27 September 2011
The work of the IBERS plant breeders at Aberystwyth University has been recognised with the presentation of the British Grassland Society Innovation Award for the development of high water soluble carbohydrate or what farmers know as ‘high sugar’ varieties.
The award was announced at the BGS 10th Research Conference in Belfast on September 21st, where Dr. Athole Marshall, (leader of the Public Good Plant Breeding Group) accepted the trophy from BGS President John Downes. “These new ryegrass varieties have real benefits for farmers,” says John, who is using them on his Shropshire farm. “"They are highly palatable, high yielding and have the potential to increase animal performance whilst reducing the nitrogen loss to the environment.”
The grasses have been developed by the grass breeding team at IBERS, supported by their colleagues in livestock science and in the Grassland Development Centre, who have demonstrated the benefits of these varieties and encouraged uptake among farmers.
Athole explains that these grasses supply energy to rumen microbes in cattle and sheep at the time required for microbial protein synthesis, with benefits to animal performance and the environment. “Feeding ryegrasses with higher water soluble carbohydrate leads to improved rumen efficiency and evidence suggests this reduces nitrogen losses and lower ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions, through improved protein utilisation.”
There are now 11 Aber high sugar grass varieties, bred by IBERS, on the UK market, having proven themselves through the independent Recommended Grass and Clover List scheme.
Further Aber high sugar grass varieties are in National List testing, which will offer more benefit to farmers in the coming years with further improved varieties in the pipeline at various stages in the IBERS breeding programme. This programme is currently sponsored by Defra and industry partners, including Germinal Holdings, DairyCo, EBLEX, HCC, LMCNI and QMS, through the Sustainable Livestock Production (SLP) LINK programme.
The BGS Innovation Award can be awarded to individuals or teams that are deemed by BGS Council to have made a significant contribution to the development of grassland or forage utilisation in UK.
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Dr. Athole Marshall