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International Grassland Congress: A Global Gathering for Sustainable Agriculture

The 25th International Grassland Congress (IGC), held from May 14-19 in Covington, Kentucky, USA, brought together researchers and experts from around the world to share new findings and advancements in forage and grassland agriculture. With a rich history dating back to 1927, the congress convenes every four years and serves as a platform for discussing the stewardship of grasslands and the vital role they play in sustaining livestock, wildlife, and the environment.

This year’s event saw the participation of over 1000 delegates from more than 80 countries, providing a unique opportunity for international collaboration and knowledge exchange. Grasslands, aside from being a primary feed source for animals, offer essential ecosystem services such as clean air, water, and soil health. Furthermore, these ecosystems have the potential to sequester carbon and, under appropriate management, contribute to mitigating climate change.

The congress program comprised thematic oral presentations and informative keynote addresses. These sessions covered a wide range of topics, including the integration of crops and livestock, a subject that often elicited diverse perspectives and results among researchers. However, there was a prevailing consensus that incorporating grazed pasture and cover crop phases between crop cycles can significantly enhance the sustainability, productivity, and resilience of agricultural systems. Particularly in South African cropping systems, where the benefits of maintaining permanent living roots in the soil are well-documented, further research on long-term cover crop and pasture phases is warranted.

In addition to the presentations, poster sessions provided an opportunity for researchers to showcase their work and engage in discussions with fellow attendees. Guy Musto, an MSc student in Agronomy presented a poster titled “Adaptive multi-paddock grazing of cover crops in integrated crop-livestock systems in Mediterranean regions: a review.” Guy is supervised by Prof Pieter Swanepoel (Agronomy) and Dr Johann Strauss (Western Cape Department of Agriculture). The platform and poster sessions facilitated insightful conversations and the exchange of ideas with leading experts in the field, leaving attendees with valuable insights and potential collaborations.

One of the highlights of the congress was a mid-congress tour, which allowed participants to visit a local Angus beef farm. The farm showcased the benefits of high-density grazing, a technique that mimics the natural movement patterns of large bison herds across the Great Plains of the central United States. The results were impressive, demonstrating a significant improvement in the composition and quality of the pastures. Additionally, attendees had the opportunity to visit a university research station, where the latest drone technology for seeding pastures and crops, as well as applying agrochemicals, was demonstrated. These advancements hold promise for enhancing the sustainable management of grasslands and croplands in the future.

The success of Guy Musto’s attendance at the 25th IGC would not have been possible without the support of Stellenbosch University, the Grassland Society of Southern Africa, the Western Cape Agricultural Research Trust, and the South African Society of Crop Production. Their contributions made this invaluable learning experience and the connections forged at the congress possible.

The International Grassland Congress continues to play a crucial role in fostering global collaboration and knowledge sharing in the field of forage and grassland agriculture. As the world grapples with the need for sustainable food production and environmental conservation, events like the IGC provide a platform for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to come together, exchange ideas, and shape the future of agriculture for the better.

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