Are you using the best grass variety? Ongoing study throws up changes in performance

Teagasc is changing its control grass variety as it investigates the performance of grass varieties on commercial farms.

Tryella has been used as the control grass variety across all farms in the first four years of the program but this will change to using AberGain as the control variety from 2016.

Teagasc has been investigating the performance of grass varieties on commercial farms with average dry matter (DM) production between varieties ranging from 12t DM/ha to 13.3t DM/ha.

There are over 80 farms involved in the project currently, with numbers set to increase as more farms are recruited from across the country.

The objectives of the study are to –

  1. Investigate the total seasonal grass DM production of grass varieties on commercial farms and to determine their ranking across farms.
  2. Establish if location/environment by variety differences are present in the performance of varieties (e.g. is the ranking varieties different if sown in contrasting soil types).
  3. Establish the long-term DM yield persistence of varieties over five and 10 years.

One of the reasons for changing the control variety is that Tryella is now beginning to fall in economic value in the Pasture Profit Index, while AberGain retains a very high position.

Over the three-year period AberGain had the highest average tonnage of DM/ha (13,319) followed by AberChoice with 13,148t of DM/ha.

On the other end of the scale, Majestic had the lowest average with just 12,020t of DM/ha with Dunluce having produced an average of 12,267 tonnes of DM/ha over the three years.

Most grass varieties in the program recorded significant increases in growth in their second year, with Glenveagh recording a jump in growth of approximately 2,000t.

A realistic target for this project is to have 80% of PPI listed varieties on farms by 2018, according to Teagasc.

It is envisaged that all new varieties introduced to the recommended list and PPI list will be sown and evaluated from 2016 onwards.

Grass quality (DMD, crude protein) will be measured on a subset of the 80 farms, (approximately 30) from April to September.

Sward ground score will be measured annually on all paddocks at the end of the growing season.

The initial three years annual grass DM production data has established year by variety differences across the farms.

There were also trends in grass quality differences between varieties; however, more data is required to fully quantify these differences.