• The Effects of Seed Treatment, Sowing date, Cultivar and Harvest date on the Yield and Quality of Sugar Beet

      O'Donovan, Timothy; Irish Sugar Plc; Germain’s U.K. (2002)
      Trials were carried out at Lyons Estate Research Farm during 1998 on sugar beet (Beta Vulgaris). The commercially available seed treatment ‘Advantage’ was tested across 3 sowing dates, 4 commercially available cultivars and 4 harvest dates. Trials were carried out in a factorial arrangement and subject to standard statistical analysis. Data on emergence, ground cover, yield and quality was analysed. Percentage emergence of seed was satisfactory in all experiments. The benefit of ‘Advantage’ treatment during the emergence stage of growth was clearly seen in all trials. On average ‘Advantage’ seed emerged 2-3 days earlier than untreated seed and reached the target population (>75,000 plants/ha 4 days sooner than the control seed. During the growing season, ground cover was measured until complete cover was reached. In the trials it was less clear as to the benefits of using the treatment ‘Advantage’, as it was seldom statically different from control seed. As yields can be related to the radiation intercepted, it is not surprising that there were not large differences in yields. Delaying sowing date resulted in decreased yields of clean beet, sugar and extractable sugar. The two triploid varieties, Libra and Accord gave better yields of clean beet, sugar and extractable sugar than the two diploid cultivars Zulu and Celt. Delaying harvesting gave increased yields of clean beet, sugar and extractable sugar. The ‘Experimental’ seed treatment was not superior to the ‘Advantage’ treatment. In only one of the experiments was ‘Advantage’ better than the control treatment in respect of yield of clean beet, in the time of harvest trial. This was not reflected in yield of sugar or extractable sugar. In all other situations, there were no differences between ‘Advantage’ and the control treatments. There was no benefit from using ‘Advantage’ seed in the current experiments. However earlier sowing dates require investigation with pre-treated seed.
    • A note on the effect of elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases on spring wheat yield in Ireland

      Donnelly, A; Finnan, John; Jones, M. B.; Burke, James I. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2005)
      Spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L., cv. Minaret) was grown to maturity in open-top chambers under two concentrations of CO2 (ambient and 680 μmol/mol) and two concentrations of O3 (ambient and ambient +90 nmol/mol). Elevated concentrations of CO2 increased grain yield whereas yield was reduced by elevated O3. The damaging effect of elevated O3 on grain yield was reduced when the crop was grown in a combination of elevated CO2 and elevated O3. It is concluded that wheat production in Ireland is expected to benefit from rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2.
    • Changes in yield and composition of barley, wheat and triticale grains harvested during advancing stages of ripening

      Stacey, Pamela; O'Kiely, Padraig; Hackett, Richard; Rice, B.; O'Mara, Frank P.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2006)
      This study involved an evaluation of the changes in grain yield, nutritive value, ensilability and harvesting losses of intensively managed winter cereals harvested during the advancing stages of ripening. Five cereal crops (barley cv. Regina and wheat cv. Madrigal in 2001; barley cv. Regina, wheat cv. Falstaff and triticale cv. Fidelio in 2002) were assessed. Twenty plots per crop were arranged in a randomised complete block design, with five times of harvest (four for barley in 2002) and four replicate blocks per harvest. Dry matter (DM) yields changed relatively little between harvest dates, but fresh yields declined (P < 0.001) over time due to the moisture loss associated with ripening. Time-course changes in indices of nutritive value, such as concentrations of crude protein, starch and ash, and organic matter digestibility, were relatively small and did not follow a consistent pattern. Ensilability indices, such as DM and watersoluble carbohydrate concentrations and buffering capacity, indicated that satisfactory fermentations were likely if such crops were ensiled; buffering capacity, generally declining with advancing maturity. Harvesting losses were not clearly related to growth stage at harvest. It is concluded that winter cereal grain (barley, wheat and triticale) DM yields and quality were relatively constant as ripening progressed from DM concentrations of around 550 to >800 g/kg.
    • The microbiological and chemical composition of baled and precision-chop silages on a sample of farms in County Meath

      McEniry, Joseph; O'Kiely, Padraig; Clipson, Nicholas J.W.; Forristal, P.D.; Doyle, Evelyn M.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2006)
      Baled and precision-chop silages were examined on a sample of farms in the Irish midlands to determine microbiological and chemical composition at feedout. Silage making practices and chemical composition were similar to those in national surveys. Wilting was an integral part of baled silage production and was reflected in a more restricted fermentation (higher pH and water-soluble carbohydrates, with lower fermentation acids and buffering capacity) compared to precision-chop silage. Yeast numbers were higher in baled silage, suggesting a more aerobic environment within the bale. Although the fermentation appeared similar in the outer and inner horizons of baled silage, yeast, lactic acid bacteria and Enterobacteria numbers were higher in the outer horizon suggesting less exacting anaerobiosis adjacent to the surface of the bale.
    • Manipulating the ensilage of wilted, unchopped grass through the use of additive treatments

      McEniry, Joseph; O'Kiely, Padraig; Clipson, Nicholas J.W.; Forristal, P.D.; Doyle, Evelyn M.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2007)
      Baled silage composition frequently differs from that of comparable conventional precision-chop silage. The lower final concentration of fermentation products in baled silage makes it more conducive to the activities of undesirable microorganisms. Silage additives can be used to encourage beneficial microbial activity and/or inhibit detrimental microbial activity. The experiment was organised in a 2 (chop treatments) × 6 (additive treatments) × 2 (stages of ensilage) factorial arrangement of treatments (n = 3 silos/treatment) to suggest additive treatments for use in baled silage production that would help create conditions more inhibitory to the activities of undesirable microorganisms and realise an outcome comparable to precision-chop silage. Chopping the herbage prior to ensiling, in the absence of an additive treatment, improved the silage fermentation. In the unchopped herbage, where the fermentation was poorer, the lactic acid bacterial inoculant resulted in an immediate increase (P < 0.001) in lactic acid concentration and a faster decline (P < 0.001) in pH with a subsequent reduction in butyric acid (P < 0.001) and ammonia-N (P < 0.01) concentrations. When sucrose was added in addition to the lactic acid bacterial inoculant, the combined treatment had a more pronounced effect on pH, butyric acid and ammonia-N values at the end of ensilage. The formic acid based additive and the antimicrobial mixture restricted the activities of undesirable microorganisms resulting in reduced concentrations of butyric acid (P < 0.001) and ammonia-N (P < 0.01). These additives offer a potential to create conditions in baled silage more inhibitory to the activities of undesirable microorganisms.
    • Beef production from feedstuffs conserved using new technologies to reduce negative environmental impacts

      O'Kiely, Padraig; Crosson, Paul; Hamilton, William J.; Little, Enda; Stacey, Pamela; Walsh, Karl; Black, Alistair D; Crowley, James C.; Drennan, Michael J; Forristal, Dermot; et al. (Teagasc, 2007-12-01)
      Most (ca. 86%) Irish farms make some silage. Besides directly providing feed for livestock, the provision of grass silage within integrated grassland systems makes an important positive contribution to effective grazing management and improved forage utilisation by grazing animals, and to effective feed budgeting by farmers. It can also contribute to maintaining the content of desirable species in pastures, and to livestock not succumbing to parasites at sensitive times of the year. Furthermore, the optimal recycling of nutrients collected from housed livestock can often be best achieved by spreading the manures on the land used for producing the conserved feed. On most Irish farms, grass silage will remain the main conserved forage for feeding to livestock during winter for the foreseeable future. However, on some farms high yields of whole-crop (i.e. grain + straw) cereals such as wheat, barley and triticale, and of forage maize, will be an alternative option provided that losses during harvesting, storage and feedout are minimised and that input costs are restrained. These alternative forages have the potential to reliably support high levels of animal performance while avoiding the production of effluent. Their production and use however will need to advantageously integrate into ruminant production systems. A range of technologies can be employed for crop production and conservation, and for beef production, and the optimal options need to be identified. Beef cattle being finished indoors are offered concentrate feedstuffs at rates that range from modest inputs through to ad libitum access. Such concentrates frequently contain high levels of cereals such as barley or wheat. These cereals are generally between 14% to 18% moisture content and tend to be rolled shortly before being included in coarse rations or are more finely processed prior to pelleting. Farmers thinking of using ‘high-moisture grain’ techniques for preserving and processing cereal grains destined for feeding to beef cattle need to know how the yield, conservation efficiency and feeding value of such grains compares with grains conserved using more conventional techniques. European Union policy strongly encourages a sustainable and multifunctional agriculture. Therefore, in addition to providing European consumers with quality food produced within approved systems, agriculture must also contribute positively to the conservation of natural resources and the upkeep of the rural landscape. Plastics are widely used in agriculture and their post-use fate on farms must not harm the environment - they must be managed to support the enduring sustainability of farming systems. There is an absence of information on the efficacy of some new options for covering and sealing silage with plastic sheeting and tyres, and an absence of an inventory of the use, re-use and post-use fate of plastic film on farms. Irish cattle farmers operate a large number of beef production systems, half of which use dairy bred calves. In the current, continuously changing production and market conditions, new beef systems must be considered. A computer package is required that will allow the rapid, repeatable simulation and assessment of alternate beef production systems using appropriate, standardised procedures. There is thus a need to construct, evaluate and utilise computer models of components of beef production systems and to develop mathematical relationships to link system components into a network that would support their integration into an optimal system model. This will provide a framework to integrate physical and financial on-farm conditions with models for estimating feed supply and animal growth patterns. Cash flow and profit/loss results will be developed. This will help identify optimal systems, indicate the cause of failure of imperfect systems and identify areas where applied research data are currently lacking, or more basic research is required.
    • Yield losses caused by late blight (Phytophthora infestans (Mont.) de Bary) in potato crops in Ireland

      Dowley, L.J.; Grant, Jim; Griffin, Denis (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2008)
      Field experiments, using foliage blight susceptible cultivars, were conducted at Oak Park, Carlow from 1983 to 2007 to determine the loss in potato production caused by crop infection with Phytophthora infestans. In each of the 25 years an untreated control was compared with protectant and with systemic fungicide programmes to determine the effect of late blight on the defoliation percentage at the end of the season, the area under the disease progress curve, marketable tuber yield, total tuber yield and yield of blighted tubers. The earliest date of first recorded late blight was 22 June and the latest was 15 September, but in 15 of the 25 years, blight was first recorded between 17 July and 13 August. Disease reached epidemic proportions in all but 4 of the years. Yields varied considerably among years. The mean loss in total yield from not using a fungicide was 10.1 t/ha. Differences in yield were significant across the 25 seasons. No overall increase in aggressiveness of the pathogen could be detected over the 25-year period.
    • The Characterisation of Genetic Diversity of a Collection of Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.).

      McGrath, Sarah Katherine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (2008)
      Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is a member of the Poaceae family, is native to Europe, the Near East and North Africa and is grown in all the temperate climate areas of the world as a forage and turf grass. Due to its persistence, palatability and nutritive value for ruminants, it is a principal component of pastures, and the most important forage species in Ireland. The primary aim of this thesis was to characterise the level of diversity in a large genetic resource collection of L. perenne germplasm held at Teagasc, Oak Park. Molecular markers, both chloroplast and nuclear SSRs, biochemical characters (water soluble carbohydrate, crude protein, and dry matter), and morphological characters (vegetative and flowering) were used to characterise this diversity, as well as population differentiation, and geographic patterns. Levels of diversity in all systems were found to be high in this collection. Primers to amplify microsatellite markers from the chloroplast genome of Lolium perenne were designed and optimized using de novo sequencing and in silico sequences. With one exception, each locus was polymorphic with a range from two to nine alleles in L. perenne. The newly developed primer pairs cross-amplified in different species of Lolium and in 50 other grass species representing nine grass subfamilies. These markers were then used to characterise chloroplast genetic diversity at allelic and haplotypic level in 104 accessions of Lolium perenne, other Lolium species, Festuca species and ´Festulolium cultivars. Furthermore, genetic relationships between the accessions and biogeographic distribution of haplotypes were investigated using a range of population genetic diversity measures and an Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA). An extremely high number of 511 haplotypes was detected in 1,575 individuals possibly attributable to natural and anthropogenic migration. Much of the L. perenne European ecotype diversity (61%) could be attributed to within population variance. Plastid gene pools and maternal lineages for L. perenne could be clearly identified. Evidence was found showing a most likely migration route of L. perenne into Ireland from southern regions of Europe northwards. 5 Morphological variation of 13 vegetative and reproductive traits was characterised for 2,481 individuals from 50 L. perenne accessions, a mixture of Irish and European ecotypes and cultivars. Considerable levels of among and within population variation was found across traits. Principal component analysis and UPGMA dendrograms were able to separate ecotypes from cultivars. Cultivars generally had later dates of ear emergence, better spring and summer growth, longer rachis length and more spikelets per spike than ecotypes. Correlation and regression analysis were used to assess relationships between traits and strong positive relationships were seen between reproductive characters, i.e. rachis length with spikelets per spike, florets per spikelet and glume length. The strong relationship between rachis length and the other reproductive characters suggested that rachis length could be used as a predictor for reproductive performance. Later flowering was correlated with improved spring and summer growth. Water soluble carbohydrate (WSC; glucose and fructose determined by HPLC), crude protein (determined via LECO analysis), and dry matter contents were recorded for 1,320 individuals, pooled into 132 samples from 33 L. perenne ecotypes and cultivars at five different harvest time points across the 2004 growing season. While, in general, the cultivars had higher WSC contents than the ecotypes, individual ecotypes did show potential to be used in breeding programmes, as they showed higher values than all other accessions at particular cutting points. In correlation analyses, positive relationships were shown between dry matter and glucose both early and late in the growing season, and this was in agreement with the amount of leaves compared to stem at these times in the growing season. PCA analysis allowed the separation either between cultivars and ecotypes, or between tetraploid cultivars and the rest of the accessions at four out of five cutting points. In the ANOVA analysis, cutting point was the most significant factor influencing the variation in the traits. Eight nuclear SSR markers were used to characterize genetic diversity in 928 individuals from 40 diploid ecotypes and cultivars of L. perenne. High levels of genetic diversity (0.82, Nei’s gene diversity, over all accessions) and high numbers of alleles (22.25 average number of alleles per locus) was found. An average polymorphic information content (PIC) value of 0.81 across all loci was found. When deviations from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium were tested, the majority of populations 6 had an excess of homozygotes. Very low levels of linkage disequilibrium were found between pairs of loci tested. AMOVA analysis and F statistics were used to test partitioning of variation, and most variation was found within populations (e.g. 31% for glume length in ecotypes). UPGMA, PCA and STRUCTURE analysis all gave similar patterns of relationships between populations, where relationships with high bootstrap support on the UPGMA dendrogram were also seen in the other analyses. The overall results of the thesis are discussed in the context of plant breeding programmes and natural population genetic variation. Strategies for incorporation of the results of the thesis (and the novel markers developed within) into plant breeding programmes are suggested.
    • Conservation characteristics of baled grass silages differing in duration of wilting, bale density and number of layers of plastic stretch-film

      Keles, G.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Lenehan, J.J.; Forristal, P.D. (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2009)
      The effects of duration of wilting, bale density and number of layers of plastic stretchfilm used to wrap bales on the conservation characteristics of baled grass silage was investigated. Grass from the primary growth of a Lolium perenne dominant sward was wilted for 24, 48 or 72 h. For each duration of wilting, 54 cylindrical bales (1.2 m nominal diameter) were made with the baler at a high or low density setting for alternate bales. Bales were wrapped with 2, 4 or 6 layers of plastic stretch-film and stored outdoors for 295 days. Two layers of plastic stretch-film resulted in inferior preservation, lower digestibility and extensive mould growth and deteriorated silage. Substantial improvement occurred to each of these characteristics from applying four layers of stretch-film (P<0.05), while six layers of stretch-film brought little further improvement. When four or six layers of stretch-film were used, extensive wilting restricted fermentation and improved the standard of preservation with the apparently difficult-to-preserve herbage used in this experiment. However, under the anaerobic conditions provided by four or six layers of stretch-film neither progressive wilting nor bale density had a major effect on digestibility, or the extent of surface mould growth or deteriorated silage. It can be concluded that a minimum of four layers of conventional black plastic stretch-film were required to achieve suitably anaerobic conditions, and that the additional benefits from six layers were small. Once anaerobic conditions were achieved, extensive wilting improved the conservation characteristics of baled grass silage made from a difficult-to-preserve crop, whereas bale density had little impact.
    • Characteristaion of the initial generations of recombinant inbred lines in perennial ryegrass (lolium perenne L.) using molecular markers and cytogenetics

      Anhalt, Ulrike C. M.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; National Development Plan (2009)
      In this study three early generations of a recombinant inbred line (RIL) breeding programme have been characterised by cytogenetic methods, metabolite profiling and a biomass quantitative trait loci (QTL) study. In situ hybridization was used to analyse recombination and the structure of the parental and the F1 genomes. A metabolite profiling study via GC/MS was conducted to characterise the metabolite activity of the parental inbred lines and the F1 hybrid. Total metabolites were compared across a growth season in a replicated field design. A genetic map was constructed with 75 nuclear DNA markers in the F2 generation, which consisted of 360 individuals. 63% of the markers in the F2 population did not fit the expected Mendelian ratios and showed significant (p<0.05) segregation distortion. Fresh weight, dry weight, and dry matter were analysed with an alpha lattice design throughout the greenhouse and field experiments. Additionally, leaf width was recorded in the greenhouse experiment. Heritablities ranged for the biomass related traits between 78 and 95%. This study provides an insight into the recombination of the parental and the F1 genotypes. Different levels of metabolite activities could be found among the two parental inbred lines across three harvest dates. The QTL study indicates the position of biomass QTL related traits. Major QTL with log of odds scores >3 were identified on linkage groups 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7. About 30% of overall variation could be explained. Increased biomass yield is still one of the most important traits in any Lolium perenne breeding programme. The present QTL study can be used for fine mapping of biomass yield related traits in L. perenne. In the long term biomass yield can be eventually monitored and predicted with marker assisted selection for some of the QTL identified in the present study.
    • Can herbage nitrogen fractionation in Lolium perenne be improved by herbage management?

      Hoekstra, Nyncke J.; Struik, Paul; Lantinga, Egbert A.; Van Amburgh, Michael; Schulte, Rogier P.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2009-08-20)
      The high degradability of grass protein is an important factor in the low nitrogen (N) utilization of grazing bovines in intensive European grassland systems. We tested the hypothesis that protein degradability as measured by the Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (CNCPS) protein fractionation scheme, can be manipulated by herbage management tools, with the aim to reduce N loss to the environment. A field experiment comprising the factorial combinations of three fertilizer N application rates (0, 90 and 390 kg N ha−1 year−1), three regrowth periods (2–3, 4–5, and 6–7 weeks), two perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) cultivars [Aberdart (high sugar content) and Respect (low sugar content)] and two cutting heights (approximately 8 and 12 cm) was conducted at Teagasc, Johnstown Castle Research Centre, Wexford, Ireland. The plots were sampled during four seasons [September/October 2002 (late season), April 2003 (early season), May/June 2003 (mid season) and September 2003 (late season)] and protein fractions were determined in both sheath and lamina material. The protein was highly soluble and on average 19% and 28% of total N was in the form of non-protein N, 16% and 19% in the form of buffer-soluble protein, 52% and 40% in the form of buffer-insoluble protein, and 12% and 13% in the form of potentially available cell wall N for lamina and sheath material, respectively. In both materials only 0.9% of total N was present as unavailable cell wall N. In general the herbage management tools investigated did not have much effect on protein fractionation. The effects of regrowth period, cultivar and cutting height were small and inconsistent. High N application rates significantly increased protein degradability, especially during late season. This is relevant, as it has been shown that enhanced protein degradation increases the potential N loss through urine excretion at a time when urine-N excreted onto pasture is prone to leaching. However, the effect was most evident for sheath material, which forms only a small proportion of the animals' intake. It was concluded that there appears to be little scope for manipulating the herbage-N fractionation through herbage management. The consequences for modelling herbage quality could be positive as there does not seem to be a need to model the individual N fractions; in most cases the N fractions can be expressed as a fixed proportion of total N instead.
    • Chemical composition of lamina and sheath of Lolium perenne as affected by herbage management

      Hoekstra, Nyncke J.; Struik, Paul C.; Lantinga, E. A.; Schulte, Rogier P.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2009-08-20)
      The quality of grass in terms of form and relative amounts of energy and protein affects both animal production per unit of intake and nitrogen (N) utilization. Quality can be manipulated by herbage management and choice of cultivar. The effects of N application rate (0, 90 or 390 kg N ha−1 year−1), duration of regrowth period (2–3, 4–5, or 6–7 weeks), and cutting height (8 or 12 cm) on the mass fractions of nitrogen (N), water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC), neutral detergent fibre (NDF), acid detergent fibre (ADF), lignin and ash in lamina and sheath material of a high-sugar (Aberdart) and a low-sugar (Respect) perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) cultivar, were studied in a factorial field experiment during four seasons in 2002 and 2003. Expressing NDF and ADF mass fractions in g per kg WSC-free dry matter (DM) increased the consistency of treatment effects. The high-sugar cultivar had generally higher WSC mass fractions than the low-sugar cultivar, especially during the late season. Moreover, the relative difference in WSC mass fraction between the two cultivars tended to be higher for the lamina material than for the sheath material, which suggests that the high-sugar trait may be more important under grazing conditions, when lamina forms the bulk of the intake, than under mowing regimes. Longer regrowth periods and lower N application rates increased WSC mass fractions and decreased N mass fractions; interactions between regrowth period and N application rate were highly significant. The mass fractions of NDF and ADF were much less influenced. The NDF mass fraction in terms of g per kg WSC-free DM tended to be higher at lower N application rates and at longer regrowth periods. The effect of cutting height on herbage chemical composition was unclear. In conclusion, high-sugar cultivars, N application rate and length of the regrowth period are important tools for manipulating herbage quality.
    • Ryegrass organelle genomes: phylogenomics and sequence evaluation

      Diekmann, Kerstin; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (2010)
      Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is the most important forage grass of temperate regions of the world. The main objective in breeding perennial ryegrass cultivars is to increase its biomass. Chloroplasts and mitochondria are two organelles of the plant cell that are actively involved in biomass production. Chloroplasts derive from cyanobacteria and are the location of photosynthesis in plant cells. Mitochondria derive from α-proteobacteria and are involved in cell respiration. Due to their evolutionary history both organelles still contain their own genome which is in general maternally inherited. The interest in chloroplast genome sequences increased in recent years because they offer a useful option for plant genetic engineering. The risk of transgene escape via pollen flow is reduced while the expression of the transgene due to the high number of chloroplast genome copies is increased (in comparison to nuclear genome transformation). Mitochondrial genomes are of special interest because they are involved in cytoplasmic male sterility. Cytoplasmic male sterility is a very important trait in plant breeding programmes because it enables the cost efficient production of hybrid seed. Additionally, both organelle genomes can be used for molecular evolution or phylogenetic studies, as well as for population genetic approaches. Therefore the major aim of this thesis was to sequence the entire chloroplast and mitochondrial genomes of L. perenne to provide sequence information for chloroplast genetic engineering approaches, insights into the mitochondrial genome of a male fertile L. perenne cultivar and to gather knowledge about sequence variation in both genomes that can be used to design new markers for phylogenetic and population genetic studies.
    • A note on the conservation characteristics of baled grass silages ensiled with different additives.

      Keles, G.; O'Kiely, Padraig; Forristal, P.D. (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2010)
      The effects of contrasting conventional silage additives on chemical composition, aerobic stability and deterioration, and mould development in baled silage were investigated. Herbage from a grassland sward was wilted for 24 h and treated with acid (formic or sulphuric), sugar (molasses), bacterial (Lactobacillus plantarum, L. plantarum + Serratia rubidaea + Bacillus subtilis, or L. buchneri) or sugar + bacterial (molasses + L. plantarum) additives prior to baling and wrapping. Silage made without an additive preserved well and had a low incidence of mould growth, and the effects of additives were minor or absent. It is concluded that little practical benefit was realised when conventional additives were applied to wilted, leafy, easy-to-ensile grass prior to baling and ensilage.
    • Predicting soil moisture conditions for arable free draining soils in Ireland under spring cereal crop production

      Premrov, Alina; Schulte, Rogier P.; Coxon, Catherine E.; Hackett, Richard; Richards, Karl G. (Teagasc, 2010)
      Temporal prediction of soil moisture and evapotranspiration has a crucial role in agricultural and environmental management. A lack of Irish models for predicting evapotranspiration and soil moisture conditions for arable soils still represents a knowledge gap in this particular area of Irish agro-climatic modelling. The soil moisture deficit (SMD) crop model presented in this paper is based on the SMD hybrid model for Irish grassland (Schulte et al., 2005). Crop and site specific components (free-draining soil) have been integrated in the new model, which was calibrated and tested using soil tension measurements from two experimental sites located on a well-drained soil under spring barley cultivation in south-eastern Ireland. Calibration of the model gave an R2 of 0.71 for the relationship between predicted SMD and measured soil tension, while model testing yielded R2 values of 0.67 and 0.65 (two sites). The crop model presented here is designed to predict soil moisture conditions and effective drainage (i.e., leaching events). The model provided reasonable predictions of soil moisture conditions and effective drainage within its boundaries, i.e., free-draining land used for spring cereal production under Irish conditions. In general, the model is simple and practical due to the small number of required input parameters, and due to model outputs that have good practical applicability, such as for computing the cumulative amount of watersoluble nutrients leached from arable land under spring cereals in free-draining soils.
    • Factors influencing the conservation characteristics of baled and precision-chop grass silages

      McEniry, Joseph; Forristal, P.D.; O'Kiely, Padraig (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      The composition of baled silage on Irish farms frequently differs from that of comparable precision-chop silage. This paper concerns a field-scale study designed to investigate: (a) the effects of number of layers (2, 4, 6 or 8) of polyethylene stretch film and the duration of storage (7 vs. 18 months) on the conservation characteristics of baled silage, and (b) the conservation characteristics of baled (4 layers of stretch film) and precision-chop silages. All silages were made following three durations of wilting (0, 24 or 48 h). Wilting restricted silage fermentation, with silage pH being highest (P<0.001) and the concentration of fermentation products lowest (P<0.001) for the 48 h wilt treatment. Wrapping bales in only 2 layers of polyethylene stretch film resulted in extensive visible mould growth, but mould growth was practically eliminated by the application of 4 or more layers of film. Silage fermentation characteristics were generally improved by wilting, and by 4 compared to 2 layers of stretch film. Extending the storage duration of baled silage from 7 to 18 months reduced (P<0.001) the concentration of fermentation products and increased in-silo fresh weight losses (P<0.001) and visible mould growth. Whereas 4 layers of conventional stretch film are normally sufficient, 6 layers may be necessary to prevent mould growth when bales of unwilted silage are stored for a second season. Under good farm-management conditions differences observed between baled and precision-chop silages probably result mainly from differences in the concentration of dry matter in herbage at ensiling.
    • Characterisation of Miscanthus genetic resources: a combined analysis of plastid and nuclear microsatellites, nrDNA sequences, flow cytometry and morphology.

      De Cesare, Mariateresa; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; National Development Plan (2012)
      Miscanthus is a highly important forage and horticultural genus of perennial grasses (Poaceae) primarily native to South East Asia. Miscanthus is under intense global investigation as a biomass source for renewable energy production and several breeding initiatives are underway to develop new genotypes optimized for improved biomass and tolerance to a range of environmental stress conditions. A collection of 128 accessions belonging to the genus Miscanthus was established in Oak Park, Teagasc, Carlow, in 2008 and was investigated for morphological and molecular variation. Morphological traits were measured at the end of the second growing season and were compared with herbarium specimens of Miscanthus. Vegetative and inflorescence traits were scored and analysed using basic summary statistics, tests of normality and Principal Components Analysis (PCA). A large degree of morphological variation was recorded in the collections. The PCA of herbarium specimens was able to separate some species from others but there was also considerable overlap among species in the ordination, especially M. sacchariflorus, M. sinensis, M. condensatus and M. floridulus. These are known to be closely related and can interbreed. The PCA of the specimens from the Oak Park collection was less informative because of missing data due to lack of inflorescences (accessions did not flower). It was clear that morphology alone is often insufficient to distinguish taxa especially when inflorescence characters and ploidy information is lacking. The ploidy level of the accessions in the collection was evaluated through flow cytometry. The ploidy included di-, tri- and tetraploids. All individuals labelled as M. ×giganteus showed a triploid status, together with the newly bred M. sacchariflorus×M. sinensis hybrids. Most M. sinensis were diploids. Miscanthus sinensis Tea-62 was triploid and comparable to the value of the M. ×giganteus. A different situation was found for other non-diploid M. sinensis, in particular four M. sinensis ‘Goliath’ and the M. sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ Tea-33. In these the ratio measured by the flowcytometer was in between the values of the triploid M. giganteus and tetraploid M. sacchariflorus standards. The ‘Goliath-like’ hybrid is likely an autotriploid with three M. sinensis haploid sets, whereas M. ×giganteus is an allotriploid that is supposed to have two genomes from M. sinensis and one from M. sacchariflorus, which has a lower amount of DNA per haploid genome. DNA sequences of the internal transcribed spacer of the nrDNA were obtained for 76 genotypes in the collection and compared for polymorphism. The SNPs were particularly VI useful for differentiating M. sinensis, M. sacchariflorus and M. ×giganteus accessions and in combination with ploidy and morphology offer high potential for taxon identification. To gather more markers for population level diversity and differentiation studies, new microsatellite markers for both plastid and nuclear genomes were developed. For the development of plastid markers the chloroplast genome information of Saccharum officinarum was used. The nuclear SSRs (nSSRs) were developed from the sequences of 192 clones obtained from microsatellite enriched library. New primer pairs for the amplification of nineteen nuclear loci and six chloroplast loci were developed. Both chloroplast (cpSSR) and nSSR primers were used to characterise DNA variation, to help establish gene pools and to better understand hybridization and introgression. Huge genotypic variation was found within the genus, mostly in the species M. sinensis. The markers showed wide utility across a large number of Miscanthus species and also some closely related genera. The analysis of the cpSSRs showed a high number of different haplotypes but with a clear bias in allele composition between M. sinensis and the two species M. sacchariflorus and M. ×giganteus, thus confirming M. sacchariflorus as the maternal lineage of the hybrid M. xgiganteus. The nSSRs were found to be highly polymorphic across the collection and transferable to closely related genera such as Saccharum. The new markers were also used in UPGMA clustering and Bayesian structuring analysis to group individuals according to their similarity. Three major clusters of individuals were defined using the Bayesian STRUCTURE analysis with nuclear markers (nSSRs) and two with plastid markers (cpSSRs). In conclusion, the morphological, ploidy, sequence and microsatellite results highlighted the high level of diversity still unexplored in the genus and have clarified taxon identity of many accessions in the collection. A large set of new markers have been developed for the plant breeding and systematics community. The newly developed markers will be useful to further explore this diversity and to select useful traits for breeding of new and improved genotypes for biomass production.
    • The health status of Irish honeybee colonies in 2006

      Coffey, M. F.; Barth, Susanne; Hayes, K.; Breen, J.; European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2013)
      This study assessed the health status of Irish honeybee colonies and provides a snapshot of the incidence of a number of important colony parasites/pathogens including: the mite Varroa destructor; three associated viruses (deformed wing virus (DWV), acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV) and Kashmir virus (KBV)); the tracheal mite Acarapis woodi; the microsporidian Nosema spp., and the insect Braula coeca. During June/July 2006, 135 samples of adult bees were collected from productive colonies throughout Ireland and standard techniques were used to determine the presence and absence of the parasites and pathogens. Varroa destructor was positively identified in 72.6% of the samples and was widely distributed. Although the samples were analysed for three viruses, DWV, ABPV and KBV, only DWV was detected (frequency = 12.5%). Acarapis woodi and Nosema spp. occurred in approximately 11% and 22% of the samples, respectively, while B. coeca, a wingless dipteran that was once common in Irish honeybee colonies, was very rare (3.7%). Samples where all the pathogens/parasites were jointly absent were statistically under-represented in Leinster and DWV was statistically over-represented in Munster. In Ulster, there was over-representation of the categories where all parasites/pathogens were jointly absent and for A. woodi, and underrepresentation of V. destructor.
    • Ireland’s Rural Environment: Research Highlights from Johnstown Castle

      O hUallachain, Daire; Fenton, Owen; Foley, M (Teagasc, 2013)
      This booklet gives a flavour of the current research in Teagasc Johnstown Castle Research Centre and introduces you to the staff involved. It covers the areas of Nutrient Efficiency, Gaseous emissions, Agricultural Ecology, Soils and Water quality.