Open day is a grass act

4:00pm Friday 23rd May 2014

DELEGATES learned about the potential benefits of ‘advanced’ grass species and received tips on grassland management at a Mole Agriculture open day at Clifton Castle Farms, near Bedale, on Wednesday of last week.

Tim Kerridge, of grass seed specialists DLF Trifolium, said Festulolium, or ‘advanced’ grasses have been developed by crossing fescues with ryegrasses.

These species, produced to allow growers to capitalise on their hybrid vigour, are claimed to be more robust than standard grasses. Increased stress tolerance and greater persistence are said to be two of their main assets. They are also known for their good early spring growth and rapid recovery after cutting.

Mr Kerridge said: “In a reasonable growing year, there may be little difference between advanced grasses and standard types. But in a challenging season the advanced species’ superior qualities become more apparent; they can adapt to a broader range of environments and cope better with drought, for example.

“A standard Italian ryegrass might last for two years, while an advanced type could go on for three or four years. Similarly, a standard hybrid ryegrass could persist for four to five years, with five to six years achievable from an advanced mix.”

Festulolium grasses have been bred for several decades, but the focus has been on producing Italian and hybrid ryegrass types, with supplies of these species still limited on the open market, he said.

The two varieties of advanced Italian ryegrasses from DLF are Perseus and Perun, with the company offering just one variety of hybrid ryegrass; Lofa. Plant breeders are working to develop advanced perennial ryegrass mixes, but it will be at least five years before they are available on a commercial basis, he added.

Advanced grasses currently cost around 10 per cent more than conventional mixes, although Mr Kerridge believed that the extra cost would be outweighed by the benefits.

He predicted that prices of advanced grasses will come down, as they become more mainstream.

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