The central theme of the congress is the contributions of grasslands and the products derived from them to the  development of circular, healthy and sustainable food systems and the conditions for expressing their contributions. Questioning the herbivore production systems and their products must necessarily question the place that we give to grassland as a feed resource. Grazing can also contribute to animal welfare and to the positive image of herbivores farming systems. In the other side, grasslands can be seen as a reservoir and a means of preserving biodiversity, structuring landscapes, regulating biogeochemical cycles, helping to reduce the use of pesticides, contributing to the fight against global warming through their ability to store C and their albedo, contributing to the proper biological functioning of soils and limiting soil erosion. Which acreage and types of grassland and grassland management are required to take advantages and maximise these services? The options will probably vary according to local conditions. Grasslands are therefore at the heart of many issues expressed in the Green Deal, Farm to Fork strategy and biodiversity strategy for European food systems. The question of circularity refers to the link to local/regional context or to wider scales (C storage, food security) where goods and services can be exchanged and to taking into account the great diversity of territories and their grasslands.
As the expectations regarding the performance of tomorrow's food systems are multiple and the because the importance of each performance varies according to the stakeholders visions and the local climatic and agronomic context, achieving the objectives requires the search for new compromises between the various services. The search for these compromises, the conditions of their expression and the analysis of the underlying economic, social, biological and biotic regulatory processes will be the keystone of the congress organisation. Beyond the provision of feed for herbivores, the diversification of the use of grasslands, in particular for producing feed for monogastric animals or for the production of energy and biosourced material and the consequences on the provision of other services recognized by the societies will be considered.
Each report will be prepared by a group of authors from different disciplines and different regions of Europe in order to put forward a more global vision, to highlight the points of divergence and convergence and to encourage a maximum cross-fertilisation of views.

Themes for plenary sessions

1. Putting grasslands into perspective

Two presentations will allow us to take a step back and see what is changing (or will change) in terms of the roles, services and societal perception of grassland at a time when new issues are emerging (food sovereignty and safety, health, environment, protein autonomy, animal welfare, ethical considerations, farmer income, territory vitality, cultural aspects). In this new context grassland may offer new assets (environment, economy, technique, societal demand, etc.). This may lead to changes in the way we envisage the place of grassland tomorrow within territories and production systems.

1.1.    Evolution of the issues for grasslands

1.2.    What place for grasslands and ruminants through scenario studies

1.3.    Discussion panel: exchange on the different visions

2.    Bundles of services provided by grasslands

The objective of the session is to present the principles of trade-offs between services starting from a generic paper on service packages and then to give examples by considering different productions of material goods from grassland, animal products vs. energy (and to some extend biosourced products).

2.1.    The place of grassland in sustainable food systems

2.2.    New valorisations of grassland biomass and consequences on the production of services

3.    Using biodiversity to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience of grassland based systems

Grassland and grassland based systems are often presented as an appropriate response to new societal demands, but at the same time, from many farmers' perspective, they are also seen as vulnerable systems, particularly in the face of climate change or health hazards. The variability of production during the year and between year is also considered as a major issue. The objective is to study the expected benefits of biodiversity and system diversity on resilience. The idea is to go beyond the plot scale, which is highly described at other conferences.

3.1.    Adaptation of systems to hazards

3.2.    Biodiversity as a source of resilience and reduction of systems vulnerability

4. Looking for synergy between animal production, grasslands and crops

The purpose of this session would be to refocus on livestock faming and livestock products, which were not at the heart of the previous sessions, and to analyse the conditions for efficient production in the use of land and other inputs while allowing for the production of environmental services (C and N cycles, preservation of soil quality and biodiversity). The session will consider different soil and climatic contexts from intensive plains where grassland and maize crop are in competition to very extensive systems where the management of heritage biodiversity is one of the objectives assigned to livestock farming.

4.1.    Grassland at the service of livestock and the production of high quality products.

4.2.    Grassland farming systems, biodiversity production and climate issues

5.    Initiatives for the transfer and co-construction of innovations on and for grasslands

European projects increasingly associate research, development and stakeholders to co-innovate. The objective of the session will be to take a tour of Europe’s grassland-focussed initiatives aimed at promoting knowledge transfer between research and end-users, co-development of innovation in the field, or the identification of new knowledge needs. A first session of this type was launched at the Irish congress in 2018.

5.1.    A state of paly of the initiatives in Europe

5.2.    Spot presentations

5.3.    Organisation of a debate with the audience