Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
One of the UK ’s most prolific grass-breeding programmes has set its sights on developing new varieties for the 2040s and beyond. Grass breeding programme improves yields and soil health

One of the UK ’s most prolific grass-breeding programmes has set its sights on developing new varieties for the 2040s and beyond.

It follows a renewed agreement between Barenbrug UK and Northern Ireland’s Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI). The partnership has already formed part of a successful breeding programme for of decades,” says AFBI grass breeder Gillian Young.

“Improved root structure increases the ability of soils to sequester carbon and creates a more resilient sward in dry conditions,” says Dr Young.

“The grass breeding programme has also improved grass digestibility, a factor which is known to reduce ruminant methane emissions. These improved grass varieties expand the tool box for farmers trying to reduce their carbon footprint.”

Responsible for the development and commercialisation of 46 varieties on the Recommended List, the AFBI-Barenbrug partnership has delivered a cumulative increase in grass yields of 0.5% per annum over the 30 years since 1991.

“Working with Barenbrug has meant that we have been able to integrate our work at the very earliest stages of breeding new grass varieties, with global advances in grass breeding through access to genetic resources and germplasms,” says Dr Young.

With increasing evidence of a measurable change in UK climate, and further changes ahead, grass-breeders face a significant challenge to develop varieties that can thrive in what are expected to be very different conditions.

“We’ve seen dramatic changes over the last 20 years,” says Dr Young. “There’s every chance the extreme temperatures and drought we saw in 2022 will become a more regular occurrence.

“Improved root structure increases the ability of soils to sequester carbon and creates a more resilient sward in dry conditions. The grass breeding programme has also improved grass digestibility, a factor which is known to reduce ruminant methane emissions.