App: Tropical Forage Selection
Forecasts predict that global demand for meat, milk and eggs will double by 2050, with the largest increases being in developing countries. That scenario cannot eventuate without at least a parallel increase in availability of quality animal feed. Forages, be they from short term or permanent pastures, from conserved hay or silage, or sourced from cut and carry systems, are usually the most cost-effective option to meet feed demands in ruminants and even in pig and poultry production. They are also central to the ever-increasing “sustainable intensification” of mixed crop-livestock systems where they underpin livestock production and can provide ecosystem services including replenishment of soil nutrients, particularly nitrogen, improved soil health, pest control and reduced soil erosion.
Unlike the roles of forages in temperate farming systems, forage species that might be best in particular tropical and subtropical farming systems, and how they might be used, is a relatively new area of science, which has grown from its infancy in the mid-20th century. Also unlike in temperate systems, where relatively few species of grasses and legumes are used, over 150 species of tropical and sub-tropical grasses and legumes have been recognised as having potential production or environmental value.
Despite the growing demand for livestock products and feed options to underpin that growth, many national and international institutions across the globe have severely reduced investment in tropical and subtropical forage research. Consequently, there is an alarming worldwide shortage of expertise in tropical and subtropical forage adaptation and use to help interpret the wealth of information on adaptation, potential use, and value of this large number of species accumulated over 70+ years.