PhD: Utilisation of new hybrid grasses (Festulolium) to help UK dairy

 

Research Partner:          Aberystwyth University

Project Duration:            January 2016 - December 2018

PhD Student:                   Nuwan Muhandiram

 Nuwan Muhandiram

Increases in the frequency, duration and intensity of extreme weather events such as flood and droughts, widely anticipated in future climate scenarios (Ingram and Porter, 2015) and they are recognized as priority constraints in current and future livestock agriculture as the result of climate change FAO (2008). The impact of these severe weather conditions on livestock producers are two fold first, they reduce livestock productivity due to reduced forage yields and quality. Secondly, they might result significant damage to pastures and the underlying soil in long term. Thus, there is an urgent requirement to make available precise tools for UK livestock producers to be able to mitigate the expected impacts of extreme weather conditions over the coming years.

Through the use of natural grass breeding methods, IBERS has developed hybrid grasses (Festulolium) that combine the forage production and quality characters of ryegrasses with the resilience to stress conditions found in fescue species. In addition, Humphreys et al. (2014) mentioned that Festulolium populations were shown significantly larger and deeper root systems compared to the ryegrass controls. Therefore, impact of new hybrid grasses on performances of major elements of livestock system such as soil, grass and animal are expected to be different with compare to current grasses available. Thus, evaluating of potentials of these grasses to be used in livestock systems to maintain viable productivity and provide protection to soils is more crucial.

This is a novel area of research as the impacts of Festulolium on soil, forage (e.g. silage, nutrients uptake) and the resilience of dairy livestock systems are as yet untested. This work determines the alternative ways of incorporating these intergeneric hybrids into pasture-based dairy systems with the aim of introducing a more resilience, multifunctional grass for the benefit of UK livestock farmers in order to maintain sustainable livestock systems.