Tetraploid grasses into Genome Wide Selection
In 2010 DLF-TRIFOLIUM launched a major research program together with Aarhus University (AU) aiming at implementing Genomw Wide Selection (GWS) in forage ryegrass breeding. Now this collaboration is about to expand into a new Centre for Genomic Selection in Animals and Plants (GenSAP) including new plant species, new breeding companies and new international expert groups, all working on the same platform to develop solutions for tomorrows genomic breeding programs. For DLF-TRIFOLIUM this initiative will pave the way for using GWS both in diploid and tetraploid ryegrass breeding.
GenSAP is a Danish initiative gathering grasses, wheat, barley, and potato with cattle, pig chicken and mink into one cutting edge research platform. The goal is to advance GWS into breeding of genetically more complex species, such as tetraploid grasses, and to make the system less prone to environmental effects. This development has a special interest to DLF-TRIFOLIUM, who spends a large fraction of its breeding activities on serving a still expanding market for tetraploid forage ryegrass. Fortunately, the innovations made on GWS diploid ryegrass will serve as a perfect blueprint for reaching this goal.
GenSAP runs over five years and has a total budget of 9.1 M €. It has received a 4.1 M € grant from the Danish Ministry of Research and Innovation.
Extra production from marginal soils?
With increasing demands for feed, food, and fiber, the agricultural production system faces a future where marginal soils will be used for low-input farming to a much larger extend than what is evident today. The conditions at such areas are generally very stressful comprising exposure to extremes in pH, salinity, drought as well as nutrient efficiency. It is expected that perennial grasses are among the most well suited plants for these production conditions. The question is which species will do the job most efficiently, both in terms of biomass yield, stress tolerance, and convenience for biomass utilization and transportation.
This big question is currently being addressed in a major EU project called GrassMargins, in which DLF together with 11 other partners from Academia and Industry, will examine and develop new varieties of Tall Fescue, Festulolium, Cocksfoot, Reed Canary Grass, and Elephant Grass (Miscanthus) for marginal soils.
At first these five species will be tested for tolerance to various types of stress, including salinity, drought, flooding, and cold by different partners. Salinity test will be conducted by DLF-TRIFOLIUM who has developed a great expertise in screening large populations for salt tolerance using soil-free media.
Data from all tests conducted in the consortium will guide the future breeding process in making the most robust varieties for growth on marginal soils. So better start now looking in your back yard for exterior land to spike your future agricultural production – perhaps with tough grasses from DLF-TRIFOLIUM.
Development of grasses with efficient nitrogen usage
Nitrogen (N) is one of the most vital nutrient sources for plant growth setting the threshold for production levels in many situations. In many countries, however, the usage of nitrogen for plant production or for amenity is subject to environmental regulation. In addition, many plant producers, green keepers, and grounds men experience a hitherto unseen increase in fertilizer price, which is directly linked to increasing oil prices. While these constraints are only expected to increase in the future at DLF-TRIFOLIUM we are moving up better nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) as one of our top priority traits.
In forage grasses we already started three years ago subjecting the first forage varieties to NUE tests in our computer controlled hydroponic system. This is done again this year where 40 forage perennial ryegrass varieties will be tested alongside 40 turf varieties. While the main goal for forages is to maintain dry matter yield under suboptimal N supply the main goal for turfs is to keep a good color and a high shoot density in order to prevent weed introgression.
For future breeding we have advanced the system to include more than 1000 forage perennial ryegrass breeding lines. These lines constitute our genome wide selection program, in which each line will also be characterized with more than 100,000 genetic markers. Using massive computer power this information will allow us to select plants based on their genetic potential for NUE and also many other important traits simultaneously.
We do this to ensure that you will get the best choice for low input conditions – on the short term with the good varieties that are already at hand – on the long term with varieties that will surely prove to be superior to these.
ForageSelect – Home for a great new project
Genome Wide Selection (GWS) is a new and powerful selection method, which bases itself on the plants genetic potential instead of their usual trial data. It has already been developed for and revolutionized animal breeding. Now the turn has come to grasses.
To get started, a computer model needs to be developed, which can associate trial data from a large number of breeding lines with their DNA profile. Dissection of the genome into millions of data points, which contributes individually to any trait allows for selection of plants with the highest breeding values for several traits simultaneously. The ability to select for more than one trait at a time is indeed one of the great forces of GWS. In the long term GWS may also reduce the number of expensive field trials because selections are made on calculated breeding values derived from genomic data. The goal is to achieve major leaps in yield and seed yield while maintaining stress tolerance, disease resistance, and decreasing nitrogen loss and greenhouse gas emission.
www.forageselect.com/ is established under a Danish grant (GUDP), which supports the GWS project financially. Please visit the site to discover more on future grass inventions.
Appointment: New Breeder in the Danish R&D Team
Entering 2012, it is a great pleasure for DLF-TRIFOLIUM to present a new grass breeder, Anders Søndergaard Larsen who will enter the team at Danish Plant Breeding, Store Heddinge.
Anders is 34 years old and has a Master of Science in management of forestry and natural resources from the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Copenhagen. He also holds a Ph.D. degree in plant genetics at Copenhagen University, Faculty of Life sciences. During the last year he has been working on the potential of grasses for bioenergy production as post-doc at Aarhus University, Department of Genetics and Biotechnology. The employment of Anders is part of a generational change at the breeding station in Store Heddinge as our turf grass breeder Niels Christian Nielsen is planning to end his long career in the second half of 2012.
Genomic Salt Selection
While fields are lying dark and faded in the winter cold the grass is still growing green inside the greenhouses at DLF-TRIFOLIUMs Research Division in Store Heddinge. In this environment a large experiment is set up in which more than 1000 forage ryegrass families are being tested for salt tolerance. The salt stress experiment is just one out of many trials that will deliver research data to a major research project on Genome Wide Selection.
Shortly, genome wide selection consists in selecting plants on the basis of their genetic potential rather than the usual field trial data. In order to do so, an association needs to be established between the plants DNA-profiles and the traits you wish to breed for. Aside from a large grass population this task also requires substantial expertise and massive computer power. Therefore DLF-TRIFOLIUM has joined forces with the Institute for Genetics and Biotechnology at Aarhus University, which developed the system for cattle breeding with the aim of implementing the technology into forage grass breeding.
In this collaboration DLF-TRIFOLIUM is to test the 1000 selected ryegrass families for a number of different traits including salt tolerance. There are two major reasons why salt tolerance is given this attention. Firstly, at several places in Southern Europe and USA there are problems with soils being frequently irrigated with recycled water. This practice slowly builds up growth inhibitive depositions of salt. Secondly, there seems to be a close correlation between salt- and drought tolerance and plants showing high salt tolerance may therefore also show tolerance to drought.
Once an association between the plant's DNA profiles and stress tolerance has been calculated, the same computer can calculate the genetic stress tolerance potential for new plants entering future breeding on the basis of a DNA test. This increases predictability in the selection process and allows for improvement of not only stress tolerance but also other traits without compromising yield gains. The project is running in four years and receives financial support from Natl. programs, GUDP and The Law of Innovation.
If you want to have a glimpse of what will become the future’s most exquisite greens varieties you might want to drop by DLF TRIFOLIUM’s Research Division in Denmark and have a look at their newly established greens.
Perhaps you have already enjoyed playing on super varieties, such as GREENSLEAVES and CEZANNE. If so, we are pleased to inform you that their upgrades are already in the pipeline. Having gone through series of selections and tests the new elite material is now ready for real-life greens management tests. A typical management scheme includes regular cutting down to 5.5 mm and fertilization with 100-120 kg N/ha/year. Such cutting heights are extremely stressful for grass plants, but with the high density and fine leaves that GREENSLEAVES and CEZANNE are famous for, it is just the right environment to highlight these grasses’ outstanding greens characteristics.
But first the new elites will need to prove their value through the coming winter. Winter hardiness and snow mold tolerance are standard assets in today’s top varieties and our breeder, Niels Christian Nielsen, expects to see nothing else but eminent winter performance in the new material. Knowing that he is seldom proven wrong, we therefore take the liberty already now to welcome you to visit our breeding station next summer and to check out for yourself how we define premium variety material. See you!
Low Input Grasses as Recurrent Biomass Sources
Perennial grasses are not only good for amenity and for feeding they are also good for CO2 neutral energy production. And if you ask a number of scientific experts now gearing up for research in a new EU project, such grasses may also have a very sustainable input/output ratio when it comes to growing demands. The project is called "GrassMargins" and as the name indicates it aims at finding optimal grasses and optimal conditions for grass biomass production on marginal soils. The project consortium consists of 12 partners from eight countries representing Northern, Central and Western Europe, Russia and China.
Eight Academic Institutions and four companies, including DLF-TRIFOLIUM are going to investigate the properties of three C3 grasses, Tall fescue, Cocksfoot, Reed canary grass and one C4 grass, Miscanthus, in relation to low input. While Miscanthus is well known for its high biomass yield it remains to be elucidated, which of the four grasses has the overall best performance, productivity, and economy when it comes to growth under marginal and perhaps stressful conditions.
The projects will also perform pre-breeding within these species in order to improve both productivity under stressful conditions and drying after cutting in the field. DLF-TRIFOLIUM has great expertise in drought and salt tolerance and will test included breeding material in its semi-hydroponic system and in salt-affected soils in France. All material is subject to extensive modeling using the experimental data to get a qualified image of the most productive species/varieties under various marginal conditions. The consortium has a total budget of 4 million Euro and will run until October 2015.
Fine fescues in the combat against Poa annua
Having trouble defeating Poa annua on your golf green? Simply turn up the slender fine fescue content and start winning your combats. If you are struggling to keep your green free of Poa annua, you may want to call for aid from some of the fine fescues that you already know.
This is one of the clear messages to be extracted from a recently finalised competition trial carried out at DLF-TRIFOLIUM’s R&D greens facilities. The initial idea was to investigate how different nitrogen levels affect the combat between sown grasses and Poa annua. In order to do this, DLF-TRIFOLIUM established a four year trial in collaboration with The Danish Golf Union and The Agricultural University (KULife). Two additional factors were also examined; wear applications and sown grass species. Poa annua taken with a hole cutter was inserted as cores into established plots of one square meter.
In the first trial, two fine fescue mixtures were tested alongside pure varieties of the three typical mix components, Browntop, Chewings and Slender Red Fescue. While Poa annua increased in area alongside the Browntop variety, its growth was reduced 20-35% in fine fescue plots, with slender fescue being the most potent inhibitor (graph below).
In the second trial, some of the newest chewings and slender varieties were tested against each other at fixed nitrogen levels. All the slender type fescues showed the same remarkable efficiency in restricting Poa annua growth (graph below). Chewings also defeated Poa annua growth albeit at a more reduced level.
In the second trial, some of the newest chewings and slender varieties were tested against each other at fixed nitrogen levels. All the slender type fescues showed the same remarkable efficiency in restricting Poa annua growth (graph below). Chewings also defeated Poa annua growth albeit at a more reduced level.
These interesting findings will surely find their way into new golf green mixtures with higher content of slender type varieties (up to 75%) to help combat your future Poa annua problems.
Novelties in France - Nine extraordinary Quality Turf varieties from DLF-TRIFOLIUM
Two new tall fescues and seven new perennial ryegrass varieties has just been top listed in the French Official Turf List.
The two tall fescues, ESSENTIAL and EYECANDY, carry American genes for dark color, with Eyecandy more pronounced than Essential. Both varieties show strong vitality, high density, and very good quality over the year. On top of this ESSENTIAL also shows excellent wear tolerance, qualifying it directly to the top of the French list.
The seven perennial ryegrass varieties are Aiken, IS-PR 274, Clementine, Duparc, Enesco, Greenblush and Leclair. These varieties cover the color groups from medium green (DUPARC) to the vary dark (IS-PR 274). Summer performance is very good for AIKEN, DUPARC and GREENBLUSH, but the absolute winner is CLEMENTINE. This eye-catching variety, which at all times have been standing out from the others in the lawn trials have demonstrated extraordinary lawn qualities with clear green color, very fine leaves, excellent density, very high persistence, and tolerance to wear. Most of these very promising ryegrass varieties are also under National testing in other European countries, mainly DE, UK and NL, confirming the high qualities shown in the preliminary results.
Grasses for Extreme Challenges
These years we experience an increasing demand for high quality grass varieties, which are drought or salt tolerant. Such varieties are most-wanted by golf and sport facilities placed in dry or coastal areas, where evaporation is high or where frequent penetration of seawater into the waterbed creates problems with saline irrigation especially during summer. In addition, in northern areas, de-icing roads has resulted in high salt levels along roadsides. That is why DLF-TRIFOLIUMs R&D Department for several years now has investigated the ability of grass to withstand different types of stress. The first hardy varieties have already been identified, and soon the company can deliver the first turf mixtures with salt tolerant varieties.
With climate models predicting more extreme weather in the future plant producers, green keepers, managers of recreational areas, as well as private households will be left with no other option than to use recycled water or to skip irrigation for longer periods. However, irrigation with recycled water often causes a slow and detrimental accumulation of salts in the soil. Leaf tip burns, discoloration and difficulties in controlling pests are common symptoms and implications for turf grasses stressed by elevated salt levels.
Some grass species are very sensitive to salt stress and display severe symptoms even at moderate concentrations while others, such as Tall fescue, can grow in soils with salt levels similar to that of brackish water. In order to identify the most salt tolerant varieties within DLF-TRIFOLIUMs portfolio new breeding material is continuously being tested under controlled greenhouse conditions. Well-established plants growing in soil-free media, where all nutrients and salts are precisely dosed, are subject to increasing amounts of salt. When symptoms are evident and varied within each species all varieties are evaluated and only the best selected for further testing. Such varieties are now being screened for salt tolerance under field conditions in Australia. They are also subject to drought trials at DLF-TRIFOLIMs breeding station in Oregon as these two types of stress tolerances seems to be connected.
During the last few years municipalities and regulatory authorities have also increased their focus on stress tolerance and sustainability. In extension of this awareness The National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) in USA has now incorporated salt tolerance test as one of the compulsory elements in the extensive evaluation list. DLF-TRIFOLIUM submits every year a number putative varieties to this test. The goal is not only having single salt tolerant varieties recommended but also to deliver complete mixtures where the included species have a strong and balanced salt tolerance.
Green is green and turf is turf - or is it?
Not if you ask Steve Reid, who is the charge of DLF-TRIFOLIUMs American turf breeding program. To him and many other people who are enthusiastic about their turf, turf is about esthetically good looking grasses. It’s about color, it’s about ground coverage, it’s about leaf densities, and for sport and leisure purposes it’s also about wear tolerance. So this is what Steve is aiming at, when selecting for the coming top varieties: A top quality turf grass is fine-leafed and dense, it has high tiller production to ensure good ground coverage even at very low-mowing. While preferences for specific colors differ between areas (dark green in North America, and normal green for Europe), it is important that all turf varieties maintain their good looking color over the entire growth season and be as little affected by fungal attack (rust) or drought stress.
However, among thousands of turf breeding plots, the assessment of these parameters by the human eye is easily misjudged either by changing light and weather conditions or by other types of false interpretation. To battle this situation and to achieve the most objective measurements Steve and his team employ a digital image system developed by Dr. Karcher, and Richardson of the University of Arkansas. It can take a snapshot a turf plot independently of environmental light conditions and transform the pixels into quality measurements. Covered by a square metal box the captured turf plot is only illuminated by a built-in light source. This allows for a direct comparison between plots by the image analysis software, which calculates turf color-, coverage-, and density scores based on a pre-defined scale of hue and saturation. Images taken before and after wear treatments are used to calculate wear tolerance of each breeding line. According to Steve, the system is both robust and reliable, and he has already five new varieties selected by this system in the pipeline for official testing. He wouldn’t be surprise to see similar imaging systems becoming the standard method of assessing turf quality at the National Test Centers in the future. So look out for upcoming top quality varieties. They will be more green than your eye can ever imagine.
New trial set-up in Argentina
With more than 115 grass varieties within six different species DLF-Trifolium is now probing its way into the forage grass markets of Northern Argentina. After years of successful sales of top performing varieties in the southern part of Argentina efforts are now being made to expand activities to other areas. There is however a snag to the adventure; climate conditions are significantly more stressful in the north with cold winters and very hot and dry summers. But General Manager, Maximino Santiago Borsi, is optimistic; ”despite the fact that there was no rainfall from May until September the varieties sown this year have established very well and show really good performance”.
The site is at Rafaela, a dairy area situated north of the Santa Fe province. Forage grasses in this area are mostly used in mixtures together with alfalfa and the plan is to examine the included varieties for performance and yield distribution in relation to alfalfa over the growth season. Aside from dry matter yield the varieties are also scored for spring growth performance, winter persistence, coverage, and rust resistance. Maximino is convinced that varieties making the test at the northern latitudes will be able to stand a number of different conditions and will also show good performances in South Argentina. Pleased by the results so far he is already gearing up for next year’s field trials, in which the current will be supplemented with an additional site further to the south. So better stay alert for new high yielding varieties passing the test to be ready for the coming years.
DLF Grass Silage for 2nd generation bioethanol production
2nd generation (2G) bioethanol derived from straw and non-food residues will soon be a reality and production at an industrial scale is about to commence. However, while companies around the world are starting up demonstration plants there are still issues to be dealt with. One of them is the pre-treatment of the biomass, which is a necessary but costly and technological challenging process.
In this process the rigid structures of lignocelluloses in plant cells are opened up allowing enzymes to convert celluloses and hemicelluloses into fermentable sugars. It all takes place under quite severe reaction conditions involving expensive process equipment, large quantities of water, and high energy.
In an attempt to develop a low cost pretreatment method, the Danish National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy (Risø DTU) has just established a project consortium together with DLF-Trifolium and Novozymes. The core idea of the consortium is to use one of nature's own biological systems, ensiling in substituting parts of the expensive pretreatment and in making ideal storage conditions for the biomass.
In the first setup two different species of energy grass selected and grown at DLF-TRIFOLIUM will be tested. The ensiled material will be fermented to bio-ethanol using two standard methods involving commercially available and newly developed enzyme mixture (from Novozymes) for enzymatic hydrolysis combined with microbial fermentation. Test results will not only provide guidelines for a future low-cost bioethanol production but will also provide information on feeding value and/or biogas potential. This is because both processes, ethanol fermentation, and grass digestion, share the same recalcitrance towards lignified compounds.
The project is budgeted with 6,9 mill DKK (0,9 mill €) from the Danish Energy Agency and is schedule to be finished in May 2013
Over the past decades, wear tolerance of sports pitches has been improved considerably. Important factors in this process have been breeding, increased sowing rates and improved fertilisation. The Dutch recommended list was used for evaluating the progress in wear tolerance in Perennial Ryegrass by plant breeding.
Continued positive effect of breeding on wear tolerance
Each year new and better varieties are taken into the recommended list trials. As the average score stays constant from one year to another, it means that listed varieties are gradually getting lower scores.
On average this decrease was close to 0.1 point over the past 35 years in the Dutch recommended list. Expressed as a percentage of the average score of 8, wear tolerance improved by 1.1% per year, or by 39% over the past 35 years. Assuming a standard 300 hours per field per year in 1975, this results in 117 extra playing hours, or a possible total of 417 hours per field per year in 2010.
Higher sowing rates improve wear tolerance
The time to 80% life ground cover is often taken as a measure for the moment the field is fit for play. Increasing the sowing rate reduces the time to being fit for play by 30 days. At a playing intensity of 2 hours per day, this means an increase in playability by 60 hours per year. By increasing the seed rate from 25 to 75 g/m2, the overall mean score for wear tolerance increased from 5.5 to 6.3, or by 15%. Based on the 400 hours standard in 2006, this would mean an increase by 60 hours/year.
Fertiliser seed coating further increases effect
In existing football pitches, iSeed® treatment resulted in fields that were fit for play earlier, and showed an increased wear tolerance thereafter. Field trials showed that the iSeed® effect is similar at both 200 and 350 kg/ha sowing rates. It is estimated that iSeed® adds another 30-50 hours per year.
From 300 to 600 playing hours per year; wear tolerance has doubled
Breeding, sowing rates and fertiliser coated seed together all increase wear tolerance of sports pitches. Translated in the number of hours/year that a pitch can take, this is an increase of approximately 250-300 hours per year since the late 1970s.
In many locations around the world, people experience increasing problems with plants, including grasses suffering from salt stress. Leaf tip burns, discoloration and difficulties in controlling pests are common symptoms and implications for turf grasses stressed by elevated salt levels. Salt stress problems are most pronounced in areas with low precipitation where nutritional salts are deposited in the soil due to high evaporation rates. But salinity problems can also be induced either by insufficient irrigation or by irrigation with low quality water, which is often practiced in urbanised and coastal areas. In addition, in northern areas, de-icing roads has resulted in high salt levels along roadsides. Significant improvement of the turf conditions in these areas can be achieved rather easily by choosing the right species and varieties.
Differences between species
Over the years many salt tolerance rankings of grass species have been produced. In general the order, from salt tolerant to sensitive is: Tall Fescue > Red Fescue > Annual Ryegrass > Perennial Ryegrass > Creeping Bentgrass > fine-leafed Fescues > Smooth-stalked Meadow-grass > Browntop Bent > Rough Bluegrass > Annual Bluegrass.
Differences between varieties
If rankings in different publications are compared, the order of the species is not always the same and most rankings are based on one or a few varieties per species. DLF-TRIFOLIUM is now in the process of screening the complete portfolio of species and varieties for salt tolerance of germinating seeds, seedlings and mature plants. So far we found great variation not only between species but also between varieties within each species. The screenings also demonstrated the importance of testing plants at different life stages as some varieties show strong tolerance under germination while others show tolerance primarily at maturity.
Based on the results from these experiments we are now able to design the best blend of salt tolerant varieties for various conditions and purposes.
What may seem natural to most golf players is serious science to Niels Christian Nielsen, plant breeder at DLF-TRIFOLIUM. The issue is turf quality on golf courses and the improvement of varieties to meet future demands. Our grass seed must fulfill requirements regarding wear tolerance and diseases as well as climate related changes, such as heavy rain, heat, and drought. All of these issues are considered from the very beginning when the first plants are crossed, when the offspring is selected, and when finally a collection of good-looking to-be varieties are ready for test under real-life conditions.
The real-life tests are performed at DLF-TRIFOLIUM's research facility, south of Copenhagen, where two large greens serve as demo beds for the latest developments in superior plant material and in ground keeping. The greens have been established according to the highest standards and utilises a growth medium that is only found and has to be transported from the opposite part of Denmark. Both greens are divided into 1 m2 plots and filled up with elite varieties within Browntop Bent, Velvet Bent, Creeping Bentgrass, Red Fescue and Perennial Ryegrass. The plots are regularly inspected for performance under changing weather conditions and under mechanical wear by a specially designed "golf shoe" wear machine.
Every second year the trials at the two greens are renewed. A sod cutter strips off the old plots and 5 cm of soil/root debris are removed to give room for fresh growth medium. Following roll compacting the squares are marked and sown by hand. Fiber cloth is used as cover on the greens to keep the seedlings moist and protected from cold while they germinate.
This year the plot design has also allowed for test of red fescue and creeping bentgrass variety mixtures that are included in the new line of i-seed products. I-seed consists of regular seeds pelleted with a formula of different nutrients enabling a very fast establishment of the seed. The use of i-seed is also helpful for late autumn sowing, when temperatures are low. How these mixtures and elite varieties perform during the next two years will ultimately determine what you can find underneath your golf shoes in the future.
Nostalgic farming and future research meet
Old barns and a worn cow house have been renewed and transformed into a modern research and breeding facility now housing the Dutch DLF/Innoseeds breeding team.
The buildings still breathe the atmosphere of a century ago. In the living rooms there are still the bedsteads, chimneys and the door latches are original from wood. This is where Thieu Pustjens and his team consisting of 8 people now carry out their research activities to ensure a future delivery of high quality turf and forage grass varieties.
The Moerstraten research and breeding station is a vital element of the DLF-TRIFOLIUM Group's strategy to consolidate all parts of the Dutch breeding programme at one place. The company has already been using the area around Moerstraten for breeding and multiplication of its varieties, and has very good experiences with the local soil quality and climate. Furthermore, the breeding station is only half an hour's drive from DLF-TRIFOLIUM's facilities in Kapelle and Vlijmen.
While retaining its nostalgic appearance the old farm has now changed into a research facility that includes rooms for seed cleaning, preparation and storage under conditions that meet the company's international standards. A new 1250 square meter farm shed has been built for seed drying facilities, machine workshop, and storage of farming machinery. Adjustments in the farmhouse, which is now used for offices only include installation of digital communication network and additional lighting, otherwise the rooms stand as they did when the farm was built back in the last century. The cow stable has been refurbished into a reception/meeting room, which can lodge up to 70 people, and which also serves as canteen for the team.
The beautiful surroundings at the breeding station are shaped in every possible way to fit with the requirements of today's grass breeding. The farmland consists of two drained square plots of 23 and 12 hectares behind and in front of the main buildings. A subsoil irrigation conduct ensures full water management control over the season.
One of the advantages of having grass breeding in the area around Moerstraten is the presence of a black sandy soil type, which makes a perfect seed bed for efficient selection of traits like disease resistance, stress tolerance, and yield.
Right now is the high season for such selections in the field and thousands of perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass parcels are scored at the moment. The fields not only include the work of Thieu and his team but also that of breeders from other DLF sites, who wish to test their material under different conditions. A part of the acreages are also used for pre-basic seed production, maize trials, and for marketing trials of the strong portfolio of turf and forage grass varieties of the DLF-TRIFOLIUM Group.
In support of the outdoor activities a high-tech greenhouse (500 m²) with controlled lighting, temperature and watering has been built, which facilitates the multiplication of plant material, parental crossing, and artificial disease resistance selection.
The breeding efforts result in varieties with increased value for the end users. Values like better quality of feed or highly persistent turf.
The different species are tested on a wide range of climatic conditions but most intensively under end user conditions. Independent of the geographical origin of a new DLF-TRIFOLIUM variety, most of the varieties will enter seed production in Denmark, Holland and Oregon. And we know that the varieties will perform very differently in seed production. In order to provide seed growers and production department with detailed knowledge of the new candidates, they are tested for seed yield potential under different management. The harvest of seed yield plots has just finished.
In collaboration with universities and life science industries DLF-TRIFOLIUM has recently joined a major new Danish research Centre, called Bio4Bio, which aims at implementing various biotechnologies in the conversion process of plant material into bioenergy. The Centre links Danish research expertise within plant biology, biomass technology, microbial and processing technology and will run from May 2009 to April 2013.
The Research Centre, which is awarded DKK 22.5 million from the Danish Council for Strategic Research is headed by Professor Claus Felby, University of Copenhagen and includes also Aarhus University, Aalborg University, CBMI, Novozymes, Inbicon A/S, Terranol A/S, and DLF-TRIFOLIUM as partners in the Centre.
The Centre will coordinate all major biotech activities in the area and one of the central tasks will be to pinpoint the specific components of plant biomass, which are critical for an efficient conversion into bioenergy. Plant material is composed by a large fraction of plant fibres that provide structural support for plant growth. These fibres are embedded in a matrix of various compounds, some of which are inhibitory to the conversion of plant material into a suitable bioenergy resource. The Centre will seek to solve the current limitations in plant biomass - bioenergy conversion and the outcome will form the basis for an integrated development of sustainable biomass feedstock supply for the future.
The new information will affect all stages in the utilization of plant material for bioenergy; 1) development of plant varieties, which are better suited for bioenergy conversion, 2) design of tailored microbial proteins needed to convert the biomass, 3) Optimize the physical conditions on each step in the conversion process. The technical focus will be on 2nd generation bioethanol processing, but the technologies may also be applied for conversion of biomass to biogas or chemicals. An overall criterion is that the entire chain of bioenergy production must be sustainable, and this issue will also be a main scope for the Centre.
Perennial grasses, as a sustainable non-food biomass feedstock open up for many advantages in biomass production. DLF-TRIFOLIUM will supply the Centre with top varieties and prototypes from its R&D pipeline for studying conversion efficiency and hope by its engagement to the research area to assist scientists in finding sustainable bioenergy solutions for the future.
DLF Seeds in New Zealand has opened a new DLF Research Centre in Christchurch to anchor the southern hemisphere part of the global breeding programme.
The new facility adds capabilities such as a cool room, specialist threshing and cleaning, as well as the facilities for collection and handling of samples, plant selections, crossing and large scale nursery planting and elite selection and trialling.
Pedro Evans, DLF Seeds Ltd Head Breeder, says that with the new facility high quality breeding and trialling can progress with the opportunity to maintain breeding lines in a low humidity, low temperature environment. This makes DLF a partner for the long term and it gives us increased attractiveness as a source of proprietary grass and clover products. It is obvious that our investment in cultivars for the right climates is key to being a truly global seed company.
While the harvest and preparations for analyses of all test data from our US trials are going on, it is a great pleasure for DLF to present a new R&D team led by Chief Breeder Steve Reid and Research Agronomist Adam Probst.
Steve Reid is 44 years old and has been employed by the firm since 2002. For the past three years, Steve has successfully been in charge of the establishment of our R&D office in Kentucky. He has created the basis for a valuable testing of both turf and forage grasses in the Eastern part of the US. Because of its location, in an area with hot and humid summers and cold winters, the station in Kentucky is an optimal place to test our grasses and clovers for disease and stress tolerance.
Steve will be moving back to DLF's breeding station near Corvallis in Oregon where he will be responsible of the entire US R&D programme.
Adam Probst has taken over the respon-
sibility of the trial station in Kentucky. He is 25 years old and has a Master's degree from the University of Kentucky. After finishing his degree, Adam was employed at the university as a researcher with primary focus on practical field trials. Concurrently with his studies, Adam managed his own farm with plant produc-
tion in Kentucky. In spite of his young age, this has given Adam a technical and practical knowledge within planning and execution of practical growth testing.
Steve and Adam, together with the other colleagues in our US R&D organisation, will be a strong team that will continue to supply the US market with high-quality turf and forage varieties.
DLF-TRIFOLIUM opens a new research and breeding station at Moerstraten in the South Western corner of the Netherlands.
The new station is headed by Senior Breeder Thieu Pustjens who has been working with grass breeding for many years, first in Advanta Seeds and now in the DLF-TRIFOLIUM Group.
The Moerstraten research and breeding station is a vital element of the DLF-TRIFOLIUM Group’s strategy to consolidate all parts of the Dutch breeding programme at one place. In recent years the company has been using the area around Moerstraten for breeding and multiplication of its varieties, and has very good experiences with the local soil quality and climate. Furthermore, the breeding station is only half an hour’s drive from DLF-TRIFOLIUM’s facilities in Kapelle and Vlijmen.
In addition to being the centre of the entire research and breeding programme in the Netherlands, Moerstraten will host marketing trials demonstrating the strong portfolio of turf and forage grass varieties of the DLF-TRIFOLIUM Group. The station is equipped with meeting facilities to receive customers and other guests.
The facilities include, among other things, a modern green house to support targeted breeding and research programs in controlled environment. The construction of the new facilities is expected to be finished by the end of 2008.
New Science: Salt tolerant grasses
In many locations around the world, people experience increasing problems with contamination, whereas plants suffer from salt stress. This situation also applies to grasses. Intensified utilization of the world’s arable land for both crop production and amenity purposes has simultaneously increased the number of saline (salt-affected) soils, where salt stress creates problems. These challenges set out new demands for increased salt tolerance in future grasses.
The RD department at DLF is working to address these challenges, both by using advanced salt tolerance-testing systems in the breeding process and by testing new salt tolerance genes from rice.
Problems with high salinity are most evident in areas with low precipitation, where nutritional salts are deposited in the soil due to high evaporation rates. But salinity problems can also be induced by insufficient irrigation, bad drainage conditions, irrigation with saline or low quality water or by over-fertilisation. For several years many golf and sports fields have been irrigated with recycled water (especially in the USA). This practice however, has led to a slow but significant accumulation of salts in the soil with the consequence that in some areas either the preferred grass species has to be replaced with more salt tolerant species with inferior turf quality or eventually, the area is left without any vegetation.
Solution to salt stress
Coping with salt stress relates both to soil management and to improvement of the plant’s ability to withstand a high salt concentration. In order to ensure this, thousands of plants in hydroponic systems are screened under very high salt pressure (1.5 % salt, which equals half the concentration in normal sea water). Only the very best performing plants are selected to go into the DLF breeding process, where they will be tested successively both in hydroponics and in saline soil. Introduction of new salt tolerant varieties from these screenings lies a few years ahead but saline tolerant plants are already in the pipeline.
New Science: From Grass to Milk Quality
In order to throw light on how forage grasses and legumes influence animal welfare and milk quality, DLF-TRIFOLIUM actively participates in a large-scale research project together with Arla Foods, the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (Aarhus University) and KULife (Copenhagen University). Among several issues, this research project will explore the possibilities of improving both the taste and the content of a-linolenic acid in milk primarily by choosing certain varieties and harvest time. A high level of a-linolenic acid is commonly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The route from grass silage to milk goes through rumen fermentation to milk production in the udder and in order to achieve optimal and stable milk quality, it is crucial that the rumen bacteria are in a good condition and work efficiently. Therefore one task in the project will be to examine how the annual variations in silage quality can be minimized. Along the entire route – from forage harvest, incorporation and conversion in the cow stomach, and up to milk production – sampels will be taken and subjected to a thorough chemical and biochemical analysis. All forage samples will be analyzed for content and composition of sugars, fatty acids and minerals. The aim is to identify the substances and parameters, that are most critical for an optimal rumen function, increased a-linolenic acid fraction, and the final milk quality. Milk quality and taste composition is judged by a sensory panel. In this way it will be possible to link the taste of the milk with its chemical composition, the condition of the rumen bacteria, and the silage properties of the different forage varieties.
Low Input Greens - The Best Red Fescue Varieties
Acknowledging the demand for low input golf courses, DLF-TRIFOLIUM has tested different species and varieties on greens with N-fertilize levels ranging from 60 to 200 kg N/ha annually. The cutting height in the trials was 5.5-6.0 mm; the greens were verticut 2-3 times a year and top dressed several times.
Reducing the N-level resulted generally in an increased presence of weed and lower scores for quality. The best low-N varieties were the very dense trichophylla types like Cezanne, which remained dense enough to produce an attractive putting surface. When comparing root mass produced by the varieties under the varying N-level, Cezanne proved to be able to produce perfect results at low levels as well as at high levels of N.
Calliope 60 kg N
Cezanne 60 kg N
"Surprisingly enough the trichophylla types (slender creeping) had higher scores than the commuta varieties," concludes breeder Niels Christian Nielsen. "I had expected the commutate types to have the best winter survival, but the trials showed a different result: The trichophylla varieties have early spring growth, are more persistent during dry summer periods and survive the winter better. One reason for this is trichophylla types obtain higher shoot density in the establishment year."
In the autumn of 2006, green trials were established on two sites in Denmark: at DLF-TRIFOLIUM’s trial site in Store Heddinge as well as at the golf club Sydsjællands Golfstation. The results of the four years of research will strengthen the support and advice of green keepers and professionals within the “green sector” in Northern Europe.
The project is a joint project between Forest & Landscape Denmark (University of Copenhagen), The Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (University of Aarhus), the Danish Golf Union, Sydsjællands Golfklub, DLF-TRIFOLIUM A/S and other private sponsors. The total budget for the project is approx. € 575,000, and The Directorate for Food, Fisheries and Agri Business has provided € 300,000.
Two participants express their enthusiasm about the project: Birte Boels, Head of research unit at Faculty of Agricultural Sciences:
“We look very much forward to this new collaboration and to contribute with our expertise and know-how within grass science.”
Torben Kastrup, Environmental Consultant at Danish Golf Union:
“This is the first time that a trial green of this standard has been established in Denmark, and the project will definitely put Denmark on the map of scientific research.”
New Trial Site in Kentucky.
The DLF-TRIFOLIUM staff has moved to Kentucky and established a trial site in the area known as “the inner bluegrass“ - an area with rolling green hillsides and the home of some of the finest thoroughbred horse farms in the country. The temperate climate with rainfalls evenly distributed over the year, together with fertile soils, keeps the grass green all year round. The site is impacted by the extreme heat and humidity from the south and frigid cold from the north.
Under these conditions the breeding lines of fodder and amenity grasses will demonstrate their yield potential as well as their tolerance to heat and drought.
The exact same breeding lines are tested under different managements and climatic conditions on DLF-TRIFOLIUM trial sites, in France, Holland, the Czech Republic, Poland, China, UK and Denmark. When combining all this data, the potential of new variety candidates is found.
This year more than 1300 plots of cocksfoot, ryegrass and tall fescue, and over 4000 amenity plots of fescue, ryegrass and bluegrass were established. The first scores are made, and this coming spring, as the new foals are taking their first bite of grass, we will be harvesting and measuring the yield of our first trial.
A Special Day in DLF Trifolium
The 27th of October 2006 was a special and epoch-making day in DLF-Trifolium. Danish Plant Breeding said goodbye to two outstanding figures; Head of Breeding, Arend Kleinhout, and Variety Administrator Dineke Ritzema, who also celebrated their 25 and 40 years anniversary, respectively. On the same occasion Klaus K. Nielsen, previously Head of Biotechnology in DLF, was welcomed as the new Director of Research & Development.
The farewell reception took place at the company’s breeding station ‘Boelshøj’, which has developed into one of Europe’s most spectacular grass breeding units. Around hundred persons from Denmark and abroad had joined the party to bid the two persons farewell, which due to their work and expertise in grasses have gained a worldwide reputation in the seed business.
DLF’s chairman Benny Kirkebække Christensen and CEO Truels Damsgaard opened the reception by acknowledging Arend and Dineke for their dedicated efforts to bring the company to its current leading position within grasses and clovers. Then followed numerous speeches from persons including collaborators, colleagues, authorities, and finally from the persons celebrating their anniversary themselves. The Danes and the Royal Family in particular holds a long tradition of utilizing Dutch expertise in plant breeding. This phenomena was not only a subject for many speech themes but was also directly manifested by the presentation of Her Majesty the Queen’s medal of reward to Dineke Ritzema