A new forage breeding research project at IBERS Aberystwyth aims to deliver greater grassland profitability and reduced environmental impact from livestock farming. The project is funded by Innovate UK with sponsorship from grass and forage crop breeder Germinal.
IBERS plant breeders will use conventional and innovative marker-assisted approaches to improve the speed and precision when choosing varieties for both nitrogen and phosphorus use efficiency (NUE and PUE). They will work on perennial ryegrass and white clover, as the most potential to improve efficiencies has been identified in these species.
The project will lead to the development of new varieties of perennial ryegrasses and white clover that combine yield and quality attributes with better nitrogen and phosphorus utilisation. Livestock farmers will be able to produce their forage using lower nitrogen and phosphate fertiliser inputs, with scope to reduce the environmental impact from nutrient leaching and greenhouse gas emissions.
Paul Billings, managing director of Germinal, comments: “IBERS has led the way in developing and applying innovative plant breeding techniques over the last three decades, producing many of the leading forage grasses and clovers now on the official Recommended Lists.
“This latest project will build on that heritage, drawing on this established genetic material as well as new germplasm to create new varieties with the added advantage of nitrogen use efficiency and phosphorus use efficiency.
“This is an example of vital, near-market research that will deliver tangible benefits, not only for livestock farmers but also for the environment. Both aspects are important in the context of long-term sustainable livestock farming,” concludes Mr Billings.