Improving red clover persistence under grazing


  • J.L. Ford
  • B.A. Barrett



Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) offers a number of advantages as a forage legume, but is constrained by poor persistence under grazing. The objective of this research was to test the growth and persistence of 18 populations among a wider set of 142 New Zealand and overseas accessions of red clover, in a mixed-sward replicated plot trial under rotational grazing by cattle in the Manawatu. We also measured plant morphological trait expression in a row trial using samples of the same red clover populations evaluated in the plot trial. Most red clover populations showed a marked decline in growth score after two years under grazing. The new variety 'Grasslands Relish' showed significantly (P<0.05) higher growth and persistence than all other entries over the three and a half years of the trial. After three and a half years under grazing, 60% of the 'Grasslands Relish' plants were alive, more than any other entry, and significantly (P<0.05) more than any commercial cultivars in the trial. Traits observed in the row trial were weakly to moderately correlated with performance in the mixed sward trial. Variation among growth habit in the row trial was the best predictor of performance in the three and a half year mixed sward trial (R2 = 0.50). This research identifies a new red clover cultivar with potential for high growth and improved persistence under cattle grazing, and demonstrates the value of global genetic resources for improving the genetic merit of forages available in New Zealand.







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