Tropical Forages: an interactive selection tool

In early 2000, funds were obtained for a collaborative project to develop a digital support tool to help farmers, advisors, and researchers to determine the best forage plants for different locations and purposes. The project involved a number of international organisations, including CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, the Department of Primary Industries & Fisheries (Qld), Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). In 2005, Tropical Forages: An Interactive Selection Tool was published as a CD ROM. and subsequently made available online.

During the previous 50 years, forage research had identified many useful tropical grasses and legumes. Although information on their adaptation and use resided in peer-reviewed literature and local research reports, in many cases, the most important source was often in the memories of experienced forage agronomists in tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, sub-tropical USA, Central and South America, South and South-east Asia and Australia.

“Tropical Forages” was initially made available in four languages, the website had well over one million unique visitors since its launch, and around 15,000 visitors a month. However, the data had not been seriously updated since the initial launch. Consequently, given its continuing use, in 2016, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) provided funds for “Tropical Forages” to be updated and for it to be published both as a Lucid Mobile app (both Android and Apple) as well as updating the online tool.