ley farming is something that will help your farm and the animal husbandry business, then you should start now! You can also visit our other blogs HERE!


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