Main research question/goal
Red clover is a perennial, protein rich crop that improves soil quality through nitrogen fixation. The crop has a low persistence and is sensitive to a number of diseases, such as mildew (Erysiphe trifolii), clover rust (Uromyces trifolii) and clover rot (Sclerotinia trifoliorum). The aim of the program is to create new varieties through conventional breeding. Important selection traits are high yield, disease resistance, the capacity to survive for multiple years in the field and high seed yield.Research approach
Red clover breeding is done through family selection. The basis of the breeding program is a large collection of genetically diverse material. Different families are crossed and only the best plants out of the best families are selected in function of yield, disease resistance and seed yield. After two to three cycles, we make groups of a few elite families to construct a new variety. Yield of this new variety is compared with standard varieties in a production trial and if it is high enough, the variety is applied for official testing and commercialised.Relevance/Valorisation
Research results are translated in the development of improved cultivars that benefit agriculture, including the organic sector. This may contribute to a more generalized use of red clover, which will decrease our dependence on industrial nitrogen fertilizer and imported protein-rich fodder crops.