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GLOBAL STRATEGY FOR CONSERVATION & UTILISATION
OF TROPICAL AND SUBTROPICAL FORAGES Issue 4 – July 2017
In the dark months of European winter, it’s
good time to tidy … and get rid of old papers.
When I did my PhD on characterizing a large
germplasm collection of Stylosanthes scabra,
my German professor used to say: “We have
the winter for data analysis, rethinking our
research and other essentials” —while I spent
the time for my PhD field research in
Colombia and further decades of work in the
tropics, where there was no winter—never
there was time to clear things out it seems …
Among the 30-year-old (!) piles of computer
printouts and other papers, meticulously
filed long ago, there were some notes on
legumes that appear quite up-to-date. For
example, I had jotted down a citation from
Williams et al. (1976) “The prospects for
further advancement via new species or new
cultivars are therefore very real so that
[legume] plant introduction is undoubtedly
capable of making major contributions to
tropical pasture development.” So where are
our forage legumes? Where are your stories?
We recognize that this 4th Newsletter has
become quite ‘grassy’. Contributions focus
strongly on the usefulness of grasses, Napier
and Guinea grass among others. We would
therefore love to invite you to send us more
on legumes for future issues! Yes, there will
be 3 Newsletter issues this year.
The good news is that the Global Crop
Diversity Trust has again engaged
Bruce Pengelly and me to further implement
the Strategy developed in 2015. Besides
producing more Newsletters this year, our
priorities will be:
(i) to encourage adoption of some key
recommendations of the Strategy by
national tropical and subtropical forages
programs such as those of Brazil, India,
Argentina, Australia and South Africa, and
(ii) to support implementation of the
strategy in the CGIAR TSTF genebanks,
particularly CIAT and ILRI.
In a separate development, Dr Michael
Peters from CIAT has confirmed that the
Australian Centre for International
Agricultural Research (ACIAR) will fund an
update of SoFT, the 12-year old and widely
used selection tool for tropical forages.
That update will not only revise the content
of the tool, but also take it from being only
available via a browser, to being accessible
from modern devices like tablets and
Don’t forget to share this newsletter and its
announcements (see page 8) with your inter-
ested colleagues! And if you still want to look
up any story from the previous issues, they
are all under the News section of the journal
Tropical Grasslands-Forrajes Tropicales—
thanks to the editors!
Brigitte Maass & Bruce Pengelly
Feeding goats on Guinea grass
grass, thoughNapiergrassproducedhigherdrymatter. In
spiteofchopping,stillmuch refusal ofstemsoccurredin
Napier, notresisting frequentcuttingandplantsdied.
Training in forage seed production
The ILRI Herbage Seed Unit has trained many potential
entrepreneurs and has supplied larger quantities of seed
to support forage development.
Forages for the Future
FORAGES FOR THE FUTURE | Issue 4 2
PRIORITIZING LEGUMES & GRASSES
Abbreviations & Acronyms
ACIAR Australian Centre for International
ASF Australian Friesian Sahiwal cattle
BMZ German Federal Ministry for Economic
Cooperation and Development
CGIAR Consultative Group on International
CWR Crop wild relatives
CIAT Centro International de Agricultura Tropical
DM Dry matter
IGC International Grassland Congress
ILRI International Livestock Research Institute
IRC International Rangeland Conference
NSSD Napier Smut and Stunt Diseases
SoFT Tropical Forages – an Interactive Selection
TSTF Tropical and Sub-Tropical Forages
Prioritisation of species was the main activity
under the Efficiency Theme of the Global
Strategy for the Conservation and Utilisation of
Tropical and Subtropical Forage Genetic
Resources in 2016 because it had the potential to
have the most immediate impact on more
efficient genebank management. Both grass and
legume species were prioritized using a frame-
work developed by a number of forage scientists.
That process involved definition of 5 categories of
species importance and key criteria on which
prioritization would be assessed (Table 1). The
process was initially confined to species held at
ILRI and CIAT genebanks. These are amongst the
most comprehensive genebanks in terms of
numbers of taxa, but there are almost certainly
several species held by national genebanks that
were not included in the prioritization process.
The lists are long with the combined list of species
held at CIAT and ILRI comprising about 1300
legume spp. and >500 grass spp. And the total
held globally would be even greater if all national
genebank holdings were added to this statistics.
Maintaining that number of species is a
considerable commitment, especially at a time of
scarce skills and financial resources.
Using the prioritization process and categories,
two eminent forage scientists, Dr Rainer Schultze-
Kraft and Mr Bruce Cook, were asked to allocate
species to one of the five categories.
The prioritization lists will soon be available at the
Crop Trust. Over 50% of grass and legume species
held at either ILRI or CIAT were considered low
priority in terms of potential forage value; those
low priority species make up ~14% of all grass
accessions, and 27% of all legume accessions.
But 42% of legume and 50% of grass accessions
belonged to species in Category 1. Possibly of
greatest interests are the holdings of material in
Categories 2 and 3, which are relatively small for
both grasses and legumes. A further 2% of grass
accessions and 5% of legume accessions were
found to be crop-wild-relatives, which might be
better conserved in crop-based genebanks.
Implementing the results of prioritization in
genebank management by archiving low priority
germplasm and, at the same time, removing the
many duplicates in TSTF genebanks would
undoubtedly provide significant efficiencies and
potentially reduce their costs of operation. Just as
importantly, fewer total species and accessions
being actively conserved would enable more focus
on the most promising genetic material and in
time, on-the-ground forage-based impacts.
Continue on page 5
Table 1. Prioritization categories and their
Category Definition/explanation of
1 Species of known high value,
included in SoFT or
commercially useful somewhere
2 Identified as high potential for
further development towards
commercial use or emerging as
one of high value somewhere
3 Often thought of as being
interesting, but never with
enough value to advance to
category 1 or 2
4 Recognized anywhere as being
of importance through its
taxonomic affinity to (even
minor) crop species (crop wild
5 Widely recognized as being of
low value for forage or
Prioritization of forage species
FORAGES FOR THE FUTURE | Issue 4 3
Napier grass or elephant grass (Pennisetum
purpureum Schumach.1) is one of the most
promoted grasses in the tropics, particularly
for cut-and-carry small holder beef and dairy
systems. It is a variable species from sub-
Saharan Africa that was first brought into
cultivation in the early 1900s in Zimbabwe. It
is a “robust perennial forming large,
bamboo-like clumps, with culms usually 2-3.5
m high (up to 7.5 m) and branched towards
the top; stems to 3 cm diameter near the
base.2” Since initial domestication, breeding
and selection programs have been carried
out within P. purpureum and through
hybridisation with pearl/bulrush millet
(Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.3) to produce
numerous types that are now cultivated and
naturalised throughout the world tropics. In
this article we express our belief that Napier
and its hybrids are being promoted to
farmers who are often unaware of its
shortcomings or the existence of alternative
species that are available and more
appropriate to particular systems and
Napier grass 6 weeks – 50% stem (top) and 4
weeks– mostly leaf (bottom) in Vietnam.
Photos by BG Cook
Feeding Napier grass
Napier grass is capable of extremely high dry
matter production, some claiming annual dry
matter yields of 140 tonnes per hectare.
However, the Kenyan forage plant scientist,
AV Bogdan , concluded from published work
that annual dry matter yields on-farm were
more likely to be 2-10 T/ha with low fertilizer
use and 6-30 T/ha in well fertilized stands.
While potential for high yields is often
portrayed as strength and used to justify
promotion, high yield can also be a
weakness. The extremely high yields that are
only achieved in Napier grown in deep,
moist, well-drained, very fertile soil and
when plants are cut infrequently comprise a
high proportion of stem material that
livestock do not eat, and a low proportion of
leaf that contains most of the plant’s
digestible nutrient. Animal production is
further constrained under infrequent cutting
as nutrient concentration in the leaves
declines with age. In order to maximize the
amount of “fodder” collected and to simplify
handling and transport, farmers typically cut
mature grass (e.g. 10-12 weeks) when the
stand has a high percentage of stem, rather
than at 4 weeks when leaf percentage and
nutritive value of leaf are still high. Animal
production from leafy forage grass is
substantially higher than that from a more
mature stand of the same species with stems
and seed-heads, providing feed on offer is
not limited. Unfortunately, Napier is not
suited to cutting on a 4-week cycle because
plants gradually die over a 2 – 3 year period
under such management.
A commonly recommended practice is to
chop mature Napier grass in preparation for
feeding, partly for ease of feeding out and
partly in the mistaken belief that it improves
digestibility of stems and minimises the
animal’s ability to select leaf. Unfortunately,
when presented with the mixture of chopped
mature Napier grass leaf and stem, animals
invariably spend time and energy selecting
chopped leaf from the feed on offer. It is not
surprising that there is commonly a pile of
Napier grass stem discarded after each feed
whether chopped or not.
Much of the Napier promotion places little
emphasis on fertilizer needs of the grass.
Tops of any high yielding plants contain
commensurately high levels of the nutrients
essential for plant growth, all of which are
removed in a cut-and-carry system. Without
replacement of these nutrients, plant growth
inevitably declines as the finite soil nutrient
resources are depleted. Consider a simple
nutrient balance sheet for three of the major
elements in the tops of a moderately produc-
tive stand of a tropical grass, producing
20 tonnes of DM/ha each year with an
average of 12.5% crude protein (2% N). This
material would contain about 400 kg
nitrogen/ha, the equivalent of 870 kg urea or
67 tonnes of dairy manure (0.6%N)/ha, and
would also contain 40 kg phosphorus (P) and
400 kg potassium (K)/ha, equivalent to 20
tonnes and 80 tonnes of manure,
respectively. If the dry matter yield were up
to 7 times that level as claimed for Napier,
the amount of nutrient removed and the
amount necessary for replacement would
need to be increased by a factor of 7. Such
high levels of fertiliser application are not
used by farmers.
AFS cows selecting Napier leaf (left) over chopped
Napier stem (right) and rice straw (bottom right)
in Vietnam. Photo by BG Cook
Napier grass stem (top) and leaf (bottom) in
Vietnam. Photos by BG Cook
Is Napier grass being over-
FORAGES FOR THE FUTURE | Issue 4 4
Napier grass diseases
All grasses are subject to disease or insect
attack, sometimes with serious
consequences e.g. leaf rust in Digitaria
eriantha, yellows disease in Pennisetum
clandestinum, blight in Cenchrus ciliaris and
spittle bug in Brachiaria decumbens. Napier
grass monoculture is becoming increasingly
common in some areas due to excessive
promotion as “the wonder grass” by research
and development agencies, and diseases
such as Napier Grass Stunt Disease, Napier
Grass Head Smut and Snow Mould Fungal
Disease have become more prevalent. The
use of resistant varieties provides short- and
even long-term relief, but resistance to one
particular strain of a disease organism does
not guarantee long-term immunity from the
problem, since disease organisms mutate
and quarantine barriers can be breached.
However, all grasses are not necessarily
attacked by the same suite of disease-
causing organisms, or the same damaging
insects. To minimise the danger of
destructive epidemic and loss of the farmer’s
livelihood through dependence on a single
species or variety of a species, it is wise to
use more than one grass in a production
1. also Cenchrus purpureus (Schumach.) Morrone
3. also also Cenchrus americanus (L.) Morrone
4. Bogdan AV. 1977. Tropical pasture and fodder plants
(Grasses and Legumes). Longman, London. 475 pp
This opinion piece by An Notenbaert, CIAT’s
Tropical Forages Coordinator, Africa first
appeared in Kenya’s Business Daily
Newspaper on May 1st.
With the onset of the rains, livestock farmers
around Kenya might breathe a sigh of relief.
But they have come too late for the
thousands of cattle that have already died,
hit by the drought. Milk prices have been
ramped up and output has halved. Yet this
phenomenon will not be solved by rain alone.
It is down fundamental challenges which go
deeper than drought: in particular, low
availability of good quality livestock feed –
especially during the dry season.
Brachiaria hybrid cv. Mulato II, Ethiopia.
Photo by A Robertson
Panicum maximum cv. Vencedor, Eritrea.
Photo by BG Cook
The International Center for Tropical
Agriculture (CIAT) is working to make high-
quality forages like improved Brachiaria
available across Africa. Amid more erratic
weather conditions, deepening drought and
higher temperatures, this could not only
avert the deaths of thousands of cattle, but
prevent millions of farmers from losing their
Read the whole text and more details on
CONTACTS: An Notenbaert, Kenya
Georgina Smith, Kenya
Alternatives to Napier grass
While Napier is an important grass, it is often
recommended at the expense of valuable
alternatives. Like other grasses, Napier has
limitations in relation to animal productivity,
environmental adaptation and defoliation
and soil fertility management. 2,4 Other
grasses can be used to complement Napier,
not only in terms of insect and disease
tolerance, but also in terms of feed quality,
seasonal growth, drought tolerance, and
tolerance of poor drainage etc. Grasses such
as the various Brachiaria hybrids and Panicum
maximum remain leafy longer; the Brachiaria
hybrids are well-adapted to low fertility, acid
soils; Setaria sphacelata is tolerant of poor
drainage; and all can tolerate regular cutting.
Most importantly, many have higher
nutritive value than Napier at similar stage of
growth. Once introduced to such species,
farmers in countries around the tropics,
including Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines,
Vietnam, and a number in East Africa, have
recognized their value and moved away from
complete dependence on Napier.
CONTACTS: Bruce Cook, Australia
Alan Robertson, Australia
ILRI opened state-of-the-art genebank and bio-
science facilities in Ethiopia in April 2017. The new
facilities will help protect the diverse grasses and
legumes that feed the world’s livestock.
Photo by Georgina Smith
Kenya’s drought masks a deeper
problem with livestock feed
FORAGES FOR THE FUTURE | Issue 4 5
A farmer in northeast Thailand raises goats
for sale as breeding stock to farmers in
central Thailand. The goats are fed on a diet
of dry cassava meal, mineral pellets and fresh
Mombasa grass. The goats are able to feed
on the cassava meal and mineral pellets from
feeding troughs 24 hours/day. Fresh
Mombasa grass is cut twice a day, early
morning and late afternoon, and placed in
When the farm was first established seven
years ago, the farmer planted Pakchong 1
Hybrid Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum x
P. glaucum). This grass produced a large
amount of dry matter but the stems and
leaves had to be chopped before the goats
would eat the grass. Even then, a lot of the
stem material was not eaten. With frequent
cutting every 35-45 days, the crowns of
Pakchong 1 Napier grass took longer and
longer to recover and within two years many
plants had died.
Sustainable grass production
The farmer decided to try Mombasa Guinea
grass (Panicum maximum) five years ago,
which had only recently been introduced into
Thailand. He found that Mombasa can be
frequently cut every 30-35 days, recovers
very quickly, the stems do not have to be
chopped, the goats rapidly eat all the leaves
and stems (there is no wastage) and, after
five years, the Mombasa fields show no sign
of aging or loss of production.
The goats readily eat all the Mombasa forage
offered to them, whereas when they ate the
chopped Pakchong 1 Napier grass, there was
a lot of wastage. The goats still receive the
same amounts of dry cassava meal, mineral
pellets, but as they eat all the Mombasa
grass offered to them, their overall weight
and health is considerably better than when
they were fed Napier grass.
CONTACT: Michael Hare, Thailand (Email:
Publish your research results in:
Cutting Mombasa guinea grass; all three photos
by Michael Hare
Collecting cut Mombasa guinea grass
Male billy goat eating Mombasa Guinea grass
Hare et al. 2013. Effect of cutting interval on yield and
quality of two Panicum maximum cultivars in Thailand.
Tropical Grasslands – Forrajes Tropicales 1:87-89.
Hare et al. 2014. Botantical and agronomic growth of two
Panicum maximum cultivars, Mombasa and Tanzania, at
varying sowing rates. Tropical Grasslands – Forrajes
Hare et al. 2015. Effect of nitrogen on yield and quality of
Panicum maximum cvv. Mombasa and Tanzania in
Northeast Thailand. Tropical Grasslands – Forrajes
Tropicales 3: 27-33.
Prioritization of forage species
from page 2
The prioritization results provide a
foundation for genebank conservation and
research priorities for the next decade and
beyond. Some of the possible implications
1. Partnerships with other genebanks
founded on mutual benefits from working
on agreed species, which are priorities for
partners (e.g. exchanging germplasm,
joint diversity studies).
2. Changes in genebank management
through rationalization of all key
genebank tasks (i.e. acquisition,
quarantine, phytosanitary clearances,
regeneration, long-term and backup
storage, seed viability testing,
distribution, information management
3. A refocusing of characterization and
associated diversity research towards the
highest priority species.
4. Demonstrable efficiency gains and, in
time, evidence linking on-the-ground
forage impacts back to strategic
genebank research and activities based on
Some of the management implications
associated with each category include:
The size of Category 1, and in some cases
Category 2, suggests a need to assess the
real genetic diversity being held so that core
collections can be established to facilitate
availability, and to gain efficiencies in
regeneration, which is always a major
commitment and expense for genebanks.
Categories 2 and 3 should be the focus of
new characterization and evaluation studies,
including gap analysis (see page 6). The
limited diversity in some of these species
might focus new acquisitions including plant
Bruce Pengelly & Brigitte Maass
Growing Mombasa Guinea grass to
raise goats in northeast Thailand
FORAGES FOR THE FUTURE | Issue 4 6
Mucuna is now considered an important forage
with too narrow diversity; photo AF van Rooyen
What is archiving an accession?
Archiving an accession means storing it, but moving it
out of active genebank management in a way that
supports its long-term conservation under optimal or
near optimal conditions. However, archived material is
usually no longer monitored for viability, or assessed for
genetic integrity/diversity (Engels 2004; Engels and
The large number of species and accessions in
Category 5 provides challenges but also potential
efficiencies in genebank management. It is not
proposed to completely discard these accessions for a
range of reasons. But archiving most of Category 5 in
long-term storage (e.g. Svalbard Global Seed Vault) or
transferring it to collections or botanical gardens that
have an interest in diversity per se, rather than diversity
for use in tropical and subtropical forages, are possible
Devoting resources to conserving this low-potential
material in forage genebanks will undoubtedly impair
the ability of forage genebank managers achieving their
overall goal of being the source of the best forage
genetic material and a most important source of
information on species adaptation and diversity.
Brigitte Maass & Bruce Pengelly
Engels JMM 2004. Plant genetic resources management
and conservation strategies: problems and progress.
ISHS Acta Hort. 634:113-125.
Engels JMM & Visser L (Eds) 2003. A guide to effective
management of germplasm collections (No. 6).
Bioversity International, Rome, Italy. (pp. 51-52).
Forages ex situ collections are made up of a
large number of genera and species. For
example, the ILRI collection contains
accessions of more than 1000 legume species
and 500 grasses, while CIAT reports keeping
more than 800 species in total. These forage
collections contain the genetic diversity that
helps farmers to thrive in several
environments and farming systems across
the tropics and sub-tropics.
During 2016, we embarked in the design and
implementation of the Global Strategy for
the Conservation and Utilisation of Tropical
and Sub-Tropical Forage Genetic Resources.
Within the strategy, scientists categorized
forages according to their utilization
potential. Each category is being assigned a
research strategy. Five categories were
Species in categories 2 and 3 were
recognized of high to moderate potential
use, but future research might be restricted
due to the limited diversity available of these
A systematic study of gaps
With this in mind, we are conducting a
systematic study to understand the current
representativeness of forages from
categories 2 and 3 in ex situ collections, and
to identify geographic areas where new
material can be collected. For this, we will
apply a gap analysis methodology. This
approach uses coordinates and locality
descriptions of the places where each species
has been collected and/or recorded to
produce potential geographic distribution
models. The gap analysis uses three metrics
to estimate species representativeness in ex
1) Sampling Representative Score: this score
gives a gross estimation of what is
represented in genebanks compared to
reference records (i.e., herbarium specimens,
2) Geographic Representative Score: this
score estimates the geographic coverage
represented in genebanks against the total
potential distribution of each species.
3) Environmental Representative Score: this
score quantifies the number of distinct
environmental units represented in
genebanks compared to the complete extent
of the species. The Geographic and
Environmental Representativeness score are
used as proxies to estimate the diversity of
each species under analysis.
The average of the three numeric gap
analysis scores produces a final priority score,
and this in turn is used to categorize species
according to urgency for being further
collected. Once the collecting and
conservation priorities are identified, the
species distribution models are used to map
the geographies where species of high
priority for conservation could be found.
Such maps help to prioritize and select
regions for future collecting missions.
A high quality gap analysis depends on
accurate georeferenced occurrence data and
the iterative participation of experts.
Therefore, your active participation and
collaboration is welcome and very much
If interested, please send us an email.
CONTACT: Nora Castañeda-Álvarez,
Global Crop Diversity Trust (Email:
FURTHER READING: Castañeda-Álvarez et al.
(2016) Global conservation
priorities for crop wild relatives.
Nature Plants 2, Article # 16022;
Training on forage seed production in Ethiopia;
Forage conservation priorities
FORAGES FOR THE FUTURE | Issue 4 7
Forage seed production at Karama Station;
photos by M Mutimura
The Rwanda Agricultural Research Institute
(ISAR, its French Acronym) began the
evaluation of forage genotypes for abiotic
stress tolerance in 2006; this included tole-
rance to acidic soil and aluminium toxicity.
Initially, research focused on improved
Brachiaria genotypes. Brachiaria hybrid cv.
Mulato II was among the Brachiaria cultivars
preferred by farmers because of its year-
round green forage . Mulato II is therefore
considered an excellent grass and preferred
over Napier grass , which still is the major
feed resource in the country, especially for
dairy cows in smallholder systems . Ten
Brachiaria hybrids and cultivars have been
evaluated to develop climate-smart agri-
culture; chemical composition and livestock
productivity were tested. When compared to
Napier grass, B. brizantha cv. Piatá increased
milk up to 35%, while cv. Mulato II increased
up to 44% of daily body weight gain .
Napier Smut and Stunt Diseases (NSSD)
have recently been confirmed in Rwanda,
where Eastern and Western Provinces had
higher prevalence than the rest of the
country . Different Napier grass varieties
have been evaluated for NSSD tolerance.
Three Napier grass clones known for their
NSSD tolerance have been introduced to
Rwanda from Uganda and evaluated for
agronomic characteristics and disease
tolerance. Preliminary on-station results
showed Kakamega I, and clones number 112
and 1679 free of NSSD symptoms.
F forage legumes have also been evaluated
for drought tolerance by applying stable
carbon isotope signature, as these forages
use the C3 photosynthetic pathway.
Canavalia brasiliensis has been found the best
in water use efficiency, its richness in carbon
signature, and high dry matter production
compared to other tropical legumes tested,
e.g. Desmodium intortum, Desmodium
uncinatum and Lablab purpureus .
At Karama Research Station of Rwanda
Agriculture Board (RAB), forages are
currently established on more than 62 ha.
Large part of this area is for seed production
because of the strongly increased demand
for forages in the country. Areas were
especially expanded for the forage grasses
Chloris gayana, Cenchrus ciliaris, Brachiaria
hybrid Mulato II, Panicum coloratum, B.
brizantha cv. Marandu; legumes include
Desmodium distortum, Lablab purpureus
(accessions CIAT 22759 and CIAT 22598).
CONTACT: Mupenzi Mutimura, RAB, Rwanda
Forage seed production at Karama Station
1. Maass et al. 2015. Homecoming of Brachiaria: Improved hybrids
prove useful for African animal agriculture. East African Agricultural
and Forestry Journal 81:71–78.
2. Mutimura & Everson 2012. On-farm evaluation of improved
Brachiaria grasses in low rainfall and aluminium toxicity prone areas
of Rwanda. International J. Biodiversity & Conservation 4:137–154.
3. Mutimura et al. 2015. Nutritional values of available ruminant
feed resources in smallholder dairy farms in Rwanda. Tropical
Animal Health and Production 47:1131–1137.
4. Mutimura et al. 2016. Change in growth performance of
crossbred (Ankole × Jersey) dairy heifers fed on forage grass diets
supplemented with commercial concentrates. Tropical Animal
Health and Production 48:741–746.
5. Nyiransengimana et al. 2013. Status of Napier grass stunt disease
incidence in Rwanda. Proceedings of first biannual conference on
agricultural research and extension: Confronting the challenges of
food insecurity in the era of climate change and variability. Kigali,
Rwanda. Book of Abstracts p. 80.
6. Wrage-Mönnig et al. 2014. Drought resistance of selected forage
legumes for smallholder farmers in East Africa. European Grassland
Federation, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK.
ILRI Herbage Seed Unit
The ILRI forage Genebank provides seeds
from its collection in small experimental
quantities without charge as part of its policy
of maximizing the utilization of material for
research, breeding and training. However,
the non-availability of larger quantities of
seed is considered a major constraint to the
widespread adoption of forages, and the ILRI
Herbage Seed Unit was established in 1989 in
response to the perceived need to promote
access to forage seeds and to support and
enhance the incorporation of forages into
sustainable farming systems in sub-Saharan
Africa. Based in Ethiopia, the unit works to:
strengthen national capacity in the
production of forage seeds by providing
train scientists and technicians in the
technical aspects of forage seed
make available information on forage
management and forage seed techno-
logy to farmers, extension workers and
researchers in national programs,
mainly through short courses.
The unit primarily supplies starter seed to
recipients in Ethiopia but has also delivered
material to Tanzania and Uganda. The unit
focuses on providing tropical forage seeds
and planting material of selected ‘best-bet’
species. A reasonable cost is charged,
allowing ILRI to recover production costs.
The number of requests varies greatly from
year to year: in 2015 the seed unit distributed
244 samples for a total weight of 1,900 kg of
seed and 40,000 cuttings (mainly Napier
grass); in 2016 it was 685 kg of seed and over
870,000 cuttings responding to 44 requests.
Napier grass (P. purpureum) and Rhodes
grass (Chloris gayana) are currently the most
popular grasses and Lablab (Lablab
purpureus) and Greenleaf desmodium (D.
intortum) the most popular forage legumes.
The seed unit also provides technical support
in forage seed production to the ILRI
FeedSeed project, which, with the support of
the German Federal Ministry for Economic
Cooperation and Development (BMZ), has
worked on the development of a sustainable
forage seed production and marketing model
for Ethiopia. To this end, FeedSeed has
facilitated 30 forage seed agribusiness
entrepreneurs to establish new businesses in
Ethiopia. ILRI is encouraging these entre-
preneurs to take over forage seed supply to
producers, leaving ILRI to make available
high quality basic seed for establishing new
seed production plots. This initiative is
starting to bear fruit, the total sales of seed
and vegetative material being US$200,000 in
2015 and US$616,000 in 2016.
CONTACT: Mr. Asebe Abdena, Forage Seed
ILRI Clippings: https://clippings.ilri.org/2014/04/29/
Forage development and seed
production in Rwanda and at ILRI
FORAGES FOR THE FUTURE | Issue 4 8
50%When prioritizing species held in the international
germplasm collections of CIAT and ILRI, 50% of grass
and 42% of legume accessions were considered
belonging to Category 1. But in terms of species, they
only represented 11% and 4%, respectively.
15%Only 15% of the large forage germplasm collections of
CIAT and ILRI consist of grass accessions, despite
grasses being much more widely used as cultivated
forages than legumes.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read the report on “A Global Strategy for the
Conservation and Utilisation of Tropical and
Sub-Tropical Forage Genetic Resources”.
LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
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this newsletter, please send us an email.
Please share your opinions and write us letters regarding
controversial issues. We are eager to debate with you
your agreements or disagreements!
Your opinions matter!
31 July 2017)
ILRI seeks to recruit a
dynamic Forage Scientist with a keen
interest in genetic-resources, to head the
genebank at ILRI and to manage the
composition of tropical and sub-tropical
forage collections both at ILRI and the
International Center for Tropical Agriculture
(CIAT). This is a joint ILRI/CIAT position that
will be based at the ILRI campus in Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia. Read more.
The Joint XXIV International Grassland (IGC)
and XI International Rangeland (IRC)
congresses will be held in Nairobi, Kenya,
October 25 – 30, 2020.
The theme of the Congress is ‘Sustainable
Use of Grassland/Rangeland Resources for
Improved Livelihoods’. Read more.
NEW BOOK by Lazier & Ahmad
John Lazier and Nazeer Ahmad edited a book
based on over 40 years of forage experience:
Tropical forage legumes: Harnessing the
potential of Desmanthus and other genera for
heavy clay soils; published in 2016 by CABI.
Read a book review by Bruce Cook (2017) in
Tropical Grasslands-Forrajes Tropicales.
NEWS: please send your
contributions to us!
FROM THE JOURNAL:
Vol. 5 No. 2 (May 2017)
Complementary use of neotropical savanna
and grass-legume pastures for early weaning
and effects on growth and metabolic status
of weaners and inter-calving intervals of
by Vera RR, Ramírez-Restrepo CA; pp. 50-65
Dry matter accumulation and crude protein
concentration in Brachiaria spp. cultivars in
the humid tropics of Ecuador
by Garay JR, Cancino SJ, Zárate Fortuna P,
Ibarra Hinojosa MA, Martínez González JC,
González Dávila RP, Cienfuegos Rivas EG;
Effects of harvesting age and spacing on
plant characteristics, chemical composition
and yield of desho grass (Pennisetum
pedicellatum Trin.) in the highlands of
by Genet Tilahun, Bimrew Asmare,
Yeshambel Mekuriaw; pp. 77-84
Weeds alter the establishment of Brachiaria
brizantha cv. Marandu [in Brazil]
by de Marchi SR, Bellé JR, Foz CH, Ferri J,
Martins D; pp. 85-93
NEXT NEWSLETTER ISSUE
We aim at producing the next newsletter by
early September 2017.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in the articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the CGIAR or the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
Photos from the title page: top by BL Maass; right top by M Hare; right bottom by ILRI
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Dr Bruce Pengelly
Dr Brigitte Maass
Global Crop Diversity Trust
Platz der Vereinten Nationen 7
53113 Bonn, Germany