Two new, Agri-Food and Biosciences’ Institute (AFBI) grass varieties - Ballyvoy and Dundrod – are about to be released on to the commercial market .

Both head on June 2, and are important new additions to AFBI's late diploid perennial ryegrass portfolio.

According to grass breeder Dr. Gillian Young, Ballyvoy and Dundrod are the latest of a long line of varieties of high reputation produced by the grass breeding programme at AFBI, Loughgall.

The work is sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Dr. Young commented: “Both the varieties will be marketed through AFBI's commercial partner, Barenbrug UK Ltd., and limited quantities of seed will be available in spring 2022.

This brings the number of commercially released forage grass varieties to arise from the AFBI grass breeding programme during the past 20 years to 32.

"Of these, 28 have been recommended for use on the Recommended Grass and Clover Lists for England and Wales (RGCL), while 11 have been recommended for use in the Republic of Ireland."

Ballyvoy

Ballyvoy has been proven to be a top-performing variety, producing high yields of high quality grass across the season under both silage and grazing managements.

The new variety out-performed all other late diploid varieties on the 2021/2022 RGCL for both annual yield and quality under silage management, with no other late diploid variety on the list producing more metabolisable energy yield per hectare (105% of the mean of all late diploid varieties on the list).

Ballyvoy has also been recommended for use in the Republic of Ireland (ROI), entering the Pasture for Profit Index (PPI) in 2021.

The PPI ranks grass varieties tested across ROI in economic terms, with each variety assigned a monetary value for contribution to net profit/ha based on a range of performance traits.

Testing in the Republic of Ireland revealed the excellent grazing yields produced by Ballyvoy, with a good balance of yield produced across the season, including spring and autumn growth.

Dundrod

Dundrod is another excellent late diploid variety that performs well under both cutting and grazing management schemes, but has been specifically bred for use in silage production.

Packing a punch early in the season, the new variety has been shown to produce huge first cut yields, outcompeting all other late diploid varieties tested on the 2021/22 RGCL (112% of the mean of all late diploid varieties on the list).

The release of Dundrod reflects the long-term effort of AFBI to produce high-performing varieties to address farmer needs in Northern Ireland.

This new variety, which has taken almost 15 years to develop, is a further addition to the extensive portfolio of high performance grasses that have been bred by AFBI for specific uses on farms throughout Ireland and further afield.

According to Dr. Young, grass is the most important crop on farms in Northern Ireland, and one of the most efficient ways of improving productivity from grass is to breed varieties that are well adapted to local farming conditions.

“The investment to date in the AFBI Loughgall grass breeding programme has ensured a steady supply of new varieties like Ballyvoy and Dundrod that can meet the ever changing demands of the grassland industry," she concluded.