A new book Native Grass Forages for the Eastern US sets the standard for managing native grass forage – something that is of great importance right now due to dwindling native grasslands around the United States.

Native grasslands were once plentiful across what is now the United States, including tens of millions of acres across eastern U.S. landscapes. The plow, exclusion of fire leading to forest succession, and year-round, unmanaged grazing led to their gradual disappearance over the past two centuries.

The situation has deteriorated to the point that less than two percent of our once vast native grasslands remain. Within the eastern U.S., there are even fewer remnants of these productive and ecologically important plant communities.

Native grasses are well known for their massive root systems. It is these roots that enable them to store large amounts of carbon within the soil and, as a result, could make native grasses a strategic tool for reducing carbon levels in our atmosphere. These same roots also improve soil health, reducing runoff and soil loss, and make these grasses remarkably drought tolerant. For these reasons and more, there is a renewed interest in and awareness of the importance of grasslands, especially those native to the U.S.

For example, big bluestem, which was the dominant species across more than 100 million acres of U.S. grasslands, has also been shown to be excellent forage for cattle and other livestock.

Native grasslands also provide essential habitat for many at-risk species, making an important contribution to improved biodiversity. They fulfill habitat needs for many species, including pollinators and rapidly declining grassland-associated birds like the northern bobwhite, a once common game bird throughout the southern and eastern U.S.

With his new book Pat Keyser, professor and director of the Center for Native Grasslands Management at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, shares decades of experience combined with the latest science on using these grasses in twenty-first century agriculture.

Keyser’s book provides a holistic view of using native grasses on today’s farms. Organized into five sections, the book provides comprehensive and practical information on using these grasses including life history, establishment, management, troubleshooting, and benefits of these species. References listed in every section, more than 250 in all, provide readers with a treasure trove of additional information. More than 200 graphs, charts, tables and pictures illustrate many of the concepts presented in the text. Appendices provide in-depth information on seed vendors, seedling identification tips and additional resources.