Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Introductory Chapter: Milestones in Grasses and Grassland Research

By Valentin Missiakô Kindomihou

Submitted: December 13th 2018Reviewed: December 5th 2019Published: April 8th 2020

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.90770

Downloaded: 49

1. Introduction

In order to understand the significance of changes that have occurred in Grasses and Grassland Research and utilization, a short summary of the state of knowledge is required. The purpose of this chapter will be to briefly describe the milestones in Grasses and Grassland Research that have occurred. Grasses and Grassland are key links in biological resources. They are the sources of many agricultural productions, livestock systems, and environmental issues with positive and recognized impacts on water quality, biodiversity, and landscapes. However, their acreages have been steadily decreasing for many years.

Otherwise, if the livestock structures trend is accused, there is also the lack of knowledge of technicians about the potential of these areas so sensitive to climatic hazards, unproductive, and difficult to be managed. For example, securing fodder systems in organic ruminants farming remain questionable facing these plagues. Grassland would interest such systems by making them productive, stable, input-efficient, and environmentally friendly and guarantee good technological performance. In addition, the complexity of understanding the functioning of Grassland covers requires synergetic interdisciplinary skills (phytosociology, agronomy, animal technologies, etc.). Optimizing knowledge of Grasses and Grassland at scales of production systems should help conceiving self-sufficient, resilient, and sustainable livestock systems, which would meet society’s new expectations.

In order to improve knowledge on these issues, this chapter aims to provide scientists, students, technicians, decision-makers, and other development actors with benchmarks for the diagnosis and management of these resources and ecosystem. Topics which were discussed specifically include properties, synthesis, and some applications of Grasses and Grassland. Ultimately, what is the contribution of Grasses and Grassland to the sustainable well-being of the living?

A “Property” is either (a) an original trait, concept, area of research leading to a significant advance in understanding; or (b) a research review acting as a base for further study and development. A “Synthesis” is a physical milestone or the production of a substance by the union of chemical elements, groups, or simpler compounds, or by the degradation of a complex compound (www.merriam-webster.com); while “Application” is a use to which Grasses and Grassland and components are put.

2. Some general points

2.1 What is “Grasses and Grassland”?

Grasses refers to the monocotyledonous green plant, mostly world widespread, rustic over times and circumstances. The Poaceae family as “real Grasses” includes cereals, forages, and fodders plants from pastures and lawns. The concept appeared in the fifteenth century, derived from the root “grow.” Grasses design the climatic vegetation in large areas of low rainfall.

Grassland is a community of herbaceous plants mainly Grasses, i.e., a grassy area that last at least several years. It is also a forage crop, mainly composed of Grasses and legumes, for grazing or mowing.

About 77% of plant species are Grasses on permanent Grassland exceeding 80% in the spring and only 65% in the fall; the diversity gradient is between 10 and 40 species [1]. Knowing Grassland typology may help build sustainable production systems [2].

Indeed, about 18 types of Grassland are distinguished [3, 4]:

  1. Seven types of Grassland occur based on duration and composition: (i) Temporary Grassland established on monocropping Grasses or fodder legumes, by their association for a short or long duration (i.e., 1–3 years versus 3–10 years); (ii) Artificial Grassland mainly sown with fodder legumes for 2–5 years, usually in a crop rotation; (iii) Permanent Grassland, long-sown (˃10 years) with one or various Grasses and legumes species; (iv) Semi-natural Grassland, i.e., permanent Grassland with native Grasses, herbaceous, brush, trees, or groves species; (v) Range as wide areas holding native species that are grazed, fenced, or not; (vi) Natural Grassland enriched by native Grasses for a long time; (vii) Multi-species Grassland includes at least three different species from two different families, which ensure more regular production throughout the year and are more resistant to climatic hazards.

  2. Three types of Grassland defined by the objectives: (viii) Grazing meadow; (ix) Mixed Grassland for grazing and mowing; and (x) Hay meadow for hay or silage in piles or with wrapping.

  3. Four types of Grassland rise by the situation and environment [5], such as: (xi) Woodland meadows as part of a dense and meshed network of hedges, i.e., the hedgerows; (xii) Wet meadows rich in biodiversity under moderate grazing, regulating watercourses, preventing flooding, and maintaining habitats in open environments; (xiii) Dry meadows of the thermophiles and dry hillsides, with low agronomic value and high floristic richness, shelter threatened species; and (xiv) Pharmaceutical meadows, i.e., artificial land planted for both soil enriching and medicinal resources provision for livestock.

  4. Four types of Grassland highlighted on the ecosystem production and service system perspective: (xv) Agricultural Grassland essentially temporary Grassland with at least two species, for stock building (mainly silage) and green feeding, but also including the most fertile permanent mowed Grasslands; (xvi) Environmental Grassland belong to permanent Grassland grazed by dairy heifers and suckling herds, including Grasslands mowed by unfertile environments and used in late mowing for ground-dried hay; (xvii) Meadows “Close to ecological intensification” including permanent Grasslands both grazed (by suckled herds, heifers, and dairy cows) and mowed for hay. Agricultural results are good in all areas: yield, flexibility, quality; and (xviii) productive meadows, which are part of the mono-specific, temporary grassy, low-agricultural meadows, lacking operational flexibility and energy quality, and used for silage, hay, or pasture.

2.2 Some milestones in Grasses and Grassland research

About 60 years of scientific investigations performed in sub-Saharan Africa resulted in a high biodiversity of Grasses and Grassland. Previously, 9700 grass species with higher biomass production were globally reported. But few are more widely grown to establish Grassland. Their adaptation to thermal, mineral, and water stress, resistance to diseases and pests, biomasses and productivities, seed production and nutritional values were studied. Natural and artificial crossings and new genetic techniques improved the species and offer physiological and morphological characteristics including leaves and stems rates, duration of vegetative cycle, sustainability, sexual reproduction, and vegetative and apomictic reproduction. Grasses provide raw materials for human and animal nutrition, i.e., food grains and forage. They have reached an advanced stage of development, such in miniaturizing floral pieces and specialization in various environments.

Globally, 150 Grass species were well investigated in tropical Africa [6]. This number was completed during the last 30 years (1989–2018). The Laboratory of Applied Ecology of Professor Brice Sinsin from University of Abomey-Calavi (Benin) has described about 100 additional Grass species. Two groups of Grasses exist based on development cycle duration:

  • Annual species grown in rainy season wither and die. Their reproduction requires mature seed, whose formation can be hindered by intense plant exploitation [7].

  • Perennial species with roots and lateral buds located at ground level in tropical zone [8], persistent for several consecutive years.

Grasses are well defined based on specific biological, agronomic, and nutritional characters (Figure 1), with three types of morphology, including:

  • Erect Grasses showing one single axis with reduced basal branching, no shelf of tillers and dotted distribution of ground cover [3, 4].

  • Bunching Grasses with tillers in many clumps, spots, beaches, or large areas, reproduced by seed, resisted to drought and burnings throughout leaf sheaths arrangements that protect the buds and mostly well adapted to intertropical zone [3, 4, 9]. The most common are Andropogon gayanus, Hyparrhenia rufa, Panicum maximum, and Pennisetum purpureum.

  • Turfed Grasses with rhizomes, allowing horizontal colonization. It forms a dense-felted Grass, little fire-resistant, producing little viable seed, and propagates by vegetative pathway [3]. They are the main wetland pasture holding mainly Brachiaria humidicola, Brachiaria mutica, and Brachiaria ruziziensis, which produces many viable seeds, Cynodon dactylon, Digitaria decumbens, and Stenotaphrum secundatum.

Figure 1.

Grasses main characters (adapted from [10]).

Grasses, (i) require light to develop, growing in full sun or little shaded; (ii) colonize open fields with high seed production, regenerative capacity, and soil cover rate; (iii) fast-grow with high leaf-to-shoot ratios. The number of degree days to issue a sheet belongs to discriminative indicators.

Forage Grasses palatability reflects tissues soft texture, unobtrusive taste, and odor untainted by unpleasant or repulsive substances, low content of toxic substances (tannins, alkaloids, cyanides, and nitrates), high digestible carbohydrate content, nitrogenous matter, easy abilities to be eaten by tearing on the spot, and their abundance. However, these characters are distributed within the same family. Some species are abandoned while others are overgrazed in the same Grassland. Foliar nutritional qualities are low in tropics, less digestible because of higher contents in lignin and fibers, higher refusal rate than in temperate environments (i.e., 10–30% versus 5%).

Tropical Grasses differ from temperate at the photosynthesis basic energy metabolism. Tropical have a C4 carbon cycle and Temperate, a C3 cycle. C4Grasses store energy for carbon chains production at night from where they grow faster while Grasses at C3 produce carbon chains only in light presence.

These cycles lead to carbohydrates mainly cellulose production. The C4 cycle is efficient in tropics with less nitrogen than in the C3 cycle. Species at C4 optimally develop at higher temperatures than C3 species (between 30 and 40°C versus 20–25°C) with rapid growth, making maximum use in a short growing season. C4Grasses produce two to three times more biomass than C3. Otherwise, they produce more membranes rich in little digestible tissues, with low contents of digestible nitrogen, hence a much less good food value.

Vegetation steps consist of six phases (Figure 2).

  • Grasses can grow in association with other plants based on management practices limiting interspecific competitive effects. Association with legumes offers advantages for soil enrichment in nitrogen mobilized by the legume and N good absorption from soil by Grasses [11]. Rhizobacteria close to some Grasses roots allow atmospheric N recovering, a modality less effective than legumes symbiosis.

  • Grasses have fasciculate roots from the neck, thatch with nodes, and internodes wearing leaves. These form a sheath with elongated blade between sheath and blade, presence of ligule, small and numerous flowers, each wrapped by two lemmas lower and upper made of two opposite pieces, shells protecting the egg (seed), spikelets, or elemental inflorescence units composed of flowers surrounded by a lower and a upper glumes; inflorescences at top of stem, are composed of spikelets grouped into ears, panicles, digested, or geminated.

Figure 2.

Grasses phenological phases (adapted from [10]).

3. Grasses and Grassland’ traits from research

About 78 parameters are listed as indicators for describing Grasses and Grassland (Table 1). However, molecular aspects need more attention as well as their warming and adaptive responses.

NoIndicatorsNoIndicators
1Ability to compete with weeds40Minimum temperature of growth
2Ability to spread naturally41Natural habitat
3Ability to zerograzing42Number of seed per kg
4Altitude range43Nutraceutical properties
5Allelopathy properties: phytomolecules and compound released44Nutritional composition range with climate dependence (proteins, lipids, fibers, ash)
6Amino acid contents (lysine, glutamic acid, leucine, alanine, proline, aspartic acid, valine, phenylalanine, serine, isoleucine, arginine, threonine, glycine, tyrosine, histidine, methionine, cysteine, tryptophan, phytosterols, polyconasols)45Optimum temperature for growth
7Animal preference46Palatability
8Animal production47Pests
9Anti-quality elements (Tannins, SiO2)48Phenolic acids and phenols contents
10Bioactive phytochemicals (carbohydrates, proteins, alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, phenols, saponins, glycosides, steroids, terpenoids)49Physicochemical characteristics of grains
11Chemical analysis and digestibility50Phytochemicals major families (β-glucan, phenolic acids, flavonoids, lignans, tocols, phytosterols, folate)
12Common names51Pigments or coloring agents
13Compatibility with grasses and legumes52Quality index
14Cultivars53Rainfall requirements
15Description54Refusal rate
16Digestibility55Response to defoliation
17Diseases56Response to fire
18Distribution57Response to photoperiod
19Dormancy58Season of growth
20DRIS norms, i.e., Diagnosis and Recommendation Integrated System (N/P, N/Ca, N/Zn, K/P, P/Ca, S/P, Zn/P, K/Ca, S/K, K/Zn, S/Zn, Ca/Zn, S/Ca).59Seed or grain color, shape, size and anatomical elements
21Drought tolerance60Seed production and harvesting
22Dry- and green- matter yields61Seed treatment before planting
23Economics62Seed vigor
24Equilibrium moisture of hay63Seed yield
25Fat and fatty acids contents64Soil requirements
26Fertilizer requirements65Source of variation levels of compounds released and effects
27Frost tolerance66Sowing depth and cover
28Further reading67Sowing methods
29Genetics and reproduction68Sowing time and rate
30Grain composition (energy, DM, lipid, fibers, ADF, seed, proteins, ash)69Suitability for hay and silage
31Grazing management70Therapeutic properties
32Growing systems71Tolerance to flooding
33Land preparation for establishment72Tolerance to herbicides
34Latitudinal limits73Tolerance to salinity
35Main attributes74Toxicity
36Main deficiencies75Value as standover or deferred feed
37Maximum temperature, low temperature76Value for erosion control
38Minerals content (K, P, Mg, Fe, Ca, Na, Zn, Cu, Mn, Se)77Vigor of growth and growth rhythm
39Minimum germination and quality required for commercial sale78Vitamins contents (Niacin, Vita E, alpha tocopherol, Vit BE, pantothenic acid, thianine, riboflavin, folate, fat, fatty acid)

Table 1.

Alphabetical fields of information on Grasses species.

Adapted from [3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14].

4. Grasses and Grassland diversity

4.1 Cereals

A cereal is a plant grown mainly for its seeds (grains, fruits, and caryopses) used as food and fodder, being consumed in flour or grain form. “Cereal” refers to Grasses grains. About 43 cereals from nine main tribes have been documented including 17 Paniceae, 16 Triticeae, 2 Cyperaceae, 2 Oryzoideae, 2 Poeae, 1 Aveneae, 1 Chloridoideae, 1 Coccinea, and 1 Eragrostideae. The most world widely grown are rice, maize, wheat, barley, and sorghum, respectively. Otherwise, about four pseudo-cereals are also worldwide recognized but not yet well scientifically supported: buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum, Polygonaceae), quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, Chenopodiaceae), amaranth (Amaranthus spp., Chenopodiaceae), and sesame (Sesamum indicum, Pedaliaceae). Among the several cereals that are used in feeding human over the world, only the high-growth and high-carrying capacity cereals prevent forage shortages in winter. They can also help controlling weeds. Oats are more forage than wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Potential forage biomass depends on crops, varieties, pathology resistance, and seeding time.

4.2 Native Grasses and Grassland

As for Asia, Europe, America, and Australia Grasses and Grassland, African landscape offers about six types of wide Grasses and Grassland. Table 2 shows the values, productivities, and demand for equivalent land (i.e., the opposite of carrying capacities) of Grassland highlighting the main dominant Grass species over the normal periods, i.e., 30 years.

EcozonesTypes of Grassland and main Grasses speciesPV (%)t DM/haELD (ha/TLU)
Sudanese (S)Aspilia paludosa and Anadelphia afzeliana (SP1)51.51.08–9.792.11–0.23
Hyparrhenia involucrata and Andropogon pseudapricus (SP2)37.31.21–10.11.89–0.23
Loudetia flavidae (SP3)23.90.38–5.216.00–0.44
Loxodera ledermanii (SP4)36.80.30–6.917.60–0.33
Pennisetum unisetum (SP5)46.30.25–15.769.13–0.14
Setaria longiseta and Sporobolus pyramidalis (SP6)21.40.22–5.5810.37–0.41
Guineo-Sudanese (GS)Andropogon chinensis (GSP1)65.825.00–5.730.46–0.40
Andropogon gayanus and Hyparrhenia involucrata (GSP2)74.275.70–6.860.40–0.33
Andropogon schirensis (GSP3)50.495.40–7.120.42–0.32
Andropogon tectorum (GSP4)35.046.06–9.400.38–0.24
Andropogon macrophyllus (artificial) (GSP5)64.409.73–12.460.23–0.18
Brachiaria ruziziensis (artificial) (GSP6)63.176.90–9.150.33–0.25
Ctenium newtonii (GSP7)35.046.33–10.80.36–0.21
Heteropogon contortus (GSP8)35.046.94–11.40.33–0.20
Hyparrhenia smithiana (GSP9)46.895.63–7.100.41–0.32
Imperata cylindrica (GSP10)22.820.29–5.127.87–0.45
Panicum maximum C1 (artificial) (GSP11)84.2810.30–13.510.22–0.17
Sporobolus pyramidalis (GSP12)56.026.53–8.800.35–0.26
Sudano-Guinean (SG)Andropogon schirensis and Andropogon gayanus (SGP1)45.745.26–8.500.43–0.27
Andropogon schinensis and Andropogon chirensis (SGP2)534.70–8.800.49–0.26
Brachiaria falcifera (SGP3)36.883.64–7.500.63–0.30
Pennisetum polystachion and Andropogon gayanus (SGP4)283.93–7.200.58–0.32
Pennisetum polystachion and Hyparrhenia involucrata (SGP5)49.337.86–9.800.29–0.23
Pennisetum unisetum and Rottboellia cochinchinensis (SGP6)363.24–6.800.70–0.37
Sorghastrum bipennatum and Schizachyrium sanguineum (SGP7)504.90–7.900.47–0.29
Sporobolus pyramidalis and Hyparrhenia involucrata (SGP8)32.155.70–8.400.40–0.27
Schizachyrium sanguineum and Hyparrhenia rufa (SGP9)45.534.89–7.010.47–0.33
Transition Guineo-Sudanese/Sudano-Guinean (TGS/SG)Andropogon schirensis and Hyparrhenia subplumosa (TP1)45.87.01–10.20.33–0.22
Andropogon tectorum and Chromolaena odorata (TP2)47.67.47–10.90.31–0.21
Brachiaria falcifera (TP3)44.85.57–8.400.41–0.27
Hyptis suaveolens and Hyparrhenia suplumosa (TP4)38.22.03–5.201.12–0.44
Pennisetum polystachion and Securinega virosa (TP5)48.158.25–11.20.28–0.20
Sporobolus pyramidalis and Hyparrhenia subplumosa (TP6)33.47.00–11.40.33–0.20
Northern Sudanese (NS)Andropogon gayanus (NSP1)46.54.40–6.100.52–0.37
Andropogon gayanus and Hyparrhenia involucrata (NSP2)32.717.53–7.980.30–0.29
Andropogon gayanus and Schizachyrium sanguineum (NSP3)52.54.80–5.020.48–0.45
Andropogon pseudapricus and Pennisetum polystachion (NSP4)16.775.36–5.870.43–0.39
Andropogon pseudapricus and Tephrosia pedicellata (NSP5)14.895.64–5.940.40–0.38
Hyparrhenia involucrata (NSP6)36.23.95–5.900.58–0.39
Hyparrhenia involucrata and Andropogon gayanus (NSP7)384.80–6.300.48–0.36
Loxodera ledermannii (NSP8)42.696.58–7.100.35–0.32
Pennisetum pedicellatum (NSP9)23.92.60–5.500.88–0.41
Sudano-Sahelian (SS)Andropogon pseudapricus (SSP1)26.282.83–3.210.81–0.71
Andropogon pseudapricus and Panicum pansum (SSP2)31.564.21–5.120.54–0.45
Diheteropogon amplectens (SSP3)28.433.45–4.100.66–0.56
Panicum subalbidum (SSP4)31.723.35–4.080.68–0.56
Pennisetum pedicellatum of savannahs (SSP5)35.062.42–3.450.94–0.66
Pennisetum pedicellatum of fallows (SSP6)34.054.12–4.760.55–0.48
Schoenefeldia gracilis (SSP7)14.903.71–4.010.61–0.57
Vetiveria nigritana and Oryza longistaminata (SSP8)41.446.74–7.240.34–0.32

Table 2.

Types of tropical pastures, grazing values, productivities, carrying capacities (1988–2018).

The southern Sahara reflects a dynamic presence of six Grassland groups (Table 2, [15]) burst into 50 Grasslands, including 6 Sudanese, 12 Guineo-Sudanese, 9 Sudano-Guinean, 6 Guinea-Sudanese and Sudano-Guinean transitional, 9 Northern Sudanese, and 8 Sudano-Sahelian. Apart from the most productive Grasslands, which are artificial, the most productive native is Andropogon gayanus and Hyparrhenia involucrata from Guineo-sudanese and the lowest is Setaria longiseta and Sporobolus pyramidalis from Sudanese zone.

5. Grasses and Grassland properties

5.1 Grasses and Grassland food and fodder properties

5.1.1 Native forage grasses

Temperate wild or permanent and extensive Grassland can hold up to 100 plant species per hectare. More than 120 native tropical forage Grasses in Africa have been studied and found to less contribute to productivities of respective communities. Special attention has been given to their ecology for better production and rational use [3, 4, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19].

5.1.2 Introduced fodder grasses

The temperate Grassland cultivated or more intensive breeding include the following species: Brome (Bromus secalinus), Dactyle (Dactylis glomerata), Festulolium (more than 40 cultivars), High Fescue (Festuca arundinacea), Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis), Meadow Timothy (Phleum pratense), meadow Pâturin (Poa pratensis), English Ray-grass (Lolium perenne), Italian Ray-grass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.), Hybrid Ray-grass (Lolium × hybridum), legumes species such as Cornish lotier (Lotus corniculatus), cultivated Luzerne (Medicago sativa), cultivated Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia), White Clover (Trifolium repens), Alexandria Clover (Trifolium alexandrinum L.), Micheli Clover (Trifolium michelianum Savi.), Hybrid Clover (Trifolium hybridum), Incarnate Clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), and Purple Clover (Trifolium pratense).

About 30 exotic Grasses were introduced from 1987 to 2015 in Southern Sahara, with 17 mainly fodder [7 Panicum species (6 varieties of P. maximum and P. coloratum) and 5 species of Brachiaria] [15, 20]. These samples in seagrass beds and on experimental plots are available in the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRAB), the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, other research institutions such as ILRI/ILCA (Kenya), FAO (Rome/Italy), CIAT (Colombia), IDESSA (Bouake/Côte d’Ivoire), Democratic Republic of Congo and ILCA (Nigeria). Panicum maximum C1 and Pennisetum purpureum are adopted and grown on seedling in density ranging from 30 cm × 30 cm to 40 cm × 40 cm. Several introduced species such as cereals, forage, ornamental and medicinal plants, have already become part of local flora like Bambusa vulgaris.

Grasses are for several uses: food, fodder, industrial, medicinal, etc. Smaller local cereals are Digitaria exilis, Oryza glaberrima, Eleusine coracana, and Digitaria iburua. Eleusine coracana, quite recent expansion is mostly grown in mountains. Digitaria spp. are famine consumed, mainly D. exilis in West Africa, D. debilis and D. iburua in East Africa (Cameroon). Industrial cereals are rice (Oryza sativa) grown in plains and valleys. Wheat (Triticum aestivum) is grown on plates in batch production. Oryza longistaminata and O. barthii are not yet cultivated. Panicum laetum and Cenchrus biflorus are eaten locally as well as Brachiaria xantholeuca, Dactyloctenium aegyptium, Echinochloa colona, E. pyramidalis, E. stagnina, Setaria pumila, and Sorghum arundinaceum. Sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) is grown in rural gardens from the south of West Africa (Benin, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, and Guinea) and mainly used for sucking. Sorghum, which is not a new crop, is a regional cereal, subjected to large international commercial transactions. It is one of the most important cereals grown especially in arid and semi-arid land ecosystems. Holding multiple-use properties, all Grasses are browsed by livestock, mostly at juvenile stages and recent is Grasses and Grassland developments. Grassland improvement by livestock farming and forage stations is based on species such as Brachiaria ruziziensis, Cenchrus ciliaris, Panicum varieties, Pennisetum clandestinum, Pennisetum purpureum, and Tripsacum laxum. Pennisetum clandestinum is found on some mountain Grassland. Ischaemum timorense and I. indicum belong to introduced species.

A cultivated forage species is selected based on the following criteria:

  1. Ability to produce good seeds, spread by runners, rhizomes, or stem cuttings;

  2. Being vigorous, high-yielding, palatable and nutritious, leafy, good foliar quality and late flowering;

  3. Resistant under intensive grazing;

  4. Ability to survive a dry season, provide pasture for a good part of the dry season;

  5. Intended for temporary use, being capable of being eradicated with relative ease.

5.1.3 Cereals

Cereals belong to Grasses family. Following are some of their feeding properties:

  1. A natural fuel: Cereals hold 70–80% carbohydrates especially starch. They are complex or slow carbohydrates, gradually intestine absorbed, and diffusing energy over time, unlike simple sugars. In its complete form, their shell and fibers slow down this absorption even further. The glycemic index (GI) measures a food ability to increase blood sugar levels within 2 h of ingestion. The higher this GI is, the faster the food is assimilated, and the sooner the feeling of hunger can manifest itself. Whole grains have a low GI, which increases when grains are processed (ground, mixed, blown, extruded…) because their sugars are then more quickly and easily assimilated.

  2. Vegetable bricks: Cereals are well provided with protein a little less than meat (7–14%), the richest being wheat and oats). Optimizing them require combination with legumes (chickpeas, lentils, soya…), one providing each other with the essential amino acid that they lack to cover human needs (cereals are deficient in lysine, well represented in legumes, which are lacking methionine). Hence, traditional associations are corn + red beans in Mexico, rice + lentils in India, wheat semolina + chickpeas in couscous, and rice + peas in Cantonese rice.

  3. Smooth transit: Unrefined cereals are naturally rich in fibers, which, when indigestible, increases stool volume and promotes stool elimination. These fibers also contribute to satiety through a mechanical effect on the stomach.

  4. Mineral wealth: Cereals contain good quantities of vitamins of the B group, beneficial for the nervous system, but also vitamin E, antioxidant and many minerals, with mainly magnesium and calcium. Table 3 highlights some main advantages.

CerealsCharacteristicsUse
BarleyLow energy and fat
Rich in fibers, Vitamin B12, Gluten
Interesting for vegans
Beaded, crushed, flakes, flour
CornSweet taste
High glycemic index, energetics
Grains, starch, flakes, flour, syrup
Thyroid moderator
MilletRich in iron, high vitamin A and phosphorusAnti-asthenic, invigorating, stimulant infection control, cooked, sprouted
OatsRichest in proteins (14.2 g), lipids, Ca, Cu
Most energetic
Gluten light
Digestive, diuretic, tonic, hypoglycemic
Lower bad cholesterol
Thyroid gland stimulators
Flakes + soy milk, soup, porridge
Bread, pancakes, Muesli cakes
RiceRichest in carbohydrates
Low in proteins (about 7 g) and lipids
Silicon, Vitamins B, fibers
Risottos, pilaf, entremets
Flakes, flour
RyeHigh proteins (about 12 g)
Rich in K and B vitamins
Less “dirty” than wheat
Contains gluten
Bread, whole, crushed, flakes, flour
Soft laxative and depurative
Blood thinner
Spelt (primitive wheat)8 essential amino acids
11–16% of proteins, high Mg
Highly digestible
Less gluten than wheat
Hypotoxic diet
Anti-stress
Sensitive stomach and intestines
Flour, soups, cakes, coffee substitute
WheatRich in Mg, vitamins B1, PP, E
Gliadin
Good for nervous balance
Flakes, flour, bread, syrup

Table 3.

Cereals feeding properties.

An important cereal food property is Gluten availability. Gluten or prolamin is a protein fraction. Cereals mainly contain it, especially wheat, oat, and barley flour while rice flour is almost exempt from it. Cereals hold sugar (Starch) and protein (Gluten). Gluten contains glutellins and prolamins. There are different types of prolamins and glutellins: wheat, for example, is composed of glutenin (glutin side) and gliadin (prolamin side). It is these combined elements that give elasticity to the bread dough and allow the air bubbles to be enclosed. The higher the prolamin content, the higher the leaven on bread. Several cereals are used in feeding human over the world.

Grasses contain toxic prolamins such as rye secalin, orange hordein, corn zenin, oat avenin, or wheat prolamin (gliadin), which are well known for toxicity. For this reason, these cereals are generally banned from the diet of people more sensitive to gluten toxicity. All cereal Grasses contain gluten (Table 4). However, prolamin levels are sometimes so low that prolamin intolerants may consume some of them.

RankCerealScientific nameGluten type (prolamin)Prolamin content (%)
1WheatTriticum aestivum L. subsp. spelta (L.) Thell.Alpha gliadin69
2SpeltTriticum spelta L.Alpha gliadin69
3KamutTriticum turanicum D. LoveAlpha gliadin69
4CornZea mays L.Zenin55
5SorghumSorghum bicolor (L.) MoenchCafirin52
6BarleyHordeum vulgare L.Hordenin46–52
7RyeSecale cereale L.Secalin30–50
8MilletPennisetum glaucum (L.) R.Br.Panicin40
9OatAvena sativa L.Avenin20–30
10TefEragrotis abyssinica (Jacq.) LinkNot identified12
11FonioDigitaria exilis(Kippist) Stapf
Digitaria iburua Stapf
Not identified˂10
12RiceOryza sativa L.Oryznin5

Table 4.

Classification of food grasses according to gluten content.

Wheat, Kamut, and Spelt are the richest in gluten while rice contains insignificant amounts, as well as buckwheat. These cereals could perfectly fit intolerant persons as gluten-free flours in shops and supermarkets.

Fonio (Digitaria exile and D. iburua) as the oldest cereal of ethical minorities in arid sub-Saharan Africa is of nutritional properties as the richest in Mg, Ca, Fe, and Zn, which contributes to properly functioning of the immune system. It is gluten-free and contains twice as many amino acids as other cereals. It can be consumed by coeliac disease victims or wheat allergy, as it contains less protein than others and similar to white rice in composition. No major scientific studies have looked specifically at Fonio. However, being considered as a whole grain, we know about their positive impacts on the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, constipation, overweight, cancers including colorectal cancer.

5.2 Grasses and Grassland anti-erosive properties

Anti-erosive practices favor mounts terraces and foothills covering massifs. Terraces create fields on slopes and among blocks. Millet stalks retain elements from disintegration in place of granite rock slabs of walls sealed with gravel. Gradually, these elements rise until an arena beach becomes a field. Bundles of millet stalks and certain Grasses (Table 5) are arranged to also retain fine elements [21].

Anti-erosive practicesGrasses species usedOrgans usedLocalities
TerracesAdiantum philippense L. (Ferns)
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Persoon
Digitaria argillacea (Hitchcock and Chase)
Rottboellia cochinchinensis (Lour.) W. Clayton
Stoloniferous rootsMountains
Rock slabsPennisetum typhoides (Burm.) Stapf. and Hubb.StemsWalls
Improved fallow landsSetaria pumila (Poir.) Roem. and Schult., 1817
Setaria sphacelata (Schumach.) Stapf and C.E.Hubb.
Roots, stolonsUplands
Plant defensive systemsSorghum caudatum (Hack.) Stapf.
Sorghum durra (Forssk.) Trab.
Stems, stolonsPlains and foothills
Pseudo-terraces
Restored halomorphic floors
Sorghum caudatum (Lithosols Sorghums)
Sorghum durra (Transplanted Sorghums)
StemsMountains
Bunds griddingOff- seasoned SorghumsStemsUplands

Table 5.

Anti-erosive grasses (adapted from IRD1995–1996).

Terraces are maintained by particular crops in the blocks interstices, including Stoloniferous Grasses such as Cynodon dactylon and Adiantum philipensis, i.e., a small fern. Rottboellia cochinchinensis and Digitaria argillacea are cutting and offer 2–3 cuts for cattle feeding in rainy seasons.

Facing foothills and plains land insecurity, new intensive and elaborate anti-erosive practices help to recover hard land (halomorphic soils), which have often been abandoned as a village cattle parking lot. Farmers dig holes 1.5–2 m apart and 35–40 cm in diameter with as much depth in the compacted horizon. They spread all around the manure, fill the holes in the second or third year, and cultivate a first time with the plow, early sorghum. Seasoned sorghums are grown annually. At this stage, a grid of bunds of 30 cm height is mounted for better water contention. Planting Setaria pumila and Setaria sphacelata improve fallow lands [22]. Halomorphous soils restoration occurs between 4 and 6 years. In such context, clusters of rocks, as well as halomorphic areas deemed uncultivated, can give fields. The anti-erosive aspect serves essential crops, Sorghums of Lithosols Mountain and transplanted Sorghums, all of which are free from fallow.

5.3 Grasses and Grassland ornamental properties

Grasses from wetlands mostly grew for ornamental purposes in dryland irrigation systems (Table 6). Axonopus compressus, Cynodon dactylon, and Paspalum conjugatum grew in urban and peri-urban areas, particularly in South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria), Benin (Cotonou, Ouidah, Parakou, Porto-Novo), Cameroon (Ngaoundé, Bertoua, Yaounde, Douala), Sierra Leone (Freetown, Njala), Liberia (Monrovia), Senegal (Dakar, Saint Louis, Ziguinchor), Congo (Kisangani, Kinshasa, Brazzaville), Ethiopia (Addis Ababa), Ghana (Cape Coast, Tema, Kumasi, Accra), Nigeria (Abuja, Abeokuta, Shagamu, Idjebu-Ode, Lagos, Ibadan, Ogbomosho, Oyo, Iseyin, Makurdi, Awka, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Yenagoa, Asaba, Calabar, Enugu, Akure, Port Harcourt, Bonny, Ahoada, South and North Sokoto, Lafia, Kano, Owerri, Minna, Ilorin, Gombe, Ado Ekiti, Dutse, Katsina, Benin-City, Abakaliki, Lokoja, Osogbo, Jos, Jalingo, Donga, Damaturu and Gusau), Morocco (Casablanca, Tanger, Marrackech, Raba). In addition, two cosmopolitan seal (Axonopus compressus and Paspalum conjugatum) with Chrysopogon aciculatus mark lawns of African, Asian, European, American and Australian coastal cities. C. aciculatus outcrops gardens of East and West African airports.

SpeciesLocationsUtilizationsEcoregions
Axonopus compressus (Sw.) P.Beauv.
Chrysopogon aciculatus (Retz.) Trin.
Paspalum conjugatum P.J.Bergius
Vetiveria nigritana (Benth.) Stapf
Cities bordering African marine CoastOrnamental, fodder and, medicinalTropical wet and dry
Axonopus compressus (Sw.) P.Beauv.
Cynodon dactylon (L.) Persoon
Paspalum conjugatum P.J.Bergius
CosmopilitesOrnamental, fodder and medicinalTropical dry and wet
Chrysopogon aciculatus (Retz.) Trin.AirportsCosmopolites
Cymbopogon citratus (D.C) Stapf.Home gardensOrnamental and medicinalTropical wet, dry
Oxythenantera abyssinica A. Rich. MunroBotanical Gardens, Southern Cities (Wetlands)Fences and medicinalTropical wet, dry
Temperate
Phyllostachys aurea KoïGardens of northern cities (drylands)Fences and handcraftsTropical wet and dry
Polytrias diversiflora (Steud.) Nash
Stenotaphrum secundatum (Walter) Kuntze
Botanical GardensOrnamental and medicinalTropical, temperate

Table 6.

Main ornamental grasses.

African landscapes are dominated by bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) while those of northern cities (Europe, America, Australia, and Asia) are distinguished by cultivation of Oxythenantera abyssinica. Cymbopogon citratus is dominant in ornamental and medicinal gardens. Stenotaphrum secundatum marks lawns of East African marine coasts, and Polytrias diversiflora, Municipal and University botanical gardens. Linear foliage and flowers in form of ears sometimes feathery appear in autumn and bring a graceful and light touch. Near a resting place or water garden, the rustling and swaying of leaves and ears of corn bring into Morpheus’ arms. Moreover, Miscanthus (Miscanthus), Panic (Panicum) and Calamagrostis (Calamagrostis) are other values.

5.4 Grasses and Grassland aromatic properties

5.4.1 Aromatic properties

Several aromatic species are grown mostly for oils i.e. lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus and Melinis minutiflora grown in African gardens (Table 7). Vetiveria zizanioides, Cymbopogon schoenanthus and C. densiflorus, cultivated in Cameroon’s Adamaoua region, offer essential oils which are widely used in crop protection, storages, veterinary and human medicines.

Grass speciesAromesUtilizationsReferences
Cymbopogon citratus (D.C) Stapf.
Cymbopogon densiflorus (Steud.) Stapf
Cymbopogon schoenanthus (L.) Spreng., 1815
Essential oil
Citral
Burnt panicles with odoriferous fumes for ceremonials, anti-amoebic, antibacterial, antidiarrheal, antifilarial, antifungal, antioxidants, antimalarial, hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenicity, antimycobacterial, neurobehaviorial[23, 24]
Melinis minutiflora P. Beauv.Cumin aroma, essential oilPesticids, acaricids, ovycids[25]
Vetiveria zizanoides (L.) NashEssential oilTenacious smell, perfumery, cosmetics, strong, pleasant and lasting notes from flavors, insecticides, herbicides, anti-microbial, antioxidant[26]
Miscanthus spp.
Miscanthus sacchariflorus (Maxim.) Franch
Essential oilBio-energy, biofuel, bio-crude oil, diesel[27]
Arundo donax L.
A. phragmites L.
Oils, lignin, alkaloidsBiogas, construction, medicinal[28]
Nardus stricta L., 1753
Anthoxantum odoratum L., 1753
CoumarinsMedicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation[29]
Bromus catharticus Vahl, 1791AromaPurgative, spines, burrs, toxics, pest host[30, 31]

Table 7.

Some aromatic grasses, aromes and usages.

5.4.2 Grasses and Grassland essential oils composition

Ninety-five volatile compounds, representing 75.4% of the total area, were identified in essential oils from Grasses and Grassland plants, with each of remaining peaks accounting for less than 0.01%. Terpenoid family is mostly abundant with 14 monoterpenes, 24 monoterpene derivatives, 18 sesquiterpenes, and 11 sesquiterpene derivatives, together accounting for 61.1% of total peak area. Besides, were seven benzenic compounds accounting for 12%. Benzenic compounds dill apiole and carvacrol were mostly abundant in essential oil after sesquiterpene germacrene D. The other compounds (1 ketone, 6 aldehydes, 4 alcohols, 3 esters, and 7 alkanes) accounted for 2.3%. Essential oil from Grasses and Grassland contained the usual terpenes [32, 33, 34].

5.4.3 Grasses and Grassland medicinal properties

All organs from Grasses are found with specific medicinal virtues for human and animal well-being (Table 8).

Scientific nameCommon namePart usedDosage formMedicinal propertiesReferences
Andropogon sppTrue lemon grassLeaf, root, stemOil, pasteAnti-arthritic[35, 36]
Cenchrus ciliaris L.Buffel grassAerial and root partOilAnti-cancer[37]
Cymbopogon sppMelissa grass, Geranium grassLeavesOilAnti-amoebic, antibacterial, anticancer, antidiarrheal, anti-filarial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, anti-mutagenicity, antioxidants, anti-arthritic, anti-mycobacterial, hypoglycemic, neurobehavioral[24, 38]
Cynodon dactylon Pers.Bahama grassPlant, RhizomeExtractAnti-arthritic[36]
Eleusine indica GaertnWiregrassLeavesOilAnti-inflammatory, antioxidants, anti-arthritic[39]
Imperata cylindrica (L.) Raeusch.Thatch grass, Cogon grassRhizome, leaves, flowersDecoction, powderDiuretic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, neuroprotective[40, 41, 42]
Lolium temulentum L.DarnelSeedPowderAnti-arthritic[36]
Panicum italicum L.Italian milletSeedExtractAnti-arthritic[35]
Setaria italic Beauv.Foxtail milletGrainParchingAnti-arthritic[35]
Hordeum vulgare L.BarleyGrainHydroalcoholic extractAnti-chronic diseases, promote sleep, antidiabetes, enhance immunity, protective liver, beauty anti-acne, antioxidants, antidepressant, anticancer, improve gastrointestinal, anti-inflammation, hypolipidemic, preventive heart diseases, preventive constipation, improve cognition[43, 44]
Triticum aestivum L. subsp. spelta (L.) Thell.Wheat grassCotyledons, leavesExtract, juiceImmunoprophylactic, anti-anemia, anti-leukemia, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, antioxidant, laxative, anti-aging anticarcinogenic; astringent, immunomodulatory, phosphorus, antibacterial, anti-venomous, sources of vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, potassium[45, 46]

Table 8.

Forage grasses and cereals specific medicinal properties.

Grass seeds generally exert a particular action on the nervous system, which result in dizziness, and a body tremor as the case for ryegrass and Festuca quadridentata seeds in Peru. Grasses stems contain sugar before the seeds mature, which gradually disappears. It is especially abundant in sorghum, corn, and optimal only in sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum). Fresh sugar cane contains 18% of his sugar weight. However, these odorless stems show aromatic properties in some grasses, such as Cymbopogon schoenanthus (sweet rush), Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet rush), Cymbopogon nardus (Ceylon citronella), and Cymbopogon citratus (Citronella and Indian verbena).

Aromatic Grasses are known to be responsible for benzoic acid presence and an associated essential oil in herbivores urine. More specifically, Saccharum fatuum from Otahiti (French Polynesia) and Bromus catharticus from Peru are used to intoxicate fishes.

Grasses roots are sometimes used in medicine. Most are odorless, providing only little sugar and gum to the water. Main ones are: Carex arenaria (fake sarsaparilla), dogs: Panicum repens (Torpedo grass), Imperata cylindrica (Spear grass), Cynodon dactylon (Couch grass), and Arundo donax (cane root).

Some Grass roots are aromatic. This is the case with Vetiveria odorata, which contains a resin with a myrrh smell associated with volatile oil. Vetiveria’ roots from Brazil served as a powerful sudorific.

Grass seeds provide a viscous drink in water; this seed decoction contains sugar, and gluten which dissolves with acetic and phosphoric acids. An herbal tea is made by mixing rice seed, oatmeal and barley. This drink contains grape sugar, dextrin, starch and gluten. The cane and quackgrass root are used to prepare soft drinks: quackgrass scales washed in cold water, contoured in a mortar and boiled for a quarter of an hour. Quackgrass (Imperata cylindrica) extracts are also obtained by roots leaching. Grass starch is used in many preparations to treat some humans and animals’ diseases.

5.5 Grasses and Grassland ecological properties

Evidently, restoring native Grasses and Grassland is highly desirable. To that end, scientists might build models predicting human disturbance on global Grassland and assessing the climate-biosphere feedbacks as light grazing promoted soil C and N sequestration whereas moderate and heavy grazing significantly accelerated C and N losses. Indeed, light grazing also increase the above and belowground biomass, stimulate more fixed C allocated to roots and increase root exudates and biomass [47]. This enhances soil C accumulation as well N inputs into soils [48]. Meanwhile, light grazing also stimulate soil respiration by increasing temperature and moisture, enhancing ground cover, decreasing compaction, stimulating plant growth and microbial activities [49, 50]. However, both moderate and heavy grazing markedly decrease soil carbon pool and soil nitrogen pool as grazing decrease litter biomass, root C pool and microbial biomass and then lower C inputs to soils [51].

Fire remains a major disruption to evolution and management as well as determining Grasses and Grassland ecosystems. Fire is known for improving framework and resource environments, i.e., animal and livestock habitat. Prescribed fire is a tool for modern pasture management. Seasonal uses of fires, herbicide and nitrogen applications become promising, as desirable grass biomass increases while invasive plant biomass decreases. About three types of fires are mostly used in Tropics [52] for example, i.e. (a) early fires applied when the soil moisture degree is still sufficient to produce grass regrowth that is highly valued by livestock and covers their forage needs during the dry season. It cleans the straw left on the ground at the end of dry season. Its ignition date coincides with the end of the rainy season (mid-November to end of December, depending on the case). As results, it stimulates the growth of hemicryptophytes, improves primary biomass production of pastoral ecosystems and allows better land cover. (b) Off-season fires lit in the middle wet season and depends on: (i) the effort to conserve standing straw used as combustible for fire, (ii) the biomass ratio of “green matter/straw,” which must be less than or equal to 1; where perennial Grasses abound, prescribed fires provide livestock with tender and palatable forage in a forage-deficit season. (c) Late fires applied when the degree of drying is maximum, very violent, compromising the regeneration of forest recruits and chamephytes species often despised by animals. It reduces woody plants density, promotes Grass growth, and accelerates bare beaches reducing by the way the pastures’ carrying capacity.

But, using fire for sustainable Grasses and Grassland require optimal ecological conditions as well as specific well trained staffs.

Some species are important in regards to their roots which were highly used for human and animal medicine. These species (Andropogon spp., Cenchrus spp., Cynodon dactylon and Imperata cylindrica) appeared to be highly threatened and thus, their culture should be encouraged in order to make them more available for all needs.

It appears that all the listed Grasses are heavily attacked by a multitude of diseases and parasites (Table 9). Although efforts have been made to enable each of these plant species to provide the expected yields (productivity, food quality…), from another point of view, it is important to highlight their overall major ecological interest. Indeed, these species also serve as shelters and refuges or habitats as well as food resources for many of these parasites, i.e., insects, bacteria, fungi, etc. They therefore participate in the development of ecological niches in a context of habitat fragmentation, an overall major role. Therefore, how can we perpetuate the usefulness of Grasses in the midst of various plagues and attacks from grasshoppers, striga, cantharids and anthracnose?

GrassesModel speciesNumber diseasesMain foliar diseasesEconomic parasitesReferences
Wheat-grassesAgropyron spp.
Hordeum spp.
Triticum spp.
70Rusts, smuts, blotches, spots, scald, scolecotrichum stripe, powdery mildewErisyphe graminis[53]
Needle-grassesStipa spp.>50Spots (septoria, selenophoma, stem), stagonospora .blotch, stripesScolecotrichum graminis[53]
Blue-grassesPoa spp.50Rusts, stripe, spots, powdery mildew, anthracnose, smut, fairy ring, melting-out, silvertop, slime moldsLaetisaria spp, Entyloma spps, Clitocybe, Lycoperdon, Psalliota, Typhula, mites, Drechslera, Fusarium, Erysiphe graminis[53]
Smutgrasses dropseedsSporobolus spp.36Rusts, spots, powdery mildew, mold, SmutHelminihosporium ravenelii[54]
Grama grassesBouteloua spp.
Aristida spp.
30Rust, spots, choke, scald, black ringBalansia strangulans, Balansia hemicrypta[55]
Canary grassesPhalaris spp.30Tawny spot on leavesPseudomonas coronajaciens[53]
Brome grasses (Mountain, meadow, smooth)Bromus spp.38Spots, anthracnose, powdery mildew, mold, scalds, rot, speckle, blotch, stripes, rusts, Smut, Silvertop, Blight, NodePseudomonas, Ustilago bullata, Fusarium, Pyrenophora sp, Selenophoma bromigena, Xanthomonas translucens, Alternaria spp., Claviceps spp, Erysiphe graminis[56]
Foxtail MilletSetaria itálica22Spots (Cercospora, helminthosporium, bacterial, gray), downy mildewPiricularia grísea, Sclerospora graminicola[53]
Meadow FoxtailAlopecurus pratensis19Stripe, water-soaked, blotches, scalds, streak, rustRhynchosporium spp, Drechslera sp., Sclerotinia borealis; Puccinia graminis[53, 56]
Buffalo grassBuchloë dactyloides11Spots, false smutCercospota seminalis[53]
Beardgrass/BluestemAndropogon spp.Rusts, choke, anthracnose, cattail, spotsPhyllachora luteomaculata[57]
Wild-rye grasses
Junegrass
Elymus spp.
Koeleria cristata
14Rusts, smuts, powdery mildew, spots, blight, stripe, speckleEpichloe typhina[53]
BentgrassAgrostis spp.13Patchs, molds, spots, leaf blotch, Pythium Blight, red threadRhizoctonia solani, Typhula spp, Coprinus spp, Drechslera, Sclerotinia, Leptosphaeria korrae, Fusarium, Pythium, Laetisaria spp[58]
Fescue, RedFestuca rubra14Anthracnose, molds, red thread, silver top, spots, scald, smuts, Brown stripe, blotch, powdery mildew, rustColletotrichum graminicola, Typhula spp, Coprinus spp, Fusarium spp, Clitocybe spp
Marasmius spp, Lycoperdon spp, Psalliota
[59]
Timothy grassPhleum spp.06Spot, blight, rot, mold, ergot, snow scaldHeterosporium phleum, Drechslerai, Pythium, Claviceps purpurea, Sclerotinia boreali[60]

Table 9.

Grasses and Grassland pressures and extents of diseases.

Conservation and enhancement for the majority of introduced forage species are aimed at scientific, cultural, and touristic purposes. Herbarium and ex situ conservation, i.e., laboratories, are still on a very small scale in Central and West Africa.

Some tropical native Grasses deserve special attention such as:

  • Fire-sensitive species that, lose fruit-bearing performance. These are therophytes Grasses, mainly Hyparrhenia involucrata and Pennisetum polystachion [61].

  • Forage sensitive to trampling, i.e., Aristida kerstingii, Urochloa indica.

  • Rare genera: Elymandra androphyla, Loxodera ledermannii, Hyperthelia dissoluta, which require further attention

  • Grazing-sensitive including Hyparrhenia smithiana and Pennisetum unisetum [3, 4, 9], Setaria sphacelata, Anadelphia afzeliana, Brachiaria falcifera, and Loxodera ledermannii, less silicified under grazing pressure making them more vulnerable [12].

  • Site indicator, i.e., Brachiaria brachylopha for dry sites and B. falcifera for subhumid sites [62].

Grasses and Grassland biodiversity conservation requires (i) a comprehensive census to define the biodiversity conservation strategy; (ii) programming and planning to regulate grazing pressure; (iii) updating revision of herbaria; (iv) in situ conservation, and (v) wild Grasses domestication.

However, a specialist look is requiring for following concerns: (i) Are livestock grazing and burning compatible? (ii) How to reduce invasive species impact on Grasses and Grassland facing biodiversity erosion? (iii) What alternatives to issues in temperate environments as well as facing pests’ damage extent? (iv) What would be Grasses and Grassland’ contribution to agricultural and environmental services in a variety of systems that value permanent Grassland in the forage system?

5.6 Grasses and Grassland cultural properties

Grasses are important both in everyday life and during mourning ceremonies, links, knot of all kinds (portage, forbidden, calendars, stubble or signs of fallow land ...) [63]. They are surrounded by several spells, superstitions, myths, legends as well as popular beliefs. Among 15 of these properties reported for example on the wheat are the following:

  • Wheat is a tool in religious rites of ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Romans, Greeks, as well as in India. Its bread has become the central mystery of Christianity. As a symbol of food, fertility and the annual rebirth of life, wheat is the offering of the Harvest Day in Luna sad, Ireland (August 1 in the Northern Hemisphere, February 1 in the Southern Hemisphere).

  • Wheat is a symbol of fertility often used newlyweds’ home decoration [64], offering happy inspiration, gratitude, prudence united to goodness, legitimate acquisition [65].

  • Lucky sheaves: for hares, partridges and farmers because of the Wheat genius which embodies a last sheaf shaped like a wolf.

  • Uncompromising guardians: Other wheat geniuses such as Polievik in Russia or Polevik in Poland hunt pests and weeds and promote harvests. But he will strangle those who would take a nap instead of plowing their land! Poludnica ensures breaks observance. Polednice in Czechoslovakia and Slovakia prevents damage before harvest while Polednicek prevents fields from being ransacked.

6. Grasses and Grassland syntheses

Grasses hold a lot of syntheses as about 27 have been partly listed from the main cereals (sorghum, oat, barley, wheat, maize, Spelt). These chemicals and biologicals act as anticancer [37, 66], increasing milk production [67], antifungal, antibacterial [37], anthelmintic, anti-amoebic, cyclooxygenase (COX) I and II inhibitory activity [68], dysmenorrheal and uterine relaxing activities.

Among the Sorghum synthesis (Table 10), very little is still known on the Dhurrin genetic control. However, Dhurrin content was recently found in consistent association with biosynthetic genes in N-fertilized environments, while with catabolic loci in the controls [78]. Several phenolic compounds also accumulated radioactivity.

SpeciesBio-synthesisCharacteristicsReferences
SorghumDhurrin• Cyanogenic glucoside in early grain development
• Low-juveniles vs. high-older plants contents
• Highest in Caudatum and lowest in Guinea
• Shift from leaves to stem
[13]
RiceAmino acid in grains• Lysine, first limiting amino acid in cereals
• Lysine, methionine, threonine and isoleucine
[69]
Aromatic amino-acids• Increasing tryptophan and phenylalanine rates
• Cysteine, serine, methionine change into isoleucine
[70]
Vitamins in grains• Foliar β-carotenoid synthesize humans vitamin A
• Transgenic produce β-carotenoids in endosperm.
• Transgenic folic acid as 1.5 times of original
• Thiamine/vitamin B1 low in plastids causing beriberi
• Vitamin E as tocopherol, trienol family
• Vitamin E as anti-oxidative damage protection
• Vitamin C as antioxidant, antiatherosclerosis, anti-cancer
[71, 72]
OatAvenancins as saponins• Protective properties, i.e. anti-inflammatory, antifungals, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitism, anti-cancers and anti-viral[73]
WheatStorage protein• Prolamin gene stimulation at storage onset[74]
Gluten• Gluten proteins heredity by starch gel electrophoresis
• No gluten effect on Canthatch variety D genome
[75]
Antioxidants• Antioxidant by reducing glycoside, polyphenolics[76]
BarleyStarch and amino acid in grains• Less starch, dry weight in transgenic endosperms[77]

Table 10.

Some cereals synthesis.

Engineering strategies targeting plant biomass lignin develop sustainable bio economy. Tricin native monocots lignin polymer initiate the lignin chains polymerization. Its bio-synthesis requires two methylation reactions involving the pathway intermediate selgin. O-methyltransferase is producing S lignin units as in the lignin-linked tricin synthesis [79].

The 1,3-propanediol is bio-produced from white sorghum starch and glycerol inoculated by a mixture culture of Escherichia coli and Klebsiella species [80].

Meeting the human nutrition balance needs require improving protein and amino acids relative contents in rice grain.

The use of genetic engineering strategy can improve essential amino acids contents, and nutritional quality of rice grain. But, how to regulate lipid metabolism pathway in rice grains remains questionable.

Little is known about Vitamin C biosynthesis in monocotyledonous plants. Therefore, solving low vitamin content in rice grains, require increasing vitamin of rice seeds and improving nutritional quality by making rice, full use of its genes. Achieving this might consider the introduction of exogenous genes, metabolic engineering, genetic engineering and other modern technical methods.

7. Grasses and Grassland applications

Ecosystem services of Grasses and Grassland are expressed through grazing areas, watershed water, biodiversity reserves, tourist sites, recreation areas, religious sites, wild food sources, and natural medicine sources, mainly through the sequestration and storage of C.

Several species of large Grasses are also very important for the manufacture of mats and for the roof. Normally, they are protected against fire and grazing, but rarely cultivated. For the manufacture of mats along the Logone, Hyparrhenia rufa is planted. Vetiveria nigritana is used for the fields’ demarcation on floodplains, and anti-erosion. Vetiver’s thatch is traditionally used to cover the roofs of straw huts, and to make basketry or carpets. Bambusa vulgaris is planted for timber in southern countries while Oxytenanthera abyssinica is often more notable in the north.

Miscanthus from Asia as well as sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) from USA [81] are material for biofuel and buildings. Ciments Calcia and Alkern as Industrial company substitute’s traditional aggregates with crushed to reach 60% Miscanthus in the concrete; a prototype block of 20 × 50 × 20 cm weighing 17 kg is three times more insulating than conventional concrete [82]. Insulating panels and biomaterial in term of acoustic comfort with noise attenuation, it is 4 h fire resistance. First experimental use of concrete in early 2018 deployed on 1700 m2 of facade of 46 social housing units in Chanteloup-en-Brie (France) requires 50 tons of Miscanthus.

These are biosourced materials, grown without pesticides and irrigation, adapts to polluted, degraded or abandoned land, out of competing food agriculture, offering additional resources and economic opportunities for farmers. Production is spread over 15–20 years without reseeding or fertilizing. In addition, Miscanthus is sterile, rhizome and non-invasive, yielding 10 tons/ha per year. It reduces the building’s carbon footprint by saving on the transport of aggregates over long distances.

Arundo donax provides all-lignocellulosic fiberboards without synthetic binders, raw good material for fiberboard production and its pulp is rich in cellulose and moderate in lignin.

Figures 3 and 4 highlight some applications from Rice and Fonio, respectively.

Figure 3.

Applications from the rice.

Figure 4.

Applications from the Fonio.

8. Concluding remarks

This chapter highlights some milestones in Grasses and Grassland research: (1) 18 types of Grassland identified; (2) only 250 tropical grass species among 9700, i.e., 2.58% studied before 1990 and 100 over the last 30 years; (3) Grasses have been field characterized throughout 78 parameters; (4) biodiversity results in 43 cereals and 50 tropical Grasslands; (5) mostly, Grassland of Andropogon gayanus and Hyparrhenia involucrata (74% PV, 6.28 tons DM/ha; 0.37 ha/TLU) from Guineo-Sudanese opposed Setaria longiseta and Sporobolus pyramidalis (21% PV; 2.9 tons DM/ha; 5.4 ha/TLU) from Sudanian zone; (6) cultivated grasses belong to Panicum spp., Brachiaria spp. and Pennisetum spp.; (7) cereals contain gluten from 5% in rice to 69% in wheat; (8) properties result in 7 anti-erosive, 10 ornamental, 17 medicinal, 15 cultural and 11 aromatic with 95 oil volatile compounds; (8) Twenty-seven bio-syntheses recorded with Dhurrin genetic control, mechanism of lipid metabolism pathway and vitamin C biosynthesis remaining concerns; (9) applications are bioenergetic, cosmetic, industrial and environmental with sequestering carbon and nitrogen into soil.

Otherwise, most of cereals’ syntheses are found in fighting century diseases including cancers, high blood pressure, etc. that devastate human resources and thus negatively impact Nations economies.

So many virtues for more or less demanding resources like Grasses and Grassland! The whole world can certainly make a big profit from its. In a context of increasing difficulties in adequately feeding a growing world population threatened by major plagues, interest in these natural resources must certainly be attracted. Given the rapid precariousness of the food and health situation in some parts of the world, would it be too much to consider Grasses and Grassland as a hope for sustainable well-being? Whether ecological intensification is a pastoral contribution to agricultural and environmental services in a variety of systems that value permanent Grasslands in the forage system, what would life on earth really be without these Grasses and Grassland? Facing array of properties, synthesis and applications which force the hope, politicians would science-based manage for ensuring secured future for humanity, even in the increasingly alarming global warming; because Grasses and Grassland could be solutions to eventualities. In this debate, however, government officials, policy makers, professionals, and the general public would ensure that proactive and sustained production, processing and development, as well as commercialization of Grasses and Grassland are for the sustainable well-being of the respective communities; Decisions needed for sustainably managing these properties, synthesis, and applications so that serious threats can be mitigated. This includes students, teachers, and operators, who are tracking accurate and updated inventories of Grasses and Grassland’ knowledge.

Acknowledgments

This research was co-funded by the Laboratory of Applied Ecology—LEA (University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin—UAC), the Ecological and Organic Agriculture Network and the Association Béninoise pour le Pastoralisme (ABEPA). I am acknowledging my Master Professor Brice Sinsin, Former UAC Rector and Head of LEA for mentoring, DiasporaEngager (Georgia, USA) and it CEO, Roland Holou (PhD Agronomy) and Ozias Hounkpatin (PhD Agronomy) from Uppsala University (Sweden) for friendship and paper review, Bishop Barthelemy Tiando Bona and Pastor Arnaud Assogba (BSc Sociology) for prayers. Irma Cale Pascaline Kpakpo-Kindomihou (BSc Accounting) provides good working atmosphere while Iva Simcic, Ivana Spajic and Edi Lipovic’ collaborative efforts, timely boost in publishing this chapter.

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Valentin Missiakô Kindomihou (April 8th 2020). Introductory Chapter: Milestones in <em>Grasses and Grassland</em> Research, Grasses and Grassland Aspects, Valentin Missiakô Kindomihou, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.90770. Available from:

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