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EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 25EUROPEAN-SEED.COM I EUROPEAN SEED I 25 Assuming the demand for meat and milk products remains high then agricultural grassland productivity will become more important. In the short term the current low prices for all agricultural products may drive the inefficient farmer out of business. These low prices will hurt the entire agricultural supply industry. Better grassland farmers renew their grass regularly so the future for agricultural grass variety breeding is safe. The amenity grass market should remain fairly stable. It is affected by general economic well-being large projects and housing construction. However the general golf market sector is declining and the building of new courses seems to have stopped. Cycling fever is damaging golf clubs as people spend their leisure time on a bicycle rather than a golf course. TURF BREEDING TARGETS Breeding targets for turf in Europe are to a large degree driven by official or private testing systems which rank varieties according to various parameters. The rankings are published in national variety lists of which the most important are the German Recommended Seed Mixture RSM list the French Les varits de Gramines gazon the UK Turfgrass Seed the Dutch Gras Gids and the Scandinavian Scanturf list. In order to sell to professional turf users such as golf courses and high-ranked football stadiums it is important to have varieties in the top of these ranked lists. Accordingly there is strong competition among breeders to generate new varieties which make it to the top of these lists. This is a great advantage for grass users who will regularly receive the best-performing varieties available. The overall breeding target in turf is to produce the best possible sward quality. This means turfgrass breeders seek to develop varieties that produce attractive green dense and fine-leaved swards all year round under different climates or managements. Such conditions include the following hot dry conditions in France Italy and Spain cold conditions in Scandinavia central and eastern Europe mild and humid summers in the UK tolerance to various diseases associated with different climates such as crown rust in France or snow mould in Scandinavia tolerance to wear for grasses used on sports fields and tolerance to close mowing for grasses used on golf courses. While breeding for these conditions is a challenge in and of itself the competitive production of a variety is strongly correlated to its seed yield. Hence breeding for quality cannot compromise an acceptable seed yield. As an added challenge for the breeder there is a negative correlation between turf quality and seed yield for many turfgrass species. Success in the Stadium Maximum density and wear resistance combined with good disease resistance good recovery and a mid-green leaf colour are the key criteria when selecting varieties for reseeding mixtures for professional sports pitches which consist almost entirely of perennial ryegrass due to its rapid germination and establishment. After all conditions in the stadium are far from ideal light conditionsespecially in the winter monthsare very low poor air exchange rates increase disease pressure and at the same time opportunities for disease control are limited. The sward requires special care due to the artificial structure of the soil. High stresses especially in winter months combined w ith unfavourable weather conditions e.g. high rainfall lead to a decline in grass quality. Varieties that are suitable for sporting activities and tend to germinate early even when soil temperatures are still low are particularly sought-after. FORAGE BREEDING TARGETS Plant breeding in forage grasses for European markets is driven both by direct demands from the market and by those set up in the testing systems in different countries. For a variety to be marketed in Europe it is a legal requirement to be included on an official variety list in an EU country. The listing is based on the agricultural value of the variety relative to already listed varieties. In general any new variety must be as good as the listed varieties and surpass listed varieties in at least one of the eligibility criteria. When a variety has entered a Plant breeders test new turf varieties for many traits including wear and disease tolerance shoot density and colour. Picture shows machine mimicking studs on soccer shoes. Photo DSV In concentrated production units investments are more intensive both in land and production facilities and larger shed feeding systems are the norm. Photo DLF As the trend for bigger farms continues forage grass breeding will reflect the increased demand for silage-based production. Photo DLF variety list in an EU country it can be sold throughout Europe. Traditional Breeding Programmes Traditional breeding has been succinctly described as cross the best with the best and hope for the best. Big investment is required for field trials to find out which if any of the crosses were worthwhile. In addition any proper forage grass breeding programme must have access to a Haldrup- type plot harvester and should also be able to measure grass quality. A b a s ic for a ge g r a s s br e e d i n g programme with one breeder and minimal facilities costs approximately 200000 per year. In addition there is no guarantee any programme will produce successful new varieties. As with other crops grasses that suit one area often do not perform as well in other regions. This means any new variety has a limited potential market. For example disease may be a critical factor in one area however a small climatic difference can make the same disease irrelevant a few hundred miles away. In addition a variety that will grow year-round may suit areas such as parts of New Zealand and Ireland but would be killed by the cold winter in mainland Europe. Also the forage perennial ryegrass market is subdivided by ploidy levels diploid and tetraploid and heading date groups early intermediate and late. The simple economics of cost and return on investment have resulted in a large reduction in the number of grass breeding companies over the past 40 years. However the market remains extremely competitive partly due to the continuing market share of varieties whose principal merit is low cost. Local Adaption Requirement In several EU countries the forage market is a quality market and efficient sales require local recommendation in specific markets. The local adaptation requirement is due to differences in environment and use depending on economy and traditions. In Ireland as a result of its moist mild climate continuous grass growth during the season is ideal for grazing and costs for investments in facilities for silage production and sheds can be reduced. In