Overview of Tropical Forages: An interactive selection tool

(Version 1.1 June 2005)
Tropical Forages is a powerful tool for selecting forage species suitable for local conditions in the tropics and subtropics. It is invaluable for agricultural researchers and extension officers involved in improving animal production.
Tropical Forages allows you to speedily:
  • identify forage species suitable for your climate, soils, production system and management via a selection tool built on LUCID™.
  • access comprehensive information on these species with details of adaptation, uses and management of forage species, cultivars and elite accessions.
  • view images of the plants and their use.
  • search a comprehensive database of scientific references with abstracts.
Users can be guided through the Lucid selection tool with Help notes and tutorials. A detailed glossary explains botanical and management terms.

Background to the Tropical Forages project

Rising populations and incomes in developing countries are likely to double demand for livestock products by 2020 (Delgado et al. 1999). This strong demand has potential to improve profitability for farmers but will require improved animal feeding in both semi-intensive crop-livestock and extensive livestock systems. Forages are commonly the most cost-effective option to supply feed demands, particularly for ruminant livestock, but also for pig and poultry production. Selecting the most suitable forages for the local system and conditions is critical. Smallholder and even larger-scale farmers depend heavily on advice from extension and development agencies, and from seed companies, but this advice is often limited by inexperience and the difficulty in accessing reliable information. Expert information on an extensive range of tropical forages is now readily available through Tropical Forages: an interactive selection tool.

The development of Tropical Forages

Forage research over the last 50 years has identified many useful tropical grasses and legumes. Information on their adaptation and use has resided in peer-reviewed literature, research reports with limited distribution and, often most importantly, in the memories of forage agronomists with decades of experience. This project has accessed these information sources to define the adaptation and use of up to 200 forages, and has integrated this knowledge into a user-friendly information and selection tool. The selection tool is an expert system based on the experiences of more than 50 forage specialists who have worked for many years in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, sub-tropical USA, Central and South America, South and South-east Asia and Australia.
Workshops were held in Bangkok, Thailand; Brisbane, Australia; Cali, Colombia; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Hohenheim, Germany; and Hanoi, Vietnam from 2001 to 2004 to gather current information about cultivars, promising accessions and use of forages, from a wide range of environmental and climatic situations. The participants were drawn from an international community of forage researchers with wide experiences in plant collection, field evaluation and extension to farmers.
Delgado, C. Rosegrant, M. Steinfeld, H. Ehui, S. and Courbois, C. (1999). Livestock to 2020: The Next Food Revolution. Food, Agriculture and the Environment Discussion Paper No. 28. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C.