A cumulative increase in grass yields of around 0.5% per annum and a total of 46 varieties added to the Recommended List are just two of the achievements from the UK’s most prolific grass-breeding partnership as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Barenbrug announced its partnership with Northern Ireland’s Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in 1991, with the objective of providing a steady flow of new varieties to meet the evolving demands of the UK’s 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,” says Barenbrug’s commercial agricultural manager David Linton.
“New varieties have shown consistent and significant improvements in traits such as yield, digestibility and disease resistance,” he continues. “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 grass breeding programme is supported by funding from Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), with commercialisation and marketing the responsibility of Barenbrug.
The combination of rigorous real-world testing at AFBI’s Loughall site in Northern Ireland, coupled with further evaluations conducted throughout the UK and ROI by Barenbrug, provides the steady supply of new varieties demanded by farmers in their bid to create a more productive, more sustainable industry. While the partnership is set to bring new grasses to market every year up to at least 2025, a further 45 varieties remain in official trials at Cropvale – Barenbrug’s UK trials site – having successfully made it through the demanding Barenbrug Development process.
The AFBI-Barenbrug partnership currently has 19 ryegrass varieties listed on the 2021/2022 Recommended Grass and Clover Lists (RGCL), including the top-performing variety Gracehill – revealed to be the best-performing late-heading perennial ryegrass variety, cementing its position as one of the very best forage grasses available.
“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,” says David.
Left to right: Barenbrug UK’s David Linton, Dr. Gillian Young (AFBI) and Mhairi Dawson from Barenbrug.
Dr. Gillian Young