Welsh grass breeders deliver leading varieties with significant global impact

Mr Alan Lovatt, senior grass breeder at IBERS has been presented with an Honorary BSc Degree by Aberystwyth University for 42 years of commitment to grass breeding and the development of Aber High Sugar Grasses.

Mr Alan Lovatt, senior grass breeder at IBERS has been presented with an Honorary BSc Degree by Aberystwyth University for 42 years of commitment to grass breeding and the development of Aber High Sugar Grasses.

25 July 2017

Grass breeders from Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) have again produced leading varieties in the latest official recommended lists with two new high sugar ryegrasses.

AberSpey and AberLee top their respective categories for ME (metabolizable energy) yield/ha on the newly published Recommended Grass and Clover Lists (England and Wales), adding further to the Aber High Sugar Grass (Aber HSG) range that has become a worldwide success story since the first variety was launched in 2000.

Now grown around the world, on farms as far afield as New Zealand, the Aber HSG varieties are renowned for their combination of dry matter yield and quality and offer livestock farmers a significant opportunity to produce more milk or meat from homegrown feed.

In the latest (2017) Irish Pasture Profit Index (PPI), Aber HSG varieties top their respective categories, with AberMagic (intermediate diploid), AberClyde (intermediate tetraploid), AberChoice (late diploid) and AberGain (late tetraploid) leading the way.

AberSpey combines a high grazing yield with outstanding quality (D-value) to rank as the highest ME yield/ha variety amongst all intermediate heading tetraploid perennial ryegrasses on the latest lists. 

In official trials, AberSpey shows consistently high dry matter yields throughout, with a particularly strong late season performance with 111% of controls for autumn grazing, and 112% of controls for third and fourth cut silage.

AberLee, a late headingdiploid perennial ryegrass, has the highest quality (Grazing D-value, 78.6) of all perennial ryegrasses on the latest list, which combines with good dry matter yields to make it one of the top performers for ME yield/ha.

Both new varieties will be marketed exclusively worldwide by Germinal Holdings. 

“AberSpey and AberLee add to what is now a comprehensive Aber High Sugar Grass range of top-ranking ryegrasses on the Recommended Grass and Clover Lists,” said Professor Athole Marshall, Head of Public Good Plant Breeding at IBERS, speaking at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show.

“IBERS’ grass breeders have used their distinctive grass breeding methodology to build on the strengths of earlier varieties. The combination of high dry matter yields and exceptional quality means an outstanding ME yield in these varieties, but combined with the important agronomic traits (ground cover, persistency, disease resistance) that ensure the grasses perform in the field.

“High water soluble carbohydrate (sugar) content that is inherent in the Aber ryegrasses is the result of a 30-year breeding programme that has focused on combining the highest quality with all other important traits. It’s great news for livestock farmers all over the world that the breeding programme is continuing its progress so positively.”

Mr Alan Lovatt, a senior grass breeder at IBERS was presented with an Honorary BSc Degree by Aberystwyth University last week for 42 years of commitment to grass breeding and the development of Aber HSGs.

Alan Lovatt will present the latest Aber HSG varieties in the IBERS Aberystwyth University marquee - stand number CCA795 – on Wednesday 26 July 2017 at 2.30 pm. All welcome.

The grass breeding programme at IBERS Aberystwyth University, funded by Germinal Holdings since 1986, has produced the latest high-ranking Aber High Sugar Grasses, the intermediate tetraploid perennial ryegrass AberSpey and the late diploid perennial ryegrass AberLee.

Aber® High Sugar Grass varieties are proven performers in terms of dry matter yield, D-value and ME yield, boosting production from forage as well as the livestock industry‚Äôs environmental credentials.

This technological breakthrough has been recognised with a string of prestigious awards, beginning in 2003 when the first Aber High Sugar Grass, AberDart HSG, became the first grass variety to win the NIAB Variety Cup. In subsequent years, other awards have been gained as the innovation delivered by Aber High Sugar Grass impacts increasingly on the sustainability of livestock farming, with AberGreen most recently becoming the second grass variety to win the NIAB Cup.

Industry awards for grass breeding (Aber HSG) at IBERS Aberystwyth University:

2003     -  NIAB Cup (AberDart)

2007     -  Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) Award for Technology and    


2009     -  The Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education

2011     -  Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Excellence with

    Impact Award

2011     -  British Grassland Society Innovation Award

2013     -  Times Higher Education Awards Outstanding Contribution to Innovation 

               and Technology

2015     -  NIAB Cup (AberGreen)