Clover in from the cold?
PLANT breeders believe many producers are already benefiting a great deal from improved grass and forage varieties and there is no longer any reason to ignore clovers.
Speaking at IGERs Trawsgoed Farm open day, Aberystwyth, legume breeder Michael Abberton said clover varieties, such as AberConcord, would tolerate up to 250kg/ha (200 units/acre) of inorganic fertiliser with no reduction in yield. The variety still grew well and produced high quality material in mid summer when grass growth slowed.
"Breeders have improved the reliability and persistency of white clover. Excellent cold hardiness, coupled with good low temperature growth allows clovers to compete with grass in spring."
There were also some very high yielding red clover varieties with enhanced grazing tolerance in the testing pipeline, he added.
His team was also manipulating clover oestrogen contents and had submitted one potential variety for testing which did not reduce ewe fertility.
Pete Wilkins, who bred AberDart, the perennial ryegrass variety with high concentration of water soluble carbohydrates, said improved varieties were available to suit all situations. In the armoury, there were varieties which could deliver, whether the requirement was an extended grazing season, a lot of grass for conservation and a bit of grazing or, perhaps, persistency under hard grazing.
Their colleague Llinos Jones urged visitors to also take a new look at hybrids of Italian and perennial ryegrass. These were no longer slightly more persistent Italian ryegrasses and could remain very productive in swards for five or six years.
The IGER-bred, NIAB recommended variety AberEcho, for which seed would be available in late 2003, combined high yield with high sugar content. The only variety with more sugar was an Italian Ryegrass growing in the Po Valley, she said. *