In the media That's how to make grass drought-resistant

Hand showing plant roots in drought conditions
Grass after a long dry spell - © VRT Nieuws

The ongoing drought is also affecting the livestock sector, as the grass used to feed livestock this winter is drying out completely under drought conditions. ILVO is developing grass that is resistant to long periods of drought.

Grass varieties

We have been working on that for over 10 years now," said Greet Riebbels of ILVO in "The World Today" on Radio 1. "Breeding is a slow activity, but since last year our first drought-resistant grasses have been on the European variety list." Specifically, that means they are offered to the market.

ILVO is a government research institution and thus does not market those grass varieties. Companies can, however, market the varieties they develop. "Those who buy grass varieties usually buy mixtures in which then those drought-resistant varieties can be mixed. When the weather is as extreme as it is today, some blades of grass still remain."

There is no on or off button to make grasses drought resistant.

Breeding grasses for very specific traits is not easy. "There is no on/off button to make grasses drought resistant," says Greet Riebbels, spokeswoman for ILVO. "Drought resistance is one of those traits that form a continuum of just a little bit better than another grass and just a little bit worse." What's more, drought resistance isn't the only thing we breed for. "We also keep an eye on digestibility, nutritional value, sod density and winter resistance."

So how does it work? Breeding involves looking for sire and dam lines that already score well on the traits they want to distribute. These are crossed and sown in a trial field. "Only the very strongest seeds that meet the desired characteristics are kept and used for a new generation. We keep repeating that until we arrive at a new variety. A variety that is better than anything that is already commercially available on the market."

Bron: VRT Nieuws


Contact us

Greet Riebbels

Communications manager at ILVO

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