6 September 1996

Better clovers are on the way

PROGRESS in plant breeding could soon mean clover is a more attractive option in grass swards.

Less winter kill, better cold tolerance, improved grass and clover yields and fewer bloat problems were promised by speakers at an Aberdeen conference this week.

Speaking at the Legumes in Sustainable Farming Systems meeting, Reading University scientist Martin Wood said that as well as reducing fertiliser N inputs, increased use of white clover could lead to better energy efficiency.

And Ian Rhodes, head of legume research at IGER Aberystwyth, said the new varieties AberHerald and AberGlen were superior to Huia, which had been a mainstay of grass mixtures for many years. "Both offer better cold hardiness and low temperature growth, and we are also producing new varieties which recover quickly after grazing," said Dr Rhodes.

"Another priority is producing grasses and clovers which are compatible. This means both will yield well rather than producers choosing low yielding grasses which will not out-compete clover."

But genetic engineering would mean breeders could select the specific trait they wanted to improve.

"We can now incorporate genes for tannin production, for example, which should cut bloat problems."

According to his colleague Judith Webb, there were many sources of genetic material to pick from which would allow breeders to develop new modified varieties. &#42