Management of Grasslands and Rangelands

Management of Grasslands, Rangelands and Forage Crops


Extensive grasslands cover about 25% of the world surface and contribute to the livelihoods of over 800 million people including many smallholders. Grasslands are a source of goods and services such as food and forage, energy and wildlife habitat. They also provide carbon and water storage, recreation, and watershed protection. Grasslands are further important for in situ conservation of genetic resources - only 100-150 out of 10,000 forage species have been cultivated. Well managed grasslands and rangelands can promote sustainable agriculture, including production of herbivores.


A field of alfalfa used for forage for livestock. ©FAO/Vasily Maximov

Pastures are the basic feed resources for livestock worldwide and mixed farming systems supply over 90% of the milk, 70% of sheep and goat meat, and 35% of beef in humid areas.
The development of integrated crop-livestock systems based on crops in association and rotation with pastures and forages for livestock, responds to a variety of needs to:

•    intensify agricultural production sustainably;
•    increase profitability and recycling of inputs;
•    diversify farmers’ risk, income and nutrition; and
•    preserve natural resources and the environment.

The production of pastures is as important as the production of crops to increase farm income and security, to improve biodiversity and environmental benefits, to improve efficiency of fertilizers and zero tillage.  Pastures also maintain high micro and macro flora activity in the soil and increase soil porosity. FAO promotes information sharing and training of scientists, technicians, farmers and policy makers on the biology, the technologies and best practices to enhance the integration between crops and pasture production in different ecologies.


©FAO/Giampiero Diana