Information on the physiological ecology of grass-dominant pastures has made a substantial contribution to the development of practices that optimise the amount of feed harvested by grazing animals in temperate livestock systems. However, the contribution of ecophysiology is often under-stated, and the need for further research in this field is sometimes questioned. The challenge for ecophysiolgists, therefore, is to demonstrate how ecophysiological knowledge can help solve significant problems looming for grassland farming in temperate regions while also removing constraints to improved productivity from grazed pastures. To do this, ecophysiological research needs to align more closely with related disciplines, particularly genetics/genomics, agronomy, and farming systems, including systems modelling. This review considers how ecophysiological information has contributed to the development of grazing management practices in the New Zealand dairy industry, an industry that is generally regarded as a world leader in the efficiency with which pasture is grown and utilised for animal production. Even so, there are clear opportunities for further gains in pasture utilisation through the refinement of grazing management practices and the harnessing of those practices to improved pasture plant cultivars with phenotypes that facilitate greater grazing efficiency. Meanwhile, sub-optimal persistence of new pastures continues to constrain productivity in some environments. The underlying plant and population processes associated with this have not been clearly defined. Ecophysiological information, placed in the context of trait identification, grounded in well-designed agronomic studies and linked to plant improvements programmes, is required to address this.
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