CSA-31806 Grassland Science


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work5
Excursion (one day)20
Independent study0
Course coordinator(s)ing. H Drenth
prof. dr. ir. PC Struik
Lecturer(s)prof. BR Leinauer
ing. HCA Rijk
prof. dr. ir. L Mommer
dr. JB Evers
dr. ir. SJ Oosting
drs. CA Langeveld
prof. dr. ir. PC Struik
dr. FKD Taube
Examiner(s)prof. dr. ir. PC Struik

Language of instruction:


Mandatory knowledge:

ZSS06100 Laboratory Safety


Grasslands and rangelands can be defined as a type of vegetation in which grasses and forbs are dominant. However, woody species can also occur. Grasslands and rangelands belong to the most important types of natural vegetation in the world and they include the prairies, pampas, pustas, and steppes. However, there are also large areas of semi-natural and agricultural grasslands. Many of them are extensively or intensively managed by men to provide roughage for domestic ruminants. For example the dairy industry in NW Europe is largely dependent on agricultural grassland, whereas communal and private grazing lands are important sources of feed in Africa. Grassland vegetations contain species which tolerate frequent harvesting by herbivores (or mowing machines), but also trampling, selective biting, local depositions of urine and faeces, quite often in interaction with abiotic stresses such as drought or low fertility. The husbandry of grassland requires special skills and knowledge as it is different from the agronomy of arable crops: the large diversity of species present, the permanent or long-term nature of the vegetation, the frequent harvesting requiring continuous regrowth and tillering, the strong interaction between plant, soil and animal, and the long-term impact of management decisions (both under grazing and under mowing regimes) are all critical features of managed grasslands.
During the course at least the following topics will be discussed:
- the taxonomy and morphology of grassland species;
- growth, development and physiology of grassland species;
- grassland management, including aspects of grazing methods, botanical composition, soil quality, carbon sequestration, soil water and nutrient supply;
- nutrition of ruminants, forage quality, forage conservation and feeding systems;
- grass breeding, variety selection and seed production;
- plant species diversity and productivity of semi-natural grasslands;
- sports field turfgrass.
Moreover, selected topics will be highlighted through group-wise case studies and excursions.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- identify most important grassland species using a classification key;
- understand how grassland plants grow, produce and reproduce;
- analyse the role of grasslands and rangelands in land use, forage production and animal husbandry;
- describe and analyse grassland management systems;
- understand the soil-plant-animal system of grasslands and rangelands in terms of carbon and nutrient cycles;
- understand the breeding, variety selection and seed production of grasses for various purposes;
- analyse societal, agronomic and scientific problems related to grassland management and use.


- brush-up lectures on quantitative aspects of photosynthesis;
- lectures on various aspects of grassland management, forage quality, etc.;
- practical on recognition of grassland species;
- case studies in consultancy with case study supervisors;
- group sessions with presentations of case studies;
- farm visits;
- various excursions.


Skills (shown proficiency): the final mark is based on the weighted marks for all assignments, including the test for the practicals (individual mark), the oral presentation of the case study (group mark), the report on the case study (group mark) and the written exam (individual mark).
The final mark has to be 5.5. or higher, but in principle also the marks for the practical, the overall mark for the case study and the mark for the written exam all have to be at least 5.5.


Topics- and case-specific scientific literature.

Restricted Optional for: MOAOrganic AgricultureMScA: Spec. A - Agroecology1AF
MASAnimal SciencesMSc1AF
MPSPlant SciencesMScA: Spec. A - Crop Science1AF
MPSPlant SciencesMScC: Spec. C - Natural Resource Management1AF