Main research question/goal
The influence of plant architecture on the performance of plants in a mixed grass-clover pasture is central to this study. In classical breeding plants are usually selected as separate plants in monoculture and not in competition with other species (field conditions). It is therefore possible that certain plant characteristics needed for good competitiveness in a multi-species grassland are not selected. In this project the influence of branching (as a central feature of plant architecture) is assessed on the persistence and yield in field conditions. We do this for two main ingredients of multispecies sward seed mixtures: perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and red clover (Trifolium pratense). At the same time we monitor the genetic diversity of certain branching genes using molecular markers.Research approach
We investigate the correlation between plant architecture and agronomically important factors such as yield, forage quality and persistence in cultivars with different architectural characteristics, under both mowing and grazing conditions. Using molecular markers (SSRs and SNPs), we follow the change in genetic diversity of branching genes in the mixed plots under cutting conditions over a period of 3 years. We also investigate if the agronomic performance of elite branching genotypes also apply in pasture conditions and if by selection for increased branching yield and persistence can be increased.Relevance/Valorisation
Multispecies sward with clover is an important aspect of farm-produced protein in sustainable agriculture. Ryegrass exhibits the best agronomic properties for multi-year grasslands used for grazing and mowing. Red clover improves the nutritional value of the forage through its high protein and unsaturated fatty acid content, which is also beneficial for the quality of milk and meat. Furthermore, the combination of perennial ryegrass and red clover increases the sustainability of agricultural production. The optimal carbon sequestration and reduced nitrogen fertilization results in a cost-effective and high quality forage production.