Huge performance improvements from the next generation of PLUS grasses
PLUS grass performance is about to get a whole lot better. The next generation of PLUS grasses comes with improvements in yield, density, forage quality and disease resistance. PERSEUS, for example, recently joined the UK's recommended list with a maximum crown rust-rating of 9 out of 9.
PLUS grasses are a highly successful cross between a fescue and a ryegrass. These type of grasses are also well-known under the umbrella; Festulolium. It works because the crossing performs better than its individual components.
Tall fescue PLUS
While Tall fescue PLUS varieties such as HYKOR resemble tall fescue morphologically and in terms of cultivation, they are much more digestible. These varieties combine the attributes of tall fescue with the high feed quality and rapid establishment of ryegrass. They are characterised by their high seeding vigour, early spring growth, high yield and very high digestibility.
Tall fescue PLUS varieties are ideal for dry or stressed environments where yield and persistency are the primary drivers, and where farmers still need a better quality of feed. To improve the feed value of medium and long-term mixtures, Tall fescue PLUS varieties can be a direct replacement for tall fescue and meadow fescue.
Compared to its parental material, Tall fescue PLUS provides:
- Higher seedling vigour
- Earlier spring growth
- Higher yield
- Higher quality
- Lower heading tendency
Their seedling vigour is excellent, and they offer very early spring growth a high yield during the season. Ryegrass PLUS varieties have a higher yield, better stress tolerance and better persistency than Italian and hybrid ryegrasses. They are good for both grazing and cutting, and can replace Italian ryegrass or hybrid ryegrasses to improve mixture performance.
Compared to its parental material, Ryegrass PLUS provides:
- Very early spring growth
- Very high yield
- Lower tendency of heading
- Much better persistency
The DLF breeding programme for PLUS grasses (Festuloliums) dates back to the 1990s. Its aim was to raise the yield, speed up germination and improve the palatability of the fescues traditionally used in southern Europe for their persistency. However, it soon became clear that the cross-bred varieties also offered benefits over the ryegrass used in northern Europe.
As our breeding programme developed during the 1990s and early 2000s, we introduced more varieties, such as HYKOR, BECVA, PERUN and ACHILLES. It was during this period that different types of Festulolium were identified.
We have continued to make huge steps forward with PLUS grasses. In recent years we have added the tall-fescue type MAHULENA and the ryegrass types LOFA and PAULITA to our portfolio. They supersede HYKOR and BECVA.
The DLF breeding programme continues to put new, improved candidate varieties of Tall fescue PLUS and Ryegrass PLUS through official trials and into the early stages of seed production.
Our next step is to produce Ryegrass PLUS varieties that are even more persistent and morphologically similar to perennial ryegrass. Grass-breeding is a long process, so the first candidates for more persistent types are still in DLF screening trials in breeding stations across the world.
These new types are crosses between meadow fescue and perennial ryegrass. They show less stress under dry conditions, produce similar yields to perennial ryegrass and offer a potentially higher quality. They also have higher yields than Tall fescue PLUS in the UK. Their market potential is as a mixture replacement for perennial ryegrass rather than tall fescue.
It will be a few years before these varieties arrive in seed bags. But they are fine examples of our commitment to bringing new seeds to market through our science-based breeding programme.
Which PLUS grasses for your market?
At DLF, we have many decades' worth of experience in developing varieties of Festulolium. As a result, we now hold an exclusive portfolio of PLUS grasses with a choice of desirable characteristics. Our research continues, of course, as we strive to support growers by improving forage yield and quality in a wide range of climates.