New and effective methods to breed timothy grass

Last changed: 28 September 2021
Timothy. Photo.
Project - New and effective methods to breed timothy grass. Photo Pär Ingvarsson.

The project in brief

Timothy grass (Phleum pratense L.) is Sweden’s most common forage grass, and it is therefore highly important in the production of high-quality feed for both cattle and pets. The cultivation of timothy grass also has several positive environmental effects, mainly because it is perennial and thus contributes to an increased humus in the soil and to decreased nutrient leakage. Due to the rapid climate changes we are currently experiencing, the growing conditions for timothy grass will rapidly change. There is consequently a need for new varieties that will allow Swedish agriculture to maintain a high growing security for forage grasses throughout Sweden.

The aim of this SLU Grogrund project is to streamline the breeding of timothy grass in Sweden. In order to do this, we need to develop new methods for the evaluation of important agronomic properties, which in turn can yield a faster and more cost-efficient breeding programme for timothy grass.

A modern breeding programme requires access to many new tools and technologies. We will therefore be sequencing the genome of timothy grass to lay the foundation for the development of several genomic tools for plant breeding of this grass. We will also establish an extensive variety collection of timothy grass, which includes both modern, cultivated varieties and older materials available in various gene banks. This is done in order to ensure that the breeding can start with the broadest possible genetic diversity, making breeding of timothy grass sustainable in the long term. The gathered material will also be tested in field trials at several locations around Sweden in order to identify genetic variation which can benefit the breeding process.

The end goal of the project is to generate a “starter package” for modern plant breeding of timothy grass, which at the end of the project can be handed over to a commercial actor for further development and marketing of new and improved timothy varieties, which enable sustainable ley farming in the whole country. We will also be collaborating with the red clover project, Genomic selection for red clover, around methodology development and in the long term for the development of new, high-yielding ley mixes with species materials from both breeding programmes.

Facts:

Project period: 2019-2023

Project coordinator: Pär Ingvarsson, SLU i Uppsala

Participating organisations: SLU, Lantmännen, Lantbrukarnas Riksförbund

 

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