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Drumlin: New Hybrid Grass from AFBI

17 December 2009

UK - Agri-Food and Business Institute (AFBI) grass breeders at Loughgall, in conjunction with international seed specialists Barenbrug, will be promoting a new tetraploid hybrid ryegrass, Drumlin at the Winter Fair. This further extends the portfolio of forage grasses which have been bred by AFBI for use in the Province.


Cutting grass trials at AFBI Loughgall

The AFBI grass breeding programme, has a long track record of providing top class varieties to the local industry. Perennial ryegrasses varieties such as Navan, Tyrella, Malone and Dunluce have set new standards for grass production and are very widely used on local farms. Furthermore, a breeding cooperation between AFBI, Barenbrug and two New Zealand companies developed leading white clover varieties Crusader and Barblanca.

In recent years grassland farming has been under increasing constraints. With a backdrop of rising production costs, restrictions imposed by the Nitrates Directive and lower milk prices there is a renewed interest in maximising grassland output with lower inputs. A major factor in this is identifying swards which can help reduce the need for applied fertiliser. In the 1990s, a crossing and selection programme at Loughgall identified the value of using hybrid grasses, especially when used in mixtures with red clover.

Hybrid grasses are produced by crossing an Italian ryegrass with a perennial. Some hybrids express the characteristics of the Italian parent very strongly, producing very high yields but they tend to have poor persistency and quite stemmy regrowth in mid summer. In contrast, perennial type hybrids are more persistent, yet retaining some of the high yield and rapid spring growth of their Italian parent.

At Loughgall a new approach to hybrid breeding has resulted in three high yielding, disease resistant varieties, Foyle, Drumlin and Roslea. These were bred by taking a tetraploid Italian x perennial hybrid, then backcrossing the offspring onto a tetraploid perennial. The result is hybrid material which is ¾ perennial and ¼ Italian by parentage and which performs very like a perennial but with much better spring growth. “When we initially produced these new tetraploid hybrids, we found they were very high yielding but anticipated that they would last for only 4 or 5 years. However, in trial plots sown on a dairy farm at Loughgall in 2002, after 7 seasons of intensive silage and grazing, we have found that swards of Drumlin have proven to be immensely persistent, just as good as any of the diploid perennials in the trial,” claims AFBI plant breeder David Johnston.

Drumlin is now included in the Northern Ireland Recommended List and Barenbrug UK has produced Drumlin for commercial release in Spring 2010. “Drumlin has particularly good spring growth and will be of interest to farmers who need grazing in the early part of the season,” maintains David Linton, NI Area manager, Barenbrug UK Ltd. “We are also expecting Drumlin to be in demand in mixtures with our red clover variety Lemmon.” For commercial enquiries contact David Linton on 07740 063313

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