, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 48–56 | Cite as

Tropical grasslands: A pivotal place for a more multi-functional agriculture

  • Maryline Boval
  • Valérie Angeon
  • Tom Rudel


Tropical grasslands represent a pivotal arena for the sustainable intensification of agriculture in the coming decades. The abundant ecosystem services provided by the grasslands, coupled with the aversion to further forest destruction, makes sustainable intensification of tropical grasslands a high policy priority. In this article, we provide an inventory of agricultural initiatives that would contribute to the sustainable intensification of the tropical grassland agro-ecosystem, and we recommend a shift in the scientific priorities of animal scientists that would contribute to realization of a more agro-ecological and multi-functional agriculture in the world’s tropical grasslands.


Agro-ecology Ecological intensification Ecosystem services Grassland Multi-functional Tropics 



This work was partly supported by the European Union (FSE), La Région Guadeloupe, the European project ‘Animal Change’, and Funds from the (U.S.) National Science Foundation Grant CNH10009499, which have facilitated this research.


  1. Agastin, A., M. Naves, A. Farant, X. Godard, B. Bocage, G. Alexandre, and M. Boval. 2013. Effects of feeding system and slaughter age on the growth and carcass characteristics of tropical-breed steers. Journal of Animal Science 91: 3997–4006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agastin, A., D. Sauvant, M. Naves, and M. Boval. 2014. Influence of trough versus pasture feeding on average daily gain and carcass characteristics in ruminants: A meta-analysis. Journal of Animal Science 92: 1173–1183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexandre, G., A. Fanchone, H. Ozier-Lafontaine, and J.-L. Diman. 2014. Livestock farming systems and agroecology in the tropics. In Agroecology and global change, ed. H. Ozier-Lafontaine, and M. Lesueur-Jannoyer, Sustainable agriculture reviews 14, vol. 14, 83–115. Springer International Publishing. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-06016-3_4.
  4. Allard, V., J.F. Soussana, R. Falcimagne, P. Berbigier, J.M. Bonnefond, E. Ceschia, P. D’Hour, C. Henault, P. Laville, C. Martin, and C. Pinares-Patino. 2007. The role of grazing management for the net biome productivity and greenhouse gas budget (CO2, N2O and CH4) of semi-natural grassland. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 121: 47–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Altieri, M.A., and V. Manuel Toledo. 2011. The agroecological revolution in Latin America: Rescuing nature, ensuring food sovereignty and empowering peasants. Journal of Peasant Studies 38: 587–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Altieri, M.A., F.R. Funes-Monzote, and P. Petersen. 2012. Agroecologically efficient agricultural systems for smallholder farmers: Contributions to food sovereignty. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 32: 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Altieri, M.A. 1989. Agroecology—a new research and development paradigm for world agriculture. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 27: 37–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ammann, C., C.R. Flechard, J. Leifeld, A. Neftel, and J. Fuhrer. 2007. The carbon budget of newly established temperate grassland depends on management intensity. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 121: 5–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Angeon, V., and M. Chave. 2014. Implementing the agroecological transition: weak or strong modernization of agriculture? Focus on the mycorrhiza supply chain in France. In European Regional Science Association (ERSA) 54th congress, Regional development and globalization: Best practices, 26–29 August, Saint Petersburg.Google Scholar
  10. Angeon, V. 2015. Le développement des espaces en marge. L’exemple des petites économies insulaires de la Caraïbe, Mémoire d’Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches, Université des Antilles.Google Scholar
  11. Arancon, N.Q., C.A. Edwards, S.S. Lee, E. Yardim, and BCPC. 2002. Management of plant parasitic nematode populations by use of vermicomposts. Bcpc Conference - Pests & Diseases 1–2: 705–710.Google Scholar
  12. Ayantunde, A.A., S. Fernandez-Rivera, P.H. Hiernaux, and R. Tabo. 2008. Implications of restricted access to grazing by cattle in wet season in the Sahel. Journal of Arid Environments 72: 523–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Batlle-Bayer, L., N.H. Batjes, and P.S. Bindraban. 2010. Changes in organic carbon stocks upon land use conversion in the Brazilian Cerrado: A review. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 137: 47–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bond, W.J., and C.L. Parr. 2010. Beyond the forest edge: Ecology, diversity and conservation of the grassy biomes. Biological Conservation 143: 2395–2404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Boval, M., S. Bellon, and G. Alexandre. 2014. Agroecology and grassland intensification in the Caribbean. In Agroecology and global change, ed. H. Ozier-Lafontaine, and M. Lesueur-Jannoyer, Sustainable agriculture reviews 14, vol. 14, pp. 159–184. Springer International Publishing.Google Scholar
  16. Boval, M., N. Edouard, and D. Sauvant. 2015. A meta-analysis of nutrient intake, feed efficiency and performance in cattle grazing on tropical grasslands. Animal 9: 973–982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Boval, M., H. Archimede, P. Cruz, and M. Duru. 2007. Intake and digestibility in heifers grazing a Dichanthium spp. dominated pasture, at 14 and 28 days of regrowth. Animal Feed Science and Technology 134: 18–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Boval, M., and R.M. Dixon. 2012. The importance of grasslands for animal production and other functions: A review on management and methodological progress in the tropics. Animal 6: 748–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Burns, J.C., and L.E. Sollenberger. 2002. Grazing Behavior of ruminants and daily performance from warm-season grasses. Crop Science 42: 873–881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Caron, P., E. Reig, D. Roep, W. Hediger, T. Le Cotty, D. Barthélemy, A. Hadynska, J. Hadynski, H. Oostindie, and E. Sabourin. 2008. Multifunctionality: Epistemic diversity and concept oriented research clusters. International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology 7. N° 4/5.Google Scholar
  21. Costanza, R., R. d’Arge, R. deGroot, S. Farber, M. Grasso, B. Hannon, K. Limburg, S. Naeem, R.V. Oneill, J. Paruelo, R.G. Raskin, P. Sutton, and M. VandenBelt. 1997. The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 387: 253–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. d’Alexis, S., F. Periacarpin, F. Jackson, and M. Boval. 2014. Mixed grazing systems of goats with cattle in tropical conditions: An alternative to improve animal production at pasture. Animal 8: 1282–1289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. d’Alexis, S., D. Sauvant, and M. Boval. 2013. Mixed grazing systems of sheep and cattle to improve liveweight gain: a quantitative review. The Journal of Agricultural Science, 152: 655–666.Google Scholar
  24. d’Alexis, S., G. Loranger-Merciris, M. Mahieu, and M. Boval. 2009. Influence of earthworms on development of the free-living stages of gastrointestinal nematodes in goat faeces. Veterinary Parasitology 163: 171–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Das, S.K., and T. Hema. 2008. Livestock feeds and feeding practices in rural Sundarbans delta of India. Animal Nutrition Feed Technology 8: 137–142.Google Scholar
  26. Decruyenaere, V., V. Planchon, P. Dardenne, and D. Stilmant. 2015. Prediction error and repeatability of near infrared reflectance spectroscopy applied to faeces samples in order to predict voluntary intake and digestibility of forages by ruminants. Animal Feed Science and Technology 205: 49–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dennis, T.S., L.J. Unruh-Snyder, M.K. Neary, and T.D. Nennich. 2012. Effects of co-grazing dairy heifers with goats on animal performance, dry matter yield, and pasture forage composition. Journal of Animal Science 90: 4467–4477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Derner, J.D., R.H. Hart, M.A. Smith, and J.W. Waggoner. 2008. Long-term cattle gain responses to stocking rate and grazing systems in northern mixed-grass prairie. Livestock Science 117: 60–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dore, T., D. Makowski, E. Malezieux, N. Munier-Jolain, M. Tchamitchian, and P. Tittonell. 2011. Facing up to the paradigm of ecological intensification in agronomy: Revisiting methods, concepts and knowledge. European Journal of Agronomy 34: 197–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Duku, S., A.J. van der Zijpp, and P. Howard. 2010. Small ruminant feed systems: perceptions and practices in the transitional zone of Ghana. Journal Ethnobiology Ethnomedicine 6.Google Scholar
  31. Ehrlich, P.R., and A.H. Ehrlich. 1981. Extinction: The causes and consequences of the disappearance of species. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  32. FAO. 2010. Climate smart agriculture. Policies, practices and financing for food security, adaptation and mitigation, Rome, 41 p.Google Scholar
  33. FAO. 2014. La situation mondiale de l’alimentation et de l’agriculture. Ouvrir l’agriculture familiale à l’innovation, Rome, 157 p.Google Scholar
  34. FAO. 2015. The State of Food Insecurity in the World, Meeting the 2015 international hunger targets: Taking stock of uneven progress, Rome, 58 p.Google Scholar
  35. Foley, D., S.P. Marahatta, and J.H. Lau. 2014. Effects of vermicompost on beneficial nematodes, rhabditis spp. Journal of Nematology 46: 163.Google Scholar
  36. Follett, R.F., and D.A. Reed. 2010. Soil carbon sequestration in grazing lands: Societal benefits and policy implications. Rangeland Ecology & Management 63: 4–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gibbs, H.K., A.S. Ruesch, F. Achard, M.K. Clayton, P. Holmgren, N. Ramankutty, and J.A. Foley. 2010. Tropical forests were the primary sources of new agricultural land in the 1980s and 1990s. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107: 16732–16737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gliessman, S. (ed.). 2009. Agroecology: The ecology of sustainable food systems, 269–285. Boca Raton, FL: Animals in Agroecosystems.Google Scholar
  39. Godfray, H.C.J., J.R. Beddington, J.R. Crute, I.R. Haddad, L. Lawrence, D. Muir, J.F. Pretty, S. Robinson, S. Thomas, and C. Toulmin. 2010. Food security: The challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 327: 812–818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Gomez-Baggethun, E., R. de Groot, P.L. Lomas, and C. Montes. 2010. The history of ecosystem services in economic theory and practice: From early notions to markets and payment schemes. Ecological Economics 69: 1209–1218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Gulsen, N., B. Coskun, H.D. Umucalilar, and H. Dural. 2004. Prediction of nutritive value of a native forage, Prangos uechritzii, using of in situ and in vitro measurements. Journal of Arid Environments 56: 167–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Heredia-Nava, D., A. Espinoza-Ortega, C.E. Gonzalez-Esquivel, and C.M. Arriaga-Jordan. 2007. Feeding strategies for small-scale dairy systems based on perennial (Lolium perenne) or annual (Lolium multiflorum) ryegrass in the central highlands of Mexico. Tropical Animal Health and Production 39: 179–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Herrero, M., D. Grace, J. Njuki, N. Johnson, D. Enahoro, S. Silvestri, and M.C. Rufino. 2013. The roles of livestock in developing countries. Animal 7: 3–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Herrero, M., and P.K. Thornton. 2013. Livestock and global change: Emerging issues for sustainable food systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110: 20878–20881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Herrero, M., P.K. Thornton, P. Gerber, and R.S. Reid. 2009. Livestock, livelihoods and the environment: Understanding the trade-offs. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 1: 111–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hertel, T., N. Ramankutty, and U. Baldos. 2014. Global market integration increases likelihood that a future African Green Revolution could increase crop land use and CO2 emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111(38): 13799–13804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hoitink, H.A.J., and C.M. Changa. 2004. Production and utilization guidelines for disease suppressive composts. In: Managing soil-borne pathogens: A sound rhizosphere to improve productivity in intensive horticultural systems, ed. A. Vanachter, pp. 87–92.Google Scholar
  48. Hoste, H., S. Sotiraki, S.Y. Landau, F. Jackson, and I. Beveridge. 2010. Goat-Nematode interactions: Think differently. Trends in Parasitology 26: 376–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Huang, J., M. Tichit, M. Poulot, S. Darly, S.C. Li, C. Petit, and C. Aubry. 2015. Comparative review of multifunctionality and ecosystem services in sustainable agriculture. Journal of Environmental Management 149: 138–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Humphreys, L.R. 1991. Tropical pasture utilisation. Cambridge University Press. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), 2009. Agriculture at a crossroads. Global Report, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  51. Jackson, F., D. Bartley, Y. Bartley, and F. Kenyon. 2009. Worm control in sheep in the future. Small Ruminant Research 86: 40–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Kaplan, R.M. 2004. Drug resistance in nematodes of veterinary importance: A status report. Trends in Parasitology 20: 477–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Karamura, E.B., W. Jogo, A. Rietveld, D. Ochola, C. Staver, W. Tinzaara, D.A. Karamura, J. Kubiriba, and S. Weise. 2013. Effectiveness of agro-ecological intensification practices in managing pests in smallholder banana systems in East and Central Africa. In: International Ishs-Promusa symposium on bananas and plantains: Towards sustainable global production and improved use, eds. I. VanDenBergh, E.P. Amorim, and V. Johnson, pp. 119–126.Google Scholar
  54. Koocheki, A., and S.R. Gliessman. 2005. Pastoral nomadism, a sustainable system for grazing land management in arid areas. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 25: 113–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Laca, E.A. 2009. New approaches and tools for grazing management. Rangeland Ecology & Management 62: 407–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Laurent, C., F. Maxime, A. Maze, and M. Tichit. 2003. Multifonctionnalité de l’agriculture et modèles de l’exploitation agricole. Economie Rurale 273–274: 134–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lemaire, G., J. Hodgson, and A. Chabbi. 2011. Introduction: Food security and environmental impacts—challenge for grassland sciences. Grassland Productivity and Ecosystem Services, 13–17.Google Scholar
  58. Liu, W.X., F. Li, G.L. Zhao, S.J. Tang, and X.Y. Liu. 2014. Non-destructive and fast identification of cotton-polyester blend fabrics by the portable near-infrared spectrometer. Spectroscopy and Spectral Analysis 34: 3246–3252.Google Scholar
  59. Ma, S., and S.M. Swinton. 2011. Valuation of ecosystem services from rural landscapes using agricultural land prices. Ecological Economics 70: 1649–1659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Maczkowiack, R.I., C.S. Smith, G.J. Slaughter, D.R. Mulligan, and D.C. Cameron. 2012. Grazing as a post-mining land use: A conceptual model of the risk factors. Agricultural Systems 109: 76–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. McDermott, J.J., S.J. Staal, H.A. Freeman, M. Herrero, and J.A. Van de Steeg. 2010. Sustaining intensification of smallholder livestock systems in the tropics. Livestock Science 130: 95–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. McSherry, M.E., and M.E. Ritchie. 2013. Effects of grazing on grassland soil carbon: A global review. Global Change Biology 19: 1347–1357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA). 2005. Ecosystems and human well-being: Synthesis. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  64. Metera, E., T. Sakowski, K. Sloniewski, and B. Romanowicz. 2010. Grazing as a tool to maintain biodiversity of grassland—a review. Animal Science Papers and Reports 28: 315–334.Google Scholar
  65. Minson, D.J. 1990. Forage in ruminant nutrition. Inc San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  66. Mundler, P., and L. Rumpus. 2012. The energy efficiency of local food systems: A comparison between different modes of distribution. Food Policy 37: 609–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Nolan, T., and J. Connolly. 1977. Mixed stocking by sheep and steers—a review. Herbage Abstracts 47: 367–374.Google Scholar
  68. OECD. 2001. Multifunctionality: Towards an analytic framework. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  69. Parr, C.L., C.E.R. Lehmann, W.J. Bond, W.A. Hoffmann, and A.N. Andersen. 2014. Tropical grassy biomes: Misunderstood, neglected, and under threat. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 29: 205–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Patra, A.K., R. Puchala, C. Detweiler, L.J. Dawson, C. Animut, T. Sahlu, and A.L. Goetsch. 2008. Tethering meat goats grazing forage of high nutritive value and low to moderate mass. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 21: 1252–1261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Perraud, D. 2003. Les ambiguïtés de la multifonctionnalité de l’agriculture. Économie rurale 273–274: 45–60. doi: 10.3406/ecoru.2003.5387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Poppi, D.P., S.R. McLennan, S. Bediye, A. de Vega, and J. Zorrilla-Rios. 1997. Forage quality: Strategies for increasing nutritive value of forages. In Proceedings of the 18th International Grassland Congress, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, pp. 307–322.Google Scholar
  73. Pretty, J., W.J. Sutherland, J. Ashby, J. Auburn, D. Baulcombe, M. Bell, J. Bentley, S. Bickersteth, et al. 2010. The top 100 questions of importance to the future of global agriculture. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 8: 219–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Prober, S.M., and F.P. Smith. 2009. Enhancing biodiversity persistence in intensively used agricultural landscapes: A synthesis of 30 years of research in the Western Australian wheatbelt. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 132: 173–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Rey, F., L. Cecillon, T. Cordonnier, R. Jaunatre, and G. Loucougaray. 2015. Integrating ecological engineering and ecological intensification from management practices to ecosystem services into a generic framework: A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 35: 1335–1345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Senbeto, F., N. Tegene, and L. Getahun. 2013. Feed resources and their management systems in Ethiopian highlands: The case of Umbulo Whaco watershed in Southern Ethiopia. Tropical and Subtrop Agroecosystèmes 12: 47–56.Google Scholar
  77. Sierra, J., L. Desfontaines, J. Faverial, G. Loranger-Merciris, and M. Boval. 2013. Composting and vermicomposting of cattle manure and green wastes under tropical conditions: Carbon and nutrient balances and end-product quality. Soil Research 51: 142–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Soussana, J.F., T. Tallec, and V. Blanfort. 2010. Mitigating the greenhouse gas balance of ruminant production systems through carbon sequestration in grasslands. Animal 4: 334–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Soussana, J., and G. Lemaire. 2014. Coupling carbon and nitrogen cycles for environmentally sustainable intensification of grasslands and crop-livestock systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 190: 9–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Tarawali, S., M. Herrero, K. Descheemaeker, E. Grings, and M. Bluemmel. 2011. Pathways for sustainable development of mixed crop livestock systems: Taking a livestock and pro-poor approach. Livestock Science 139: 11–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Tilman, D., C. Balzer, J. Hill, and B. Befort. 2011. Global food demand and the sustainable intensification of agriculture. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(50): 20260–20264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. UNCED, AGENDA 21 (reproduced in an abridged form in The Earth Summit London: Regency Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  83. Venkata Reddy, B., A.S. Sivakumar, D.W. Jeong, Y.B. Woo, S.J. Park, S.Y. Lee, J.Y. Byun, C.H. Kim, S.H. Cho, and I. Hwang. 2015. Beef quality traits of heifer in comparison with steer, bull and cow at various feeding environments. Animal Science Journal 86: 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. West, P.C., H.K. Gibbs, C. Monfreda, J. Wagner, C.C. Barford, S.R. Carpenter, and J.A. Foley. 2010. Trading carbon for food: Global comparison of carbon stocks vs. crop yields on agricultural land. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107: 19645–19648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wezel, A., G. Soboksa, S. McClelland, F. Delespesse, and A. Boissau. 2015. The blurred boundaries of ecological, sustainable, and agroecological intensification: A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 35: 1283–1295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMR Modélisation Systémique Appliquée aux Ruminants, INRA, AgroParisTech, Université Paris-SaclayParisFrance
  2. 2.INRA, UR143, Unité de Recherches ZootechniquesGuadeloupeFrance
  3. 3.INRA, UR 767, Ecodéveloppement INRA Domaine Saint-PaulAvignon Cedex 9France
  4. 4.Department of Human Ecology, School of Biological and Environmental SciencesRutgers – the State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA

Personalised recommendations