About Grass

From our early childhoods, we instinctively come to think of grass in happy, positive terms: grass surfaces can be platforms for children’s games, summer parties or escapes away from urban landscapes. In every season, grass will offer nature’s pleasures to people around the world, and the beauty of Mother Earth – grass-covered lawns, hillsides and prairies will also help prevent erosion by keeping soil in place with their root systems.


But grass is much more than “nice to have”, an attractive addition to your back garden – it is the world’s most important crop. From an agricultural perspective, grass is crucial to helping feed the world’s growing population of humans and animals. With roughly 20% of the world’s vegetation being made up of grass, this crop is pretty important to keep everything turning the way it should – and making the world a “green” place.

Feeding nine billion people

In a couple of decades, the world's population is going to reach the figure of nine billion. More people means more mouths to feed: the growing population is putting a big strain on food production methods. Every company that is directly or indirectly involved in the food industry has a heavy responsibility because of this. We do not dodge this responsibility; we rise to the challenge of playing our part.


Grass plays a major role in the global food production industry. The growing world population and the increasing prosperity enjoyed by ever-higher numbers of people are leading to a greater demand for protein-rich foods. That means that the demand for dairy products just keeps on growing. Grass is the main building block for nutritious dairy products: it is the cheapest source of milk protein. Grass that is developed from just the right balance of genetics and technology makes for a healthy cow that gives the very best possible milk.


A higher production of both crude proteins per hectare and milk protein per cow is going to be needed so that the available agricultural land can be efficiently used to meet the increasing demand for dairy products. When grass does not contain enough nutrients, cows are often given food supplements such as soya. These products cost a lot more than grass, leading to higher production costs and more expensive milk. Reason enough to ensure that grass contains all the necessary nutrients so that cows don't need to be given expensive forage to supplement their diet.


Improving livestock productivity

To help farmers increase their milk production, we focus on developing added value traits. Our research programmes concentrate on a number of breeding goals. These goals are based on creating added value and indicate what needs to be developed in order to create benefits for the end user and improve livestock productivity. We are constantly looking for new ways to ensure a healthy future for the world’s population. That is our contribution to a better world for future generations.


An example, provided by Barenbrug research & development

An example of an added value trait is soft-leaved fescue, which is an ideal combination of structure and nutritional value. This grass promotes good general health in cattle: soft-leaved fescue improves the cows' resilience to rumen acidification because the structure of this variety promotes better rumination and saliva production. The high nutritional value and digestible cell walls of this grass also foster a higher milk production per hectare and a higher milk protein production per hectare. Last but not least, this grass has very long roots which make optimum use of minerals in the soil: it can easily absorb nitrogen, phosphate and potassium in places where other grasses cannot reach. So farmers are able to reduce their use of nitrogen and phosphate to the bare minimum. And that’s better for the environment, too. In a nutshell: soft-leaved fescue helps farmers to meet the growing demand for dairy products so that people will also be able to enjoy nutritional dairy products in years to come.

Grasses are the greatest single source of wealth in the world.

Agnes Chase
First Book of Grasses (1959)

Grass, the world's most important crop

It's not easy to believe but that little green plant in your back garden is the world's most important crop. That's not just from an agricultural point of view, but from an economic and ecological one, too. It is estimated that about 20% of the world's vegetation consists of grass.


Grass has several functions. We cannot digest it and yet it is one of the most important resources for our food production: animals eat grass and we eat animal products such as meat, eggs and milk. Furthermore, we also use grass in other ways: for sport, recreation and to brighten up gardens and public spaces. This plant also has important ecological functions: it protects against soil erosion, it absorbs water, it purifies the air we breathe and so on.


Every variety of grass has its own special properties. The grass family, or Graminae, has about 8,000 varieties. There are suitable varieties of grass for cultivation at almost every temperature and every amount of rainfall. Some grasses can thrive during extreme drought because they have very long roots which can extract water from deep under the ground. Other sorts can flourish in extreme cold or withstand long periods of rain.


Most people take grass for granted but we shouldn't forget that grass plays a very important role in our lives. Scientists all over the world are working on research, improvement, breeding and cultivation of this very important crop. Barenbrug does this, too. But that isn't all that we do. We have the entire process at our fingertips: everything from the breeding and the cultivation of grass seed to production and sales.

Grass is that indispensable form of plant life without which civilization, as we know it, would not exist.

Sellers Archer & Clarence Bunch
The American Grass Book (1953)

Economically viable and sustainable grass

When we develop our products, we focus on not only the economic viability of grass but also its sustainable use and management. With this in mind, the Green Earth quality label was introduced to help managers of public green spaces achieve sustainable greenery management.