Evolution of production and forage quality in sown meadows of a mountain area inside Parmesan cheese consortium
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Sown meadows, encompassing alfalfa and grass-legume mixtures, are the forage crops on which is based Parmesan cheese production system in the mountain area of the Apennines (central Italy). These grassland types experience, during their development, deep changes in terms of production potentiality, botanical composition and forage quality, thus these meadows have to be periodically renewed to guarantee adequate productive and qualitative performances. To have an accurate assessment of this evolution along time, a survey was performed in different mountain farms inside the Parmesan cheese consortium, analysing alfalfa meadows and grass-legumes mixtures of different ages. Grasslands were monitored during 2019, performing three samplings during growing season. Aboveground biomass production, botanical composition and crude protein content were collected during the survey. Results permitted to evaluate the level of production decrease along years, the evolution of analysed parameters among cutting dates and the dependence of productive and qualitative features on botanical composition and presence of sown species in the swards. Results were useful to hypothesize the composition of future mixtures, to improve management issues and to delineate the possible duration of sown meadows for the area with respect to different purposes in terms of desired productive or qualitative objectives.