Glenarm: The Latest New Grass Variety From AFBI

Date published: 22 November 2016

Area of Expertise:

The Forage Grass Breeding Programme at AFBI Loughgall continues to play a vital role in increasing productivity from local grassland farms. In recent years AFBI has launched over 30 varieties which have been developed for local use. Glenarm, a new late diploid Perennial Ryegrass, is the latest development, and will be launched by AFBI’s commercial partner, Barenbrug, at the 2016 Royal Ulster Agricultural Society Winter Fair on 8 December.

New plot harvester with NIRS scanning equipment in use at AFBI Loughgall

David Johnston, Grass Breeder in AFBI reports “A particular strength of Glenarm is that it produces good grazing yields in spring, meaning that it provides valuable early grass for cattle and sheep. For over 10 years, Tyrella has been a valued constituent in grass seed mixtures throughout Ireland because of its good spring growth, and Glenarm is a very worthy successor, given that it can provide high yields of quality forage throughout the year.”

For over 25 years, Dutch seed specialist Barenbrug has provided vital funding and commercial marketing expertise through a partnership agreement with AFBI  and this has ensured that the AFBI programme has thrived, allowing for the development of highly successful commercial varieties such as Drumbo, Dunluce, Navan and Seagoe.

Today, varieties from the AFBI programme at Loughgall are marketed throughout the UK and Ireland, with additional sales in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark. Their impact on grassland farms throughout Northern Ireland has been very significant, contributing to greater pasture productivity. Trials consisting of 3,000 plots and covering 10 hectares of land are currently being undertaken at Loughgall, while other Barenbrug-funded trials in Continental Europe, the USA and New Zealand, as well as a major trial site at Evesham, England, all contribute to the research on a global scale.

At the 2015 Winter Fair, Barenbrug launched two new AFBI-bred varieties: Moira and Fintona. “These have proven very popular throughout 2016,” says David Linton, area manager for Barenbrug UK, “as farmers increasingly appreciate the value of very productive varieties which have been bred under local conditions.”

The breeding system which delivered Glenarm involved a new approach by AFBI.  Breeding began in 2001 with an intercross of four varieties. At the next stage, progeny of these varieties were sown in plots at Loughgall, with further assessment for rust diseases in France and winter-hardiness in the Netherlands.  This represents significant investment by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and Barenbrug, who jointly fund the AFBI programme. As Glenarm has a diverse genetic background, it has a wide adaptability to different environmental conditions and has consistently performed well in trials across the UK and Ireland.


When the grass breeding programme was set up at Loughgall 65 years ago, the primary focus was on producing higher yielding varieties. Analysis of data from Loughgall trials, maintained under the same management over a 30-year period, has shown a gradual increase in production equivalent to an increase of over 0.4% per year. This means that the newest varieties, such as Fintona, Moira and Glenarm, are at least 12% higher yielding than varieties available at the start of the breeding programme.


In addition to breeding for increased grass yield, AFBI is placing greater emphasis on improving thenutritional quality of grass. This has involved close attention at each stage of the selection programme to selecting leafy swards which produce low levels of stem in mid-summer re-growth. The recent acquisition of a new plot harvester, fitted with Near-Infrared scanning technology, enables on line assessment of grass quality during harvesting and will enable even greater focus on grass quality aspects in the future.

When choosing new varieties for use in NI, AFBI advises farmers to consult the ‘DARD Recommended List of Grass and Clover varieties for 2016’, which is available on the AFBI website.

Commercial enquiries for seed of Glenarm and other AFBI-bred grasses should be made to David Linton, Area Manager, Barenbrug UK Ltd: Tel. 07740 063315 or call at the Barenbrug UK stand at the 2016 RUAS Winter Fair.

Notes to editors: 

AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DAERA and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.

AFBI's Vision is “Scientific excellence in Northern Ireland …  serving the world”.

All media enquiries to AFBI Press Office

Share this page