A closer look at our work at Cropvale
Cropvale has a long growing season of around 300 days. The site is well sheltered with grass growth limited by frost and cold weather in the winter, and drought in the summer.
Because of its location, there is a strong focus at Cropvale on testing varieties and mixtures designed for use in central and southern England and Wales; areas where a lack of summer rainfall and fungal diseases such as crown rust can affect both grass yield and quality.
Varieties tested at Cropvale typically include early, intermediate and late heading varieties of perennial ryegrasses; hybrid and Italian ryegrasses; cocksfoot; timothy; tall fescue; vetches; and red and white clovers.
Trial plots are sown twice a year, with main sowing occurring in the autumn. Sowing is followed by two years of cutting to simulate normal farm use. The plots are cut for two silage crops, followed by a normal rotational grazing. Subject to weather conditions, cutting dates will follow standard farm practice. Spring sowings are mainly of species such as lucerne, which is slow to establish and prefers a full summer before cutting commences.
In addition, there are demonstration plots that will replicate yield information about the performance of different species compared to known varieties such as Tyrella and Dunluce. Also included in these trials are mixtures that will give both total yield and seasonal growth information as well as sward densities and disease resistance figures for all our current and prospective BarForage leys.
To perform well at Cropvale, varieties must have good overall disease resistance, be able to perform over a long growing season and be tolerant of hot, dry conditions.
We also have a number of plots at Cropvale dedicated to trialling new varieties of amenity grass, grown for use at football stadiums and on golf courses – among other applications. In addition, we are testing mixtures and species such as tall fescue, westerwolds and vetches, which are outside the UK National List system.
Cropvale is one of 14 breeding and research stations that Barenbrug operates worldwide – two of which are in the UK. Our other UK trials site is at Loughgall in Northern Ireland and is managed in conjunction with our partners at AFBI. This multi-site approach, spanning two very different locations, means that the testing of new potential varieties takes into account all of the main UK grass usage areas.
Where possible, the same seed stock will be used at both of our UK sites, and although we don’t undertake a direct comparison between yields at the different sites, we do compare performance by looking at the highest yielding varieties within each trial.