the growing of annual and perennial forage grasses in fields or in natural hayfields and pastures to improve the land radically. The term “forage-grass cultivation” is sometimes applied only to the growing of perennial forage grasses in crop rotations.
The main purpose of growing annual and perennial grasses is for use as pasturage, green chop, hay, hay läge, silage, grass meal, and other feeds. Growing perennial legumes alone or with cereal grasses increases soil fertility. V. R. Vil’iams provided scientific and theoretical substantiation of the positive effect exerted by the periodic cultivation of mixtures of perennial legumes and cereal grasses in fields. Forage-grass cultivation improves the structure and the physical properties of soil (water permeability, water retention, aeration); inhibits the growth of weeds among young crops; increases the yields of grains, industrial, and other crops grown after grasses; and controls crop pests and diseases, especially in cotton-growing regions. In regions of irrigated agriculture the cultivation of alfalfa alone or with cereal grasses in crop rotations prevents salinization and promotes desalinization.
The principal regions under forage-grass cultivation in the USSR are the nonchernozem zone of the RSFSR, the Baltic region, Byelorussia, the northwestern Ukraine, and the northern portion of the chernozem zone. Many annual and perennial grasses, including timothy, wheatgrass, and wild rye, were first cultivated in Russia. Before 1917 forage-grass cultivation was not widespread. Perennial forage grasses occupied 1.4 million hectares (ha), and annual grasses 0.6 million ha. The cultivation of forage grasses in the USSR was begun during the period of collectivization. The area occupied by perennial and annual grasses in 1950 was 11.1 and 7.0 million ha, respectively; these figures increased to 16.8 and 19.3 million ha in 1960.
From 1961 to 1965 the sowing of perennial and annual grasses was sharply curtailed to 13.4 and 16.6 million ha, respectively. The planting of corn was unjustifiably increased, especially in the nonchernozem zone. The plenary session of the Central Committee of the USSR in March 1965 and the Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU in 1971 recognized the need for a number of measures, including the systematic cultivation of grasses, to boost agricultural production. Owing to the development of livestock raising and the consequent need for more forage, the area occupied at kolkhozes and sovkhozes by perennial grasses was increased in 1970 to 21.7 million ha and in 1974 to 25.5 million ha. The area occupied by annual grasses was 18 million ha in 1970 and 16.1 million ha in 1974. About 80 species of forage grasses, including more than 700 varieties, are grown in the USSR singly or in mixtures with other crops.
In field crop rotations perennial grasses occupy two or three fields. Perennial grasses are sometimes sown in a separate field or a field used for pasturing livestock. In forage and soil-conserving crop rotations two, three, or more fields are set aside for forage grasses. Annual grasses are generally grown as intermediate crops in fallow fields, in mowed hayfields, and in harvested fields. They occupy one to three special fields in forage crop rotations, especially on livestock farms.
The average hay yield of perennial grasses without irrigation is about 20 quintals per ha (on the best farms, 50–60 quintals per ha). The average hay yield of annual grasses is about 17 quintals per ha on unirrigated land and about 120 quintals per ha on irrigated land. Grasses are planted to control soil erosion on slopes, in open steppes, and in deserts. Grass is also cultivated to beautify populated areas, stadiums, and airports, as well as to reinforce the banks of dams, railroad tracks, and highways.
In 1972, the largest areas under the cultivation of forage grasses were in the USA (21.7 million ha), France (4.8 million ha), Great Britain (2.3 million ha), the Federal Republic of Germany (690,000 ha), the German Democratic Republic (620,000 ha), and Denmark (550,000 ha).
REFERENCESVil’iams, V. R. Sobr. soch., vol. 6. Pochvovedenie: Zemledelie s osnovami pochvovedeniia. Moscow, 1951.
Mnogoletnie travy v lugopastbishchnykh sevooborotakh. Moscow, 1951.
Tarkovskii, M. I. Mnogoletnie travy v polevykh sevooborotakh. Moscow, 1952.
Lugopastbishchnye travy (collection of articles). Moscow, 1966.
Odnoletnie kormovye kul’tury. Moscow, 1967.
Nering, K., and F. Lüddecke. Polevye kormovye kul’tury. Moscow, 1974. (Translated from German.)
M. I. TARKOVSKII