The perceived ‘greenness’ and sustainability of forages is not without merit. More than anyother crop, forages are protective of the environment, thanks to massive root systems, long periods of growth and year-round ground cover. Forages shield the soil against salinization and degradation by erosion and subsidence. In fact forages, more than any crop, build soils by furnishing abundant carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) from their ample roots, and even more so if livestock waste is returned. Forages provide for an elaborate and diversified soil ecosystem and food web, replete with both small and minute soil organisms, by enhancing soil structure, conserving nutrients, and nourishing with carbohydrate exuded from roots, and indirectly from applied manure. Forages protect the freshness of streams and lakes by reducing surface runoff and leaching. They may reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide by sequestering C and N, and they improve air quality by reducing dust emissions that often come from tillage and wind erosion. Forages also emit a pleasing scent to the air, and provide nectar and pollen for beneficial insects. Forages may reduce the need for pesticides and mineral fertilizers. And, finally, forages provide feed and habitat for birds and wildlife. Natural grassland biomes (defined broadly) occupy 40% of the land surface of the earth (excluding Greenland and Antarctica) in the form of savannahs, prairies, steppes, cerrado and pampas (www.fao.org
). And a new forage biome, of sorts, has emerged world-wide in recent centuries, comprising anthropogenic (seeded) grasslands that have often replaced forests and natural grasslands. Managed grasslands with high residency compared to natural grasslands feed many of the ruminants that provide humans with meat, milk, recreation, power and materials. Managed grasslands are also used by a variety of wildlife and, occasionally, by ‘free ranging’ pigs and chickens.