Future forage plants for hill country systems


  • S.N. Nichols
  • J.R. Crush
  • C.C. Eady
  • M.J. Faville
  • K. Ghamkhar
  • D.R. Woodfield


The issues currently limiting the performance of forage plants in hill country are largely unchanged from preceding decades. Low soil pH/high aluminium, low soil phosphate and low soil moisture or summer dry conditions are all ongoing problems. Furthermore, predicted climatic changes in many regions will only intensify soil moisture stress. Forage breeding programmes in the 1970s and 1980s delivered a range of cultivars that improved hill country productivity, but small market size for seed has not been conducive to widespread success of these cultivars or to provision of dedicated plant breeding programmes for these farming systems. Intensification is however driving renewed interest in forages for hill country. A wide range of genetic resources is now available to breeders for better adaptation to these conditions. These include large germplasm collections within existing species, germplasm for interspecific crosses, and potential "new" species which have evolved appropriate adaptations at their point of origin. Advances in genomic technologies offer potential to provide accelerated, more targeted selection of germplasm. This would be particularly valuable for traits that are under complex genetic control, or are more difficult to visually assess, such as physiological and root characteristics. Adjustments in pasture management will be necessary to capture the full potential of new germplasm, while tools to improve pasture establishment and renewal (e.g. new herbicide tolerant brassicas) are also needed to enable its successful introduction. The amalgamation of seed companies into large international enterprises adds potential scale to what has traditionally been a localised issue, making the commercial proposition of developing and marketing such specialised products more attractive. These developments, combined with improved seed distribution technologies, should provide a great opportunity for future hill country farming. Keywords: germplasm, phosphorus, aluminium, drought, genomic selection, cultivars






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