New grass and clover varieties added to recommended lists

To help improve grassland productivity, the 2024/2025 Recommended Grass and Clover Lists (RGCL) for England and Wales have welcomed 11 new varieties, including two Italian ryegrass, six perennial ryegrass, two lucerne and one festulolium variety.

With production costs a key concern for livestock farmers, maximising forage use on farm can help reduce feed costs and improve efficiency. The RGCL can help farmers understand the performance attributes of different varieties, such as yield, persistency, quality and disease resistance and select the ones for their farming system.

The rigorous selection process for new grass varieties ensures reliability and performance. Each new variety undergoes six years of independent testing across UK trial sites, assessing various parameters including total annual yields, seasonal growth, metabolisable energy yield, winter hardiness, and disease resistance. Only varieties demonstrating clear improvements over existing ones make provisional status. Reassessment, after an additional five years of trials, determines whether a provisional (PG/PS) variety is recommended for widespread adoption (G).

The Grass and Clover Recommended List (RL) trial programme is managed by NIAB on behalf of the BSPB, with trials sites across the country run by NIAB, IBERS, DLF, DSV and disease sites run by NIAB and Barenbrug. The lists build on the initial data of the National Variety Listing trials (also managed by NIAB on behalf of the BSPB for APHA), which include sites run by AFBI, SRUC and SASA.

The Recommended Lists trial programme is funded, through the BSPB, by plant breeders and agents, with contributions from the AHDB and HCC.

Katie Evans, Senior Engagement Manager (Beef & Lamb) at AHDB, said, “While farmers readily embrace advancements in livestock genetics, reliance on outdated grassland varieties persists. Failing to adopt modern varieties represents a missed opportunity to capitalise on significant investments by plant breeders, resulting in superior attributes such as yield, digestibility, and seasonal growth not being utilised by livestock farmers.

“The priority to minimise production costs per unit of output remains a key concern for livestock producers. Increasing forage production on farm presents a viable strategy to reduce reliance on external feed sources. Grassland farms in England and Wales hold substantial potential to increase both the quantity and quality of grass and clover produced and consumed.”

Ellie Sweetman, Forage Crop Specialist at NIAB and RGCL Trial Coordinator on behalf of BSPB, said, “To get onto the RGCL, varieties must offer a clear improvement to the existing list. This pushes the standard continually upward with increasing yield, nutrient use efficiency and ME yield per hectare, therefore increasing production efficiency and sustainability. Reseeding with RGCL varieties will increase sward performance and give good return on investment. By providing growers with accurate, independent data, the RGCL facilitates informed decision making in selecting varieties and mixtures tailored to specific farming conditions and animal requirements.

“As well as variety information, the RGCL offers farmers technical guidance on reseeding, maximising sward productivity.”

The 2024/2025 RGCL handbook and full lists for merchants are available from the AHDB website

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