AFBI launched its most recently developed grass varieties, Gosford and Ballintoy, at the 2019 Winter Fair on 13th December.
Ballintoy and Gosford are the newest varieties to be released from the AFBI grass breeding programme at Loughgall. The varieties will be marketed through AFBI’s commercial partner Barenbrug UK Ltd and limited quantities of seed will be available in spring 2019.
Ballintoy is an important new addition to AFBI’s late tetraploid perennial ryegrass portfolio. Data from across the UK, published in the independent Recommended Grass and Clover Lists (England and Wales), show that Ballintoy is particularly high yielding, especially under silage management (106% compared with controls). Ballintoy combines a high grazing yield with outstanding quality (D-value of 78.1) to produce high metabolizable energy yield per ha. Ballintoy also has an extremely high early grazing yield (112% compared with controls), and is therefore an excellent choice of variety due to increased spring growth coupled with the benefits of late maturity for extending quality in swards. This new variety, which has taken almost 15 years to develop, is a further addition to the extensive portfolio of high performance grasses which have been bred by AFBI specifically for use on local farms.
Gosford, with a heading date of 28th May, is another excellent addition to AFBI’s successful intermediate diploid perennial ryegrass portfolio. Gosford is not only highly productive under both grazing and silage management, but also produces high quality grass, particularly under grazing (D-value of 77.3), and is highly resistant to crown rust disease. Crown rust (Puccinia coronata) is characterised by small orange powdery pustules on the leaf surface and is becoming an increasing problem on farms throughout Ireland due to the detrimental effect of the disease upon both sward production and palatability. The release of Gosford represents the concerted long-term effort of AFBI to produce highly productive, disease resistant varieties for use on farms across Northern Ireland. To breed disease resistant varieties, AFBI evaluates all new breeding material with Barenbrug in France and the Netherlands, where foliar diseases are endemic. The results of these trials are combined with data from Loughgall trials to identify high yielding, disease resistant germplasm for further use in the programme.
The AFBI grass breeding programme
Gosford and Ballintoy hail from a long line of excellent varieties produced by the highly successful AFBI grass breeding programme at Loughgall. Advances in grass breeding research mean that new varieties coming onto the market show improvement in yield and nutritional quality compared with varieties currently available. AFBI grass varieties are used in 70% of seed mixtures in Northern Ireland, and are extensively used across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Ten new varieties of perennial ryegrass have been recommended by NIAB over the past 4 years, with many more in the pipeline. The AFBI Grass Breeding programme is extensive, with over 10 hectares of grass trials in 3,000 plots. In addition, further testing of new varieties and breeding lines is carried out by commercial partner Barenbrug on sites across the UK and continental Europe and also on Irish farms. Genetic material used by AFBI is of diverse background, making use of winter-active material for New Zealand, winter-hardy varieties from Eastern Europe and disease resistant lines from France. Furthermore, all AFBI varieties are currently evaluated under grazing conditions, to ensure that varieties are sufficiently persistent, palatable and suitable for use under grazing conditions in N. Ireland.
Grass is the most important crop on farms in Northern Ireland and one of the most efficient ways of improving productivity from grass is to breed varieties which are well adapted to local farming conditions. The investment to date in the AFBI Loughgall grass breeding programme has ensured a steady supply of new varieties like Ballintoy and Gosford that can meet the ever changing demands of the grassland industry.
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