Grassland Management

Grassland Management


(1) The branch of agriculture, or of plant husbandry, engaged in the production of hay, green fodder, and raw materials for grass meal and other fodders on natural and sown hayfields and pastures. (2) The science of the theoretical principles of grassland management.

Grassland management is concerned with the production of fodders both on meadows and on other types of forage lands (bogs, steppes, and deserts). It plays an important role in the creation of a stable fodder supply for public livestock production. Each year, hayfields and pastures account for a third of all fodders grown in the USSR. The main objectives of grassland management are to improve natural and sown hayfields and pastures, to develop highly productive planted lands, and to ensure the most efficient use of all of these lands. From the point of view of organization and economics, grassland management is closely related to field cropping and animal husbandry.

The history of grassland management may be divided into four periods. During the first period—the primitive use of forage lands—cattle grazed freely throughout the year. (In winter, they found fodder under the snow.) The animals were driven from one seasonal pasture to another. During the second period (the 11th and 12th centuries) grasslands were used as pastures and hayfields. The cattle were grazed, and hay was laid in both as the main fodder for winter, when the cattle were stabled, and as a reserve for the period when the animals were maintained in distant pastures. The beginning of the third period in Russia more or less coincided with the emancipation of the serfs and the development of industrial capitalism, when large quantities of agricultural produce became necessary for the cities. Experiment stations, bases and fields and demonstration plots were organized to develop methods of improving natural forage lands. However, these efforts were of practical value only for large estates.

The fourth (modern) period began after the Great October Socialist Revolution. In 1920 land reclamation subsections were organized in provincial and district land agencies and were staffed with hydraulic engineers, land reclamation engineers, and grasslands specialists. These specialists developed land improvement systems on natural forage lands, improved them superficially, developed drained lands, and sowed hayfields and pastures. A great deal of work was done on the floodplains of the Iakhroma, Dubna, Viatka, and Moscow rivers.

With the start of collectivization, grassland-reclamation stations and teams from machine and tractor stations (and, later, specialized mechanized reclamation and grassland-reclamation stations and construction and assembly administrations) improved natural forage lands by drainage and by clearing overgrown and weedy plots and reclaimed previously unusable land for hayfields and pastures. Some research organizations play an important role in grassland management by developing effective ways of improving and using natural grasslands. All of the basic processes of grassland management have been mechanized. Complex cultivators, rotary tillers, power shovels, sprinklers, and aerators are now in use.

In the USSR, natural grasslands cover large areas—in 1972, 374.6 million ha, of which 45.3 million were hayfields and 329.3 million were pastures (excluding reindeer pastures). Most of these lands are in the desert and semidesert zones, and many produce low yields and are in need of improvement measures. Improved and cultivated (sown) hayfields and pastures occupy about 10 million ha and are highly productive (about 6,000 fodder units per ha of cultivated pasture). Overseas, grassland management is important in the development of livestock production in Australia, Great Britain, the USA, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the German Democratic Republic, and the Federal Republic of Germany. Cultivated pastures are particularly important in fodder production in Great Britain and the Netherlands, where they yield 10,000 fodder units or more per ha.

As a science, grassland management develops the scientific bases and technology for improving natural hayfields and pastures and creating cultivated ones and devises methods of using them efficiently. The natural-scientific foundation of grassland management is grassland science. In Russia, the science of grass-land management took shape at the turn of the 20th century. Experimental work was first done by private initiative and later by the Department of Agriculture and by the zemstvos (district and provincial assemblies). The first experiment stations, fields, and plots for research on grasslands were established early in the 20th century. In 1917, V. R. Vil’iams and A. M. Dmitriev organized a station near Moscow to study forage plants and forage areas. The State Grasslands Institute (now the V. R. Vil’iams All-Union Fodder Research Institute) was founded in 1922. Since the establishment of Soviet power, zonal, sectorial, and specialized research institutes and experiment stations have been organized in all of the nation’s natural zones to do research on fodder production and grassland management. The All-Union Fodder Research Institute provides methodological guidance and coordinates the research.

Professor I. A. Stebut gave the first lectures in Russia on grassland management at the St. Petersburg Academy of Agriculture and Forestry (now the K. A. Timiriazev Moscow Agricultural Academy) from 1866 to 1895. Vil’iams and Dmitriev succeeded him as lecturers. Annual advanced courses were organized by the Riga Polytechnic Institute in 1912 and the Moscow Agricultural Institute (now the K. A. Timiriazev Moscow Agricultural Academy) in 1913 to train specialists in grass-land management. Persons with a higher education and, preferably, with two or three years’ practical experience were admitted to these courses. Those who completed the courses were given the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and America and familiarize themselves with foreign experience in grassland management. Specialists with intermediate qualifications and masters in grassland management and swamp cultivation were trained in the early 20th century in Chernigov, Viatka; Kiev, and Tver provinces. After the Great October Socialist Revolution, specialists were also trained in courses sponsored by the State Grasslands Institute. In 1923 the K. A. Timiriazev Moscow Agricultural Academy began training specialists with the highest qualifications in grass-land management. Later, these groups offered their knowledge to a number of other institutes. The name of the specialty was changed to fodder production in 1973.

The natural grasslands of the USSR were inventoried by L. G. Ramenskii and I. A . Tsatsenkin. Some 4,500 forage plants were identified and described in three volumes (Kormovye rasteniia senokosov i pastbishch SSSR [Forage Plants of Hayfields and Pastures of the USSR], edited by I. V. Larin. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950-56). Methods were developed for the superficial and radical improvement of natural grasslands, the creation of cultivated hayfields and pastures in various parts of the country, and the breeding of new grass varieties for the different kinds of hayfields and pastures. Grassland management specialists face the task of creating cultivated pastures with yields of 8,000-10,000 fodder units. In this connection, research is under way on the use of large quantities of inorganic fertilizers and their effect on the quality of fodder and livestock production (that is, on the soil-plant-livestock-man system). Other objectives are the creation of special-purpose pastures for young animals and the development of special kinds of food products from livestock (for example, for cheese-making).

The USSR is active in international congresses on grassland management. In 1956 the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences organized the Section for Grassland Management, Animal Grazing, and Fodder Crops to coordinate the work of the country’s scientists on these matters. The section joined the European Grassland Federation in 1966. A national group was appointed in 1968 to coordinate the work of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR with that of the federation.

Grassland management research in the USSR is reported in the industrial-scientific journal of the Ministry of Agriculture of the USSR, Korma (Fodder; since 1972), and in the transactions of the Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the All-Union Fodder Research Institute.


Vil’iams, V. R. Sobr. soch., vol. 4: Lugovodstvo. Moscow, 1949.
Larin, I. V. Lugovodstvo i pastbishchnoe khoziaistvo, 3rd ed. Leningrad, 1969.
Senokosy I pastbishcha. Edited by I. V. Larin. Moscow-Leningrad, 1969.


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