Environmental degradation and climate change are key current threats to world agriculture and food security and human–induced changes have been significant driving forces of this global environmental change. An important component is land degradation which results in a diminished soil organic carbon (SOC) stock with concomitant loss of soil condition and function. Land management to improve soil organic matter content, condition and productivity is therefore a key strategy to safeguard agricultural production, food supply and environmental quality. Soil organic carbon sequestration through the use of plant species with high photosynthetic efficiency, deep roots and high biomass production is one important strategy to achieve this. Tropical pastures, which are adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions have particular potential in this regard and have been used extensively for land rehabilitation. Tropical pastures also have advantages over trees for biomass and carbon accumulation due to their rapid establishment, suitability for annual harvest, continual and rapid growth rates. In addition, tropical pastures have the potential for SOC storage in subsoil horizons due to their deep root systems and can be used as biomass energy crops, which could further promote their use as a climate change mitigation option. Here we aimed to review current knowledge regarding the SOC storage potential of tropical grasses worldwide and identified knowledge gaps and current research needs for the use of tropical grasses in agricultural production system.
Part of the book: Botany