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Grasslands: the Future of Sustainable Agriculture

Authors of a new book explain why grassland should be a permanent component of our ecosystem for ensuring the future of sustainable agriculture.

Grassland: Quietness and Strength for a New American Agriculture was written to increase our awareness of the vital role grass and grassland plants have in ensuring a sustainable future for American agriculture.

Published by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, the book’s content is geared toward agriculturists, students, the public, and policy makers.

Wendell Berry, a farmer and renowned author of more than forty books and essays about culture and agriculture, provides a moving foreword for the book that stresses the importance of properly educating future farmers about the land and the roles of grasslands.

“True farmers have minds that are complex and responsible,” writes Berry. “They understand and honor their debts to nature. They understand and honor their obligations to neighbors and consumers. They understand and respect the land’s need to be protected from washing. . . . In the time that is coming, we are going to need many more such farmers than we have, and we will need them much sooner than we can expect to get them. We will get them only to the extent that young people come along who are willing to fit their farming to the nature of their farms and their home landscapes, and who recognize the paramount importance of grass and grazing animals to good farming everywhere.”

Taking its inspiration from the classic USDA yearbook Grass: The 1948 Yearbook of Agriculture, which was written at a time of political, environmental, and economic turbulence, much like today, the editors of Grassland set out to create a book that stresses the importance of developing sustainable agriculture in order to maintain the capacity of our planet to sustain life, and to explain that humans are capable of diminishing this capacity. The 1948 USDA yearbook is provided on the CD that accompanies this book.

Aiming to inspire and educate, the book’s three main sections highlight the voices of grassland advocates through history, examine the many functions of grassland today, and look at the benefits grass-based agriculture can provide when grass is treated as an essential resource.

• “Past Is Prologue,” tracks the history of grassland farming, emphasizing some of the philosophical arguments that advocate for grasslands as a vital component of an evolving American society.

• “The Present: Transitions over 60 Years,” aims to provide the reader the foundation needed to move into the future, including updated information on cropping systems that include perennial grasses and legumes.

• “The Forward Look: Opportunities and Challenges,” looks at the role of grass-based agriculture in maintaining the stability of rural communities, including the human health benefits when grasses and legumes are made a primary resource in the food chain.

The book was edited by Walter F. Wedin, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota and Emeritus Professor in the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University; and Steven L. Fales, Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University. A grant to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture from the Wallace Genetic Foundation supported Walt Wedin's work associated with the book.

Grassland: Quietness and Strength for a New American Agriculture can be purchased online through ASA-CSSA-SSSA for $80, Item No. B40722 at:, by phone at 608-268-4960, or by email:

The American Society of Agronomy (founded in 1907) is dedicated to the development of agriculture enabled by science, in harmony with environmental and human values. The Society supports scientific, educational, and professional activities to enhance communication and technology transfer among agronomists and those in related disciplines on topics of local, regional, national, and international significance.

The Crop Science Society of America (founded in 1955) is a scientific society comprised of members who advance the discipline of crop science by acquiring and disseminating information about crops in relation to seed genetics and plant breeding; crop physiology; crop production, quality, and ecology; crop germplasm resources; and environmental quality.

The Soil Science Society of America (founded in 1936) is a progressive, international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. It provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.

Because of their common interests, ASA, CSSA, and SSSA share a close working relationship and same office staff in Madison, WI. Each organization is autonomous with its own bylaws and governing boards of directors.

Sara Uttech | Newswise Science News
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