Grassland agriculture is experiencing a number of threats including declining profitability and loss of area to other land uses including expansion of the built environment as well as from cropland and forestry. The use of grassland as a natural resource either in terms of existing vegetation and land cover or planting of new species for bioenergy and other nonfood applications presents an opportunity, and potential solution, to maintain the broader ecosystem services that perennial grasslands provide as well as to improve the options for grassland farmers and their communities. This paper brings together different grass or grassland-based studies and considers them as part of a continuum of strategies that, when also combined with improvements in grassland production systems, will improve the overall efficiency of grasslands as an important natural resource and enable a greater area to be managed, replanted or conserved. These diversification options relate to those most likely to be available to farmers and land owners in the marginally economic or uneconomic grasslands of middle to northern Europe and specifically in the UK. Grasslands represent the predominant global land use and so these strategies are likely to be relevant to other areas although the grass species used may vary. The options covered include the use of biomass derived from the management of grasses in the urban and semi urban environment, semi-natural grassland systems as part of ecosystem management, pasture in addition to livestock production, and the planting and cropping of dedicated energy grasses. The adoption of such approaches would not only increase income from economically marginal grasslands, but would also mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production and help fund conservation of these valuable grassland ecosystems and landscapes, which is increasingly becoming a challenge.
- bioenergy, biorefining, conservation, grasslands, Miscanthus, pasture
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- Diversification and use of bioenergy to maintain future grasslands
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