Pasture profit index launched

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The launch of Ireland’s new Pasture Profit Index (PPI) that aims to help farmers in their selection of grass varieties should encourage NI farmers to make better use of their own Recommended List information.

So says Dr Mary McEvoy, previously part of the Teagasc Moorepark research team that spent six years developing the PPI. She said that the new index is a response to Irish farmers’ increased interest in individual grass varieties and demand for some form of economic evaluation.

Dr McEvoy, now Technical Development Manager with Germinal, believes some of the benefits that farmers in the Republic of Ireland will gain from using the PPI can be replicated in Northern Ireland simply by more thorough interrogation of variety information available through the independent Recommended Lists.

“The PPI provides a total merit index for individual grass varieties that is based on the economic value of a number of important traits,” she explains.

“These include seasonal dry matter yield, quality, silage dry matter yield and persistency, with values being prescribed according to a range of parameters and base assumptions.

“The advice to farmers using the PPI is usually to look beyond the headline figure and review the sub-indices, to ensure they match varieties as closely as possible to their own specific farm and system requirements.”

Whilst there is no PPI for farmers throughout the UK, there are independently compiled Recommended Lists for Northern Ireland, England & Wales and Scotland, all containing dry matter yield, quality and persistency information. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is some consistency between the best performers on the Irish PPI and the higher ranked varieties on Recommended Lists in the UK.

“The highest of all varieties on the PPI, the tetraploid late perennial ryegrass AberGain, is also an outstanding performer for dry matter yield and D-value on the 2015 Recommended Lists for Northern Ireland, England & Wales, and also Scotland,” points out David Little of Germinal. “Similarly, the highest ranked diploid perennial ryegrass on the PPI, AberChoice, has very high performance characteristics on the lists for UK farmers.

With three of the top five in the Irish PPI being Aber varieties from the IBERS Aberystwyth University grass breeding programme, credit should be given to the longstanding strategy to breed for quality alongside dry matter yield and other characteristics. It is clear from the new Irish PPI that grass quality, when available in quantity, equates to financial gain for farmers.”

Announced on 13th November, the PPI will become an official list in Ireland for 2015, published as part of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Recommended List. The currently available list is a test proof and includes 17 varieties, with several other varieties potentially to be added to the official 2015 list once DUS and seed availability information is known. Even then, the PPI will not be fully representative of the Irish Recommended List, but development will continue and the expectation is that there will be a PPI in Ireland for all Recommended List varieties by 2017.