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24 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM24 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM BREEDING TARGETS FOR RYEGRASS IN EUROPE BY MARCEL BRUINS ith an annual production output of 90000 metric tonnes mt perennial ryegrass accounts for almost 50 per cent of total grass production forage and turfgrasses making it the most important grass species in Europe. Whereas perennial ryegrass accounted for approximately 40 per cent of turfgrasses compared with around 60 per cent of forage grasses 20 years ago nowadays production volumes for forage and turfgrasses are more or less equal. If you allow for the fact that a significant proportion of forage grasses are used in homemade turf mixes the share increases again. The breeding objectives for turf and forage grasses focus on their respective uses. With forage crops the aim is to obtain high yielding plants which are as broad-leaved and fast-growing as possible. The constituents are also important because these crops provide a food source for cattle. Usage also plays an important role with perennial ryegrass for turf. Varieties for ornamental lawns should be fine-leaved whilst sports pitches require robust hard-wearing varieties with good regenerative capabilities so bare patches created by intensive use for example can quickly recover. Tolerance of cutting is also important frequency and height as golf courses in particular are mown very often and very close. Climate and location also must be taken into consideration. For example some varieties such as variety Pascal are bred for the dry warm climate of the Mediterranean while a winter-hardy variety such as variety Promotor is ideal for northern and eastern European climates. PERENNIAL RYEGRASS MARKETS These markets are very different from arable crop markets. As a generalisation both the amenity and forage markets have sectors where price is the main driver and sectors where quality is king. To further complicate the issue most ryegrass is sold in mixtures with other ryegrasses and grasses. This allows suppliers to salt a mediocre mixture with a small quantity of quality material and focus on the fact the mixture contains X. In some countries most grassland is regularly renewed in order to maximise forage production. In other areas there is little replacement. For example the Netherlands replaces approximately 11 per cent of its grassland yearly. The UK only renews two to three per cent yearly. This is reflected in average forage production per hectare which is much higher in the Netherlands than in the UK. Recognition of the increased production available from better grassland management and renewal has the potential to greatly increase the market size. Amenity and Agricultural Grasses Future Markets If as forecasted there is an increased demand for food arable areas in the world will have to concentrate on crops to feed people and monogastrics. Ruminants may be pushed to non-arable areas. There is already evidence of this in Argentina where soybean and maize have pushed beef cattle out of traditional areas. Breeders at DLF Germinal DSV and Barenbrug weigh in on the importance of creating new ryegrass varieties. Turf perennial ryegrass is widely used for repeated overseedings of sports pitches due to its rapid germination and establishment. Photo DLF TABLE 1. Development of perennial ryegrass production.