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Main research question/goal
Italian ryegrass is a short-lived (± 2 years) fodder grass that is mown and ensiled on cattle farms. Italian ryegrass is often sown in autumn, cut in the following spring, and replaced with a maize cultivation. Alternatively, it is harvested during the whole growing season and replaced in the third year by another crop after having been cut in spring. The breeding aim is fast growth  early in spring with a high annual  herbage yield. To increase palatability, crown rust resistance is important. Digestibility and sugar content are also important, as is a high seed yield. For the annual subspecies Westerwolths ryegrass, a high herbage yield in a short period and rust resistance are important.

Research approach
Because crown rust is the most important disease of ryegrass, artificial rust infection is applied to exclude rust-susceptible plants from further breeding. Diploid and tetraploid genotypes are evaluated during one year in the field. The best plants (especially based on early vigour) are cloned. The seed production of the clones is determined. Progenies of clones with a good seed yield are sown in field plots to determine herbage yield, digestibility and sugar content. The clones with the best offspring are the components of new synthetic varieties. In Westerwolths ryegrass, because of its short life cycle, family selection instead of clone selection is applied.

Italian ryegrass is mainly used in short-term leys. The acreage of the temporary grassland in Flanders is about 50,000 ha. Italian ryegrass is also sown as a green manure crop. Ryegrass silage is the most important homegrown source of protein in the winter diet of dairy cattle. New cultivars are created with a high yield and fodder quality. Seed producers in Flanders and elsewhere profit from good seed sales.  Research projects about growth, development and genetics of ryegrasses are applied in ILVO’s Italian ryegrass breeding programme.
Effective start/end date1/01/07 → …

ID: 4154426