Identifying morphological traits associated with vegetative persistence in the perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) cultivar 'Grasslands Samson'
Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) vegetative persistence (maintained herbage growth and survival without reseeding) is an important economic trait for farmers in New Zealand as it decreases the frequency of reseeding pastures. Vegetative persistence is difficult to breed for due to a lack of long-term trials to observe the complex interactions between plant genotype and the environment. In a long-term trial a genetic shift in the sown cultivar population could occur as individual plants with advantageous traits outcompete other plants and survive. The objectives of our study were to investigate the occurrence of a potential genetic shift in a sample (30 plants) of a persistent population of ‘Grasslands Samson’ perennial ryegrass. Persistent plants were collected from a nine-year-old trial at Poukawa, Hawke's Bay. To identify a genetic shift, these plants were compared to a sample of 30 plants sourced from commercial seed of ‘Grasslands Samson’ representing the original population. This study estimated genotypic variation within and between the populations for eight morphological traits after 10 weeks' growth under glasshouse conditions. Phenotypic and genotypic correlations between the traits were estimated. Results showed that the persistent population had significantly (P<0.05) greater means for tiller number, reproductive tiller number, lamina sheath length, and dry weight. Future research studying these traits across farm environments would further understanding of their roles in vegetative persistence of ryegrass.
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