Main research question/goal
ILVO develops new varieties of perennial ryegrass through a long-term breeding programme with the aim of obtaining the following useful genetic traits in crossings: a higher yield potential, better (digestive) quality, more efficient capacity to utilize nutrients (fertilizers), lower disease susceptibility, better persistence (survival on the pasture), and better drought tolerance. Grassland covers in Flanders 40% of the agricultural area. The main part of the meadows are grazed. The most important species is perennial ryegrass. Sowing better grass varieties leads to higher milk and meat yields at a constant input of fertilizers.
To create varieties that meet all of the abovementioned characteristics, we select genotypes with the desired traits and we recombine them into new varieties. We evaluate the new combinations through yield trials in the field. We perform disease infection experiments in the greenhouse. We analyze the grass chemically. We adjust or extend the characteristics that we want to optimize through the breeding programme over the years based on new demands from agricultural practice, society and the environment. Higher yield and persistence remain predominant. Better disease resistance leads to higher grass intake by livestock. A higher sugar content in the grass helps to lower nitrogen losses to the environment. Due to climate change, we also need varieties that are more resistant to prolonged droughts. Relevance/Valorisation
Perennial ryegrass is an important crop for the Flemish agriculture industry. As a public scientific institution, ILVO specializes in the breeding of crops that attract less attention from the commercial breeding companies but still have a significant value to the Flemish agricultural sector. ILVO’s breeding work is based on decades of research on the particular crop, building on knowledge and expertise (genetic knowledge, cultivation techniques, etc.). New and improved cultivars of perennial ryegrass are developed. Introducing these innovations and commercializing them benefits society, the environment and the agriculture industry.