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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has long been concerned with grasslands, forage crops and pastoral development issues, which have been the focus of various field-based activities and Regular Programme work of the Grassland and Pasture Crops Group within the Crop and Grassland Service.

Grasslands cover a very large portion of the earth's surface and are important as a feed source for livestock, as a habitat for wildlife, for environmental protection and for the in situ conservation of plant genetic resources. In both developed and developing countries, many millions of livestock farmers, ranchers and pastoralists depend on grasslands and conserved products such as hay and silage and on a range of fodder crops for their livelihoods. Rapid increases in human and livestock populations have contributed to increased pressures on the world's grasslands, particularly in arid and semi-arid environments. Now more than ever, information is needed on the status of the world's grasslands.

FAO, through the Grassland and Pasture Crops Group, has endeavoured over many years to make available information on grassland themes to a range of audiences. Earlier books included those of Whyte, Nillson-Leissner and Trumble (1969) on Legumes in Agriculture and Whyte, Moir and Cooper (1975) on Grasses in Agriculture, Tropical Grasses by Skerman & Riveros (1990) and Tropical Forage Legumes by Skerman, Cameron and Riveros (1988), Pasture - cattle - coconut systems by Reynolds (1995), with Managing Mobility in African Grasslands by Niamir-Fuller (1999). More recent publications have included studies on: Hay and Straw Conservation (Suttie, 2000); Silage in the Tropics (t'Mannetje, 2000); Grassland Resource Assessment (Harris, 2001); Transhumant Grazing Systems in Temperate Asia (Suttie & Reynolds, 2003); Know to Move, Move to Know (Schareika, 2003); Site-Specific Grasses and Herbs (Krautzer, Peratoner and Bozzo, 2004); Wild and Sown Grasses (Peeters, 2004); Fodder Oats: a world overview (Suttie & Reynolds, 2004); Forage Legumes for Temperate Grasslands (Frame, 2005); and Grasslands: Developments, Opportunities, Perspectives (Reynolds & Frame, 2005). The publications are complemented by detailed information on grassland species and extensive Country Pasture Resource Profiles to be found on the FAO Grassland Web site at <>.

The present book provides an overview of a range of grassland systems worldwide, with contributions by experts from many regions, and in a final chapter briefly assesses the state of the grasslands, their management, various grassland resources, the complementary roles of sown pastures, fodder crops and natural grasslands and concludes by looking at various social, economic and environmental factors. Researchers, grassland scientists and policy-makers will find the material useful and the book will contribute towards the accumulated knowledge on the world's grasslands. The contributions of authors are much appreciated by FAO in its efforts to disseminate information on grasslands and pastoral systems. The considerable input made by the editors is particularly acknowledged - retired staff member James Suttie, and Stephen Reynolds and Caterina Batello of the Grassland and Pasture Crops Group of the Crop and Grassland Service - both for their personal contributions and Stephen Reynolds and James Suttie for ensuring that the book was brought to publication.

Mahmoud Solh
Plant Production and Protection Division
FAO Agriculture Department

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