Grass means different things to different people.
Grass is an undisputed champion of entertainment for our children. It is a really expensive field with a manicured surface for many golf, rugby and soccer professionals. Farmers will see grass as a food source for farm animals, and a crop farmer sees grass as a weed – unless of course – It’s sugar that the farmer is growing.
You may see grass as hard work, every weekend, when you mow your lawn. In fact, if you were a keen soccer supporter, avid gardener, enjoy the odd beer, or other alcohol, and live under thatch – you may start realizing that grass has a huge and varied impact on your life.
I probably don’t need to write what elephants see grass as?
For us humans, the most important grasses are:
Hordeum vulgare – the earliest harvested grain which we know today as Barley – 10 000 years ago in the middle east – perhaps the first of the unleavened breads and cakes – little did the people along the Euphrates River know that soon we wouldn’t simply be able to ‘have our cake, and eat it’ without protecting it!
…and then we started cultivating grass – 7000 years ago – in Egypt, a grain called Triticum vulgare, better known as wheat, and then maize (Oryza mays) in the American tropics. All over the world people started to cultivate grass seeds – grain – that would become one of the biggest providers of food for our ever growing numbers. (Oryza sativa) rice in Thailand and China, sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) in Africa.
More important than anything is the role grass plays in nature, food above all, and then shelter and nesting material. So we may not be that different from all the other animals, perhaps just a little more indulgent.
Grasses and grains, and the soils in which they grow are the children of our most sustainable resource on our planet; Nature and her processes.
Grass is species diverse in the Kruger, and tells one a lot about the condition of the bush, the condition of the animals, and the condition of our attempts to manage/monitor the system. There is an entire circle of succession amongst the grasses we walk on, the grasses the animals eat, the grasses the animals don’t eat, and the grasses that have learnt to produce food, store food, store energy or assist in the fixing of energy.
If you are watching an elephant eat grass. You are watching the world’s largest land mammal consuming plus/minus 100Kgs of potential energy of which it only digests 40 percent. The undigested material provides huge amounts of food for many other animals and of course – huge opportunities for the undigested seeds to re-germinate – perfectly delivered in a make-shift incubator.