AFBI unveils latest ryegrass variety

Part of the large group of visitors who attended an Open Day at AFBI Loughgall during the summer.
Part of the large group of visitors who attended an Open Day at AFBI Loughgall during the summer.

Glenariff, an intermediate diploid perennial ryegrass bred by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) is the newest variety to be released from the Department of Agriculture (DARD) funded grass breeding programme at Loughgall. The variety will be commercialised in spring 2015 by Barenbrug UK Ltd.

This new variety, which has taken almost 15 years to develop, is a further addition to the extensive portfolio of high performance grasses which have been bred by AFBI specifically for use on local farms.

For over 20 years the intermediate heading variety Glen was used very extensively in grass seeds mixtures, especially where there was a requirement to produce a very dense persistent sward which would reduce poaching.

Glenariff has been developed as a replacement for Glen and is a very similar variety in terms of having a very leafy, dense growth habit. In plot trials at Loughgall, Glenariff has produced on average 6% more yield than Glen, with better spring growth. Another valuable characteristic of Glenariff is that it produces very few seed heads in mid- summer, resulting in palatable swards with excellent digestibility.

The breeding system which produced Glenariff involved a new approach by AFBI. Close cooperation with other breeding stations in the Barenbrug group has allowed access to novel breeding material with very favourable attributes such as high spring growth, disease resistance and winterhardiness. The parentage of Glenariff includes grasses from Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. In addition to evaluation of material at Loughgall, additional trials on Glenariff were carried out on Barenbrug sites in England, France and the Netherlands. Data from these other trials is very valuable as diseases and winter damage are usually much more extreme than in Northern Ireland. Of the hundreds of new crosses tested annually, only a few are ever taken to the stage of commercial development, representing a very long and significant investment by DARD and Barenbrug in the grass breeding programme at AFBI.

Ongoing Progress

When the grass breeding programme was set up at Loughgall over 60 years ago, the focus was primarily on producing higher yielding varieties. Analysis of data from trials which were maintained under the same management, over a 30 year period, has shown a gradual increase in production equivalent to an increase in grass yield of 0.4% per year. So this means that the best varieties, such as Glenariff, which are being commercialised now, are at least 4% higher yielding than the best available a decade ago. Further analysis of recent trials at Loughgall, indicates that yields are continuing to rise gradually, year after year.

Focusing on Quality

In addition to the attention paid to increasing yield, considerable focus is being paid by AFBI on selecting for improved digestibility. This has involved close attention at each stage of the selection programme to selecting leafy swards which produce low levels of stem in mid-summer regrowth.

When choosing new varieties for use in Northern Ireland, AFBI advise farmers to consult the DARD Recommended List of Grass and Clover which is available on the AFBI website at http://www.afbini.gov.uk/2014-15_grass_and_clover_rec_list_2.pdf

Commercial enquiries for seed of Glenariff should be made with David Linton, Area Manager, Barenbrug UK Ltd., Tel. 07740 063315 or call at the Barenbrug UK stand.