Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/15/2006
Publication Date: 9/20/2006
Citation: Nelson, C.J., Burns, J.C. 2006. Fifty years of grassland science leading to change. Crop Science. 46:2204-2217.
Interpretive Summary: This publication brings together a 50-year assessment of the major achievements in the forage area since the formation of the Crop Science Society of America in 1955, and the subsequent publication in 1961 of the Journal “Crop Science”. Documented are the needs and emergence of a division devoted to forage and grassland research. The trends and highlights associated with the advancement in species, production, and the development of procedures regarding nutritive value as related to ruminants are addressed. The progress made through breeding is discussed for alfalfa, tall fescue and the Bermudagrasses. Production aspects are highlighted by mixtures and pure stands. Nutritive value moves from the early use of proximate analyses to the present emphasis on the prediction of nutritive value using Near Infrared Reflectance technology. Other aspects concerning advances in grazing and stored feed are addressed as is a look into the next 50 yrs.
Technical Abstract: Division C-6 was established in 2000, but members associated with forages and grazing lands have been active in the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) since its inception; 21 have served as President and many authored textbooks and comprehensive reference works. Complex forage and pasture mixtures were common in 1955, but shifted to monocultures in the 1960s and 1970s. Mixtures returned in the 1980s as N prices increased, broader values of legumes became known, nutritive value was better understood, and environmental issues increased. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) for dairy production had strong leadership from the private sector in seed production and breeding. Tall fescue (Medicago sativa L.) was well-adapted, conserved soil, and extended grazing in the transition zone to increase beef cow-calf production. Bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.], benefited from vegetative propagation, conserved soil, and was improved for adaptation, yield, and nutritive value. Yield advancements, except for a few species, have been discouraging. Management benefited from advances in disease resistance, methods for assessing nutritive value, and understanding the role of endophytic fungi. Modest increases in nutritive value, coupled with improved pasture management, have increased animal performance. Emerging interests include biomass, carbon sequestration, and roles of biodiversity. Molecular techniques offer potential to better understand the plants and make genetic progress.