European Grassland Federation Conference held at Aberystwyth University

28 August 2014

Hundreds of grassland experts from across the world will be celebrating 50 years of the European Grassland Federation at a conference in Aberystwyth from 7-11 September 2014. 

Aberystwyth has been strongly associated with grassland agriculture and in particular the breeding of forage and cereal crops since the foundation of the Welsh Plant Breeding Station (WPBS) in 1919.

The influential grassland scientist and environmentalist Sir George Stapledon was its first Director, a post he held from 1919 to 1942. Stapledon argued that grasslands were at the heart of successful agriculture, which in turn was at the heart of Britain's economic and spiritual well-being. For many years his vision was allied with the requirement to increase production from all types of grassland.

Meeting bi-annually, this25th General Meeting of the European Grassland Federation is entitled ‘EGF at 50: the future of European Grasslands'.

Dr Athole Marshall, President of the EGF and Head of Public Good Plant Breeding at Aberystwyth University’s IBERS said

“Grassland fulfils a truly multifunctional purpose, supplying forage for animals, regulating water flows, storing carbon, preventing soil erosion, providing habitats for species across the food chain, and playing an important cultural role in society.

“However, the public at large is unaware of the real value of grassland, and we grassland scientists need to do more to inform people about the importance of grass in our everyday lives, and this will be one of a wide range of discussion topics during the week.”

The EGF was set up in 1964 as a forum for research workers, advisors, teachers, farmers and policy makers with active interest in all aspects of grasslands in Europe. Its objectives are to facilitate and maintain close contact between grassland organizations in Europe, to promote the interchange of scientific and practical experience between grassland experts and to initiate conferences and other meetings on all aspects of grassland production and utilization in Europe

The environment in which agriculture operates in the UK and other European countries has changed dramatically since Stapledon’s time, and the very necessary focus on increasing productivity that prevailed during the early and middle twentieth century has now widened to incorporate environmental concerns. Overproduction has been checked by a number of political and economic drivers, and the emphasis is now firmly on sustainability.