28 February 1997

Poor data, poor performance

LACK of information means UK producers could be sowing grass mixtures which do not realise their full potential.

So warned Nickersons Seeds Robin Turner, who said grass mixture construction appeared to be based on a number of assumptions but little hard evidence, and that it could be running on flawed assumptions. "Breeders have been successful in improving varieties, but selections are based on results of trials done on pure stands. There is a danger these new varieties are not performing as well as they might because we are losing the benefits in mixtures."

Grass mixtures were made in the belief that combining the best with the best gave the optimum result, but that was not always true, he said. "Synergy in mixtures is most often expressed when the components used are very different; the process of identifying and recommending the best varieties may inadvertently restrict the variation required to maximise synergy," said Dr Turner.

Going back to the drawing board and working out guidelines for mixture construction was vital. "Mixtures have been around for a long time and have good farmer acceptance – what we need to do is to target the right combinations of varieties more closely."