High sugar ryegrasses for livestock systems in New Zealand


  • G.R. Edwards
  • A.J. Parsons
  • S. Rasmussen
  • R.H. Bryant




There has been mounting interest over the proposed production and environmental benefits from using perennial ryegrass cultivars bred to have higher water soluble carbohydrate content (high sugar grasses). Here, we objectively review published evidence, from the EU and New Zealand, of the effects of these on milk yield per cow, liveweight gain in sheep, N utilisation and wider trophic interactions. The literature reveals substantial variation in animal responses, though some of the uncertainty in interpretation can be resolved by combining the data from multiple trials, and showing this forms a continuum of response to diet quality. It also reveals variation in the degree to which the sugar trait has been expressed, possibly reflecting a gene x environment interaction. Achieving a more consistent, and probably greater than current, expression of the high sugar trait would be a valuable goal. We suggest 'proof of concept' has been shown, notably for the potential for improving N utilisation in the rumen, and so reducing the proportion of N intake lost in urine. The evidence suggests that this may be a greater challenge, albeit a more valuable goal, because of the relatively high N (crude protein) content forages that predominate in the New Zealand pasture industry. Keywords: animal performance, high sugar grass, Lolium perenne, perennial ryegrass, nitrogen utilisation, trait expression, water soluble carbohydrates







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