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Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science. Grassland Part 1. Learning Outcomes. Categories of grassland found in Ireland. Grass species found in these grasslands. Grassland Ecology. Introduction.

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Leaving certificate agricultural science
Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science

Grassland Part 1

Learning outcomes
Learning Outcomes

  • Categories of grassland found in Ireland.

  • Grass species found in these grasslands.

  • Grassland Ecology.


  • Grassland occupies 70% of the world’s agricultural land, making it the world’s most important crop.

  • In Ireland, grass provides 70 – 80% of our cattle’s feed requirements and over 90% of our sheep’s.

  • Approximately 90% of the farmed land area in the country is devoted to grassland and is the primary resource for almost all of our agricultural output.

Categories of grassland
Categories of Grassland

  • There are three main categories of grassland.

    Rough Mountain and Hill Grazing:

  • More appropriately called grazing than grassland as most of the land is taken up with heather, gorse, bracken and scrub rather than grasses.

  • It is characterised by large range in composition, low stocking rates and low production.

  • The land is usually acidic or peaty and generally stony.

  • It can therefore be very difficult or impossible to cultivate.

Categories of grassland 2
Categories of Grassland - 2

Permanent Grassland

  • This is grassland that is never ploughed.

  • It is different from Hill Grazing because it is dominated by perennial grasses and scrub, and trees are rare.

  • It again displays a large range in botanical composition from highly productive grasses to clover to highly unproductive weeds.

  • Generally permanent grassland is more productive than mountain and hill grazing areas and is also more highly stocked.

Categories of grassland1
Categories of Grassland


  • These are short term areas of grassland, sown by the farmers which display the following characteristics:

  • Little variability in botanical composition

  • High stocking rates

  • High levels of production.

  • Leys are associated with good farm practices and high levels of management and are re-sown and re-seeded regularly.

Grassland distribution
Grassland Distribution

  • Grass dominates most of the land in nearly all the counties in Ireland.

  • In Munster, Ulster and Connacht it can be up to 90% of all agricultural land.

  • In the south – east it is only about 75%. Why?

  • The following table shows the relative amounts of grassland in Ireland.

Grassland ecology
Grassland Ecology

  • The natural vegetation in Ireland is deciduous forest.

  • This basically means that if all agricultural and industrial activity stopped, the land would eventually return to forest.

  • The stages of progression are as follows:

  • Bare Soil

  • Grasses

  • Shrubs (Bramble, hawthorn and Blackthorn)

  • Forest species like Oak, Ash, Birch and other trees which eliminate shrubs by their shading effect.

Grassland ecology 2
Grassland Ecology - 2

  • Intensive grazing prevents this series of activities to take place.

  • This is because grass species can regenerate from points below the grazing level.

  • If grazing was reduced or stopped, shrubs would take over and then eventually trees.

  • This is important as the farmer must manage his / her grassland so as to ensure that unwanted shrubs don’t take over the area.