Breeding tall fescue for establishment vigour


  • H.S. Easton
  • C.G. Pennell



Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) has been shown to have great potential to supply quality forage through the summer in environments where the water regime limits performance of perennial ryegrass (Loliumperenne L.). The use of tall fescue seed in NZ has risen from almost none 15 years ago to about 200 tonnes today. However the further use of tall fescue is limited by the difficulty some farmers have in establishing it, particularly when performance is compared with perennial ryegrass. Experience is generally that the widely used imported cultivar AU Triumph establishes more vigorously than the NZ cultivar Grasslands Roa. Tall fescue breeding at AgResearch Grasslands has in the past 10 years concentrated on improving the vigour at establishment, while maintaining the excellent standard of forage quality achieved with Roa. Data are presented indicating substantial progress, with breeding line families outperforming all control cultivars. However, further data suggest a strong effect of conditions of seed ripening and harvest on the vigour of seed when sown. Data comparing different field multiplications and comparing breeding families harvested in the field and in the glasshouse confirm this. Field sowings and more controlled nursery box experiments are described. The paper discusses implications for plant breeding method and for seed production







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