Global grassland experts converge in Kentucky for international meeting 

The International Grassland Congress is set to convene in the United States after a hiatus of more than four decades. The congress, held in Kentucky for the second time, brings together scientists, farmers, ranchers, extension leaders and industry experts from around the globe to discuss the crucial role of grasslands in promoting sustainability and health. This year’s theme, “Grassland for Soil, Animal, and Human Health,” underscores the crucial role of grasslands in fostering health and sustainability.   

More than 600 attendees from over 60 countries will attend the congress in Covington May 14-19. Nancy Cox, UK vice president for land-grant engagement and UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment dean will speak at the opening session.  “We are excited to welcome the International Grassland Congress back to Kentucky and the United States,” she said. “The honor of our state being chosen to host this event demonstrates that our work to improve forages is being recognized worldwide.” 

The first Congress on Grasslands was held in Leipzig, Germany in 1927, bringing together 16 scientists from seven European countries. Their aim was to discuss the significance of grasslands to food security. 

“The congress meets every three to four years and offers a unique opportunity for attendees to collaborate,” said Ray Smith, UK Plant and Soil Sciences professor and IGC organizing committee chairman. “Attendees can listen and talk to some of the leading minds in the field, sharing ideas and discussing the latest research and best practices. Delegates frequently state that the IGC congresses they attended were the high point of their careers because they interacted with people around the world who shared a passion for grasslands and the animals they support.” 

This year’s program contains presentations on production, storage and forage utilization, focusing on applied and academic perspectives. The conference will also cover grassland policies, social issues, ecosystem services and offer a trade show marketplace.  

“The congress has been responsible for some significant progress in grassland research,” Smith said. “One example relates to efforts to overcome tall fescue toxicity from the widely planted endophyte-infected Kentucky 31 variety.” 

Smith said New Zealand researcher Gary Latch met University of Georgia researcher Joe Bouton at the 1993 Grassland Congress. Bouton discovered Latch’s safe endophytes and they developed a collaboration to insert these new endophytes into Bouton’s southeast United States-adapted tall fescue varieties.  

“This collaboration led to the entire novel endophyte tall fescue industry, providing safe tall fescue for cattle and horse producers across the country,” Smith added.  

During the congress, participants may explore grassland operations in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, gaining firsthand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities the region’s farmers and ranchers face. The IGC will also offer optional pre-congress tours in the Southern Plains and the Southeastern United States.  

“The congress allows researchers to share their ideas and research findings,” Smith said. “Over the years, hundreds of collaborations have been developed among researchers in different countries who previously did not have a personal relationship. It’s been great progressing the industry forward.” 

For more information or to register, visit With limited space, organizers encourage early registration.  

~ Jordan Strickler,