Developing an Educational Program for Teaching Science-based Concepts of Grass Regrowth for Improved Grazing Management

1997 Annual Report for EW97-004

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $65,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $13,560.00
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
David B. Hannaway
Oregon State University

Developing an Educational Program for Teaching Science-based Concepts of Grass Regrowth for Improved Grazing Management



1. To create an instructional module on forage grass regrowth mechanisms.
2. To create an “Extension-type” publication that uses portions of the comprehensive grass regrowth instructional module.
3. To develop a WWW segment on forage grass regrowth mechanisms and link it to other pasture-management resources.
4. To create a “hybrid” CD-ROM/World Wide Web disk that utilizes the strengths of each media type.


This project is developing quality, science-based tools for specifically teaching how grasses grow and regrow after being grazed or mowed. This phenomenal characteristic of grasses is the best way to heal the wounds of the earth’s surface and advance agricultural sustainability but is badly taken for granted, very misunderstood, and therefore, not utilized for maximum benefit. All interested in and responsible for wise stewardship of natural resources can benefit from an easy-to-use, concise, and accessible source for understanding grass growth. Thomas Shaw wrote that farmers know less about grasses and the best modes of growing them any other crop. This is a serious deficiency since grasses provide many benefits to the planet (cleaning air and water, preventing erosion, providing habitat and feed for animals) and are the center of sustainable agriculture.

The scientific information available on grass growth and regrowth is often vague or confusing and general, lumping all grasses together. This leads to serious mismanagement. Leading national experts have cooperated on this project to impart the science of grass growth/regrowth more clearly and specifically for various grasses. Instructional design and technology experts have placed the information in teachable formats on the Internet for review and discussion at This project is linked to the Forage Information System, recipient of the Resource in Agriculture award from Links2Go. The text and artwork have been assembled for a publication for audiences less comfortable with computer technology. Software and equipment have been selected and purchased to facilitate making the Web module into a hybrid CD-ROM/Web disk. A brochure is being created to bring the topic to the attention of those less familiar with web sources and to be used by extension personnel.

The need for such work has become more and more apparent as the project progresses. Work has revealed that many responsible for disseminating the science of this topic have disagreed and/or expressed their lack of knowledge about specific ramifications of grass regrowth mechanisms. These discussions pinpoint the need for better instructional tools. Impact of this project will be greater than first envisioned because the need is more essential and more specific management strategies are emerging. Farmers and ranchers are beginning to use the information in workshops and meetings. Seed growers are expressing interest in the information so as to better present their products. Extension agents are admitting that their backgrounds have not included sufficient information about the variety of grasses and their specific growth habits. The results of this project will help farmers and ranchers develop skills in transferring science to decisions for improved production and environmental stability.

Potential Benefits

The potential benefits are more than anticipated. Bringing up the concept that different grasses should be managed differently has exposed how little is known about the specifics of grass regrowth. If producers really understood the factors that initiate growth, retain vegetative growth, inhibit the onset of reproductive growth, and fortify the plant for dormancy and winter survival, grass production could be markedly improved. There would be greater production and less disappointment caused by management mistakes. The benefits will mean seed is more effectively marketed and utilized. Grass regrowth mechanisms will also be incorporated into selection and adaptation discussions.

Reactions from Farmers and Ranchers

Reactions have been varied. Some farmers and ranchers are just learning to view plants from a growth and development perspective. Management intensive grazing workshops to introduce the concept of developing grazing and harvesting schedules utilizing regrowth characteristics is in its second year. Some who have participated in these introductions are now requesting more advanced workshops and applications. Some have stated that this information is the foundation to any real improvement in forage production.

Future Recommendations or New Hypotheses

The primary difficulty in this project has been clarifying basic concepts that are often overlooked, avoided, confusing, or wrong in the available texts. Most of the texts common to plant physiologists do not provide sufficient information for the difference in grasses, the difference in initial growth versus subsequent growth after defoliation, and the various growing points of grass plants. Turf grass management books often supply more detail and explicit information but apply the information to golf courses and landscaping which want to limit and constrain the grass. Forage, however, wants to enhance yield and quality. Direct applications to forage production or grassland sustainability are not provided. The topic of grass growth and regrowth should be completely revisited by professors in a variety of classes: forages, plant physiology, horticulture, botany, and crops. If quality materials are prepared and disseminated, this topic may be more accurately presented.

This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 2000 reporting cycle.