Growing Futures

Breeding better cereals

Breeding better cereals

Breeding high-quality forage cereals for a range of New Zealand farming systems provides food-supply flexibility

The expansion of the dairy sector has led to increased demand for specialist forage crops of high quality and yield. Through their use in silage production and winter grazing, these crops provide excellent feed sources for livestock during times of low pasture production.

Forage cereals are a particularly useful option. Dry matter volume from these crops can be almost twice that of pasture during some critical growth periods, and the flexibility they offer with sowing, grazing and harvesting means feed supply can be matched to particular livestock requirements and seasonal demands.

In 2001, a joint forage cereal breeding programme was established between Plant & Food Research and proprietary seed company Agricom to develop high-quality cereal forages with superior disease resistance, suitable for a range of New Zealand farming systems. Plant & Food Research is responsible for the pedigree breeding of the new cultivars, from which Agricom then select the most promising for trialling in a range of geographic locations.

The partnership focuses on oats, barley and triticale for their high dry matter and available energy content, and two cultivars of each cereal type have since been released.

It is estimated that cultivars from the programme accounted for 70% of the area planted in proprietary forage cereals in New Zealand in 2014-15.

A conservative analysis of four of the programme’s cultivars show the average net benefit to the pastoral sector of just a single cultivar to be $9.1 million over a seven-year life cycle, suggesting a significant positive economic benefit to New Zealand.

The forage cereal breeding programme is funded by Plant & Food Research and Agricom (a subsidiary of PGG Wrightson Seeds).

Created: September 2016

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