A cumulative increase in grass yields of around 0.5% and the addition of 46 varieties to the Recommended List are just two of the achievements from the 30 year partnership between Barenbrug and AFBI.
Barenbrug announced the partnership in 1991 with the objective of providing a steady flow of new varieties to meet the demands of grassland and livestock industries.
“Ever since then, under the initial stewardship of AFBI breeder David Johnston, and latterly Dr Gillian Young, the Barenbrug-AFBI partnership has managed advance after advance,” said Barenbrug UK’s commercial agricultural manager David Linton.
“New varieties have shown consistent and significant improvements in traits such as yield, digestibility and disease resistance,” he continued. “As we seek to reduce the agricultural sector’s carbon emissions to meet the industry’s net-zero goals, it’s vital we look to new varieties which raise productivity and output. We need to be doing more with less, something that good grass genetics can help us achieve.”
AFBI’s breeding programme is supported by funding from Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, with commercialisation and marketing the responsibility of Barenbrug.
A combination of real-world testing at AFBI’s Longhall site and further evaluations through the UK and Ireland provides a supply of varieties. The partnership is set to bring new grasses to market every year until 2028, with a further 45 varieties in official trials at Cropvale, Barenbrug’s mainland trials site.
The partnership currently has 19 ryegrass varieties listed on the 2021/22 Recommended Grass and Clover Lists, including the top-performing Gracehill ryegrass.
“As we celebrate 30 years of the partnership, we will continue to provide the nation’s farmers with a range of grasses that meet their changing requirements for high-performing cutting and grazing mixtures, under a variety of conditions,” said Mr Linton.