Breeding lines of summer-dormant cool-season grasses suited for the Rolling Plains are ready for seed increase after four years of improvement at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center near Vernon.
Dr. Dariusz Malinowski, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research forage cropping systems scientist, began work in 2000 with cool-season perennial grasses for the Rolling Plains region in collaboration with Grasslanz Technology Ltd. in New Zealand. In 2009, the collaboration turned its focus to breeding summer-dormant, cool-season grasses.
Malinowski is now ready to send his first Texas breeding lines back to New Zealand for seed increase in 2014 to ensure a high quality seed is available for worldwide evaluation and studies, he said. Final evaluation studies will be conducted in the U.S. and several other countries.
Others who are a part of the research effort are Dr. Bill Pinchak, AgriLife Research ruminant nutritionist; Dr. Yves Emendack, AgriLife Research post-doctoral plant pathologist; and Steve Brown, Texas Foundation Seed Service general manager, all of Vernon. The project is funded by Grasslands Innovation Ltd. ofNew Zealand.
Early on, AgResearch Grasslands in New Zealand was testing a cultivar eventually released as Fletcha, Malinowski said. He was working with Pinchak at the time on wheat grasses “and we didn’t have too much luck because they only lasted for one or two seasons. When we saw the Fletcha growing here, we began working with AgResearch and they sent us more lines.”
The group is trying to find forages to fill the grazing niche needed during October to December, a time when cattlemen are waiting for wheat to grow in the fall for forage, and again from March through May if wheat is produced for grain, Malinowski said.
“Our major goal has been to develop cultivars of summer-dormant tall fescue, orchard grass and perennial ryegrass with superior persistence, forage productivity and disease resistance, and tolerance to drought and high temperatures in summer,” he said.
“Our previous, long-term (10 years) studies have shown that summer-dormant, cool-season perennial grasses are perfectly adapted to the environments of the Southern Great Plains and incomparably more resistant to summer drought than other introduced cool-season perennial forage grasses.”
The project now has three tall fescue and three orchard grass breeding lines in the final stages of cultivar development. In addition, two synthetic lines of perennial ryegrass with exceptional tolerance to high temperatures are being developed and are ready for final selection in New Zealand, he said.