• Capturing the economic benefit of Lolium perenne cultivar performance

      McEvoy, Mary; O'Donovan, Michael; Shalloo, Laurence; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      Economic values were calculated for grass traits of economic importance in Irish grass-based ruminant production systems. Traits considered were those that had the greatest potential to influence the profitability of a grazing system. These were: grass dry matter (DM) yield in spring, mid-season and autumn, grass quality (dry matter digestibility; DMD), 1st and 2nd cut silage DM yield and sward persistency. The Moorepark Dairy Systems Model was used to simulate a dairy farm. Economic values were calculated by simulating the effect of a unit change in the trait of interest while holding all other traits constant. The base scenario involved a fixed herd size and land area (40 ha), and an annual DM yield of 13 t/ha. The economic values generated under the base scenario were: € 0.152/kg for DM yield in spring, € 0.030/kg for DM yield in mid-season and € 0.103/kg for DM yield in autumn; € 0.001, € 0.008, € 0.010, € 0.009, € 0.008 and € 0.006 per 1 g/kg change in DMD for the months of April to September, respectively; € 0.03/kg for 1st cut silage DM yield, € 0.02/kg for 2nd cut silage DM yield; and − € 4.961 for a 1 percent reduction in persistency. Alternative scenarios were examined to determine the sensitivity of the economic values to changes in annual DM yield, sward utilisation and a scenario where silage production was the focus of the system. The economic values were used to calculate a total merit index for each of 20 perennial ryegrass cultivars based on production data from a 3 year plot study. The rank correlation between the merit index values for the cultivars under the base scenario and the scenario involving a reduction in herbage utilisation was 1.0, while that with the scenario involving reduced annual DM yield was 0.94. It is concluded that the total merit index can be used to identify cultivars that can generate the greatest economic contribution to a grass-based production system, regardless of system or intensity of grass production.
    • Studies into the dynamics of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) seed mixtures

      Gilliland, T. J.; Hennessy, Deirdre; Griffith, V. (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2011)
      The dynamic interactions of four perennial ryegrass seed mixtures sold in Northern Ireland were studied under simulated grazing and conservation managements. Mixture composition was determined as changes in phosphoglucoisomerase isozyme frequencies by calculation from known isozyme frequencies of the component varieties. Mixture productivity was measured over 4 growing seasons and compared with yields predicted from those of the components in monoculture, weighted for their actual proportion in the mixture. No significant differences were found between actual yields for mixtures and their predicted yields, but when these differences were regressed against the heading date range among the varieties in each mixture, a significant relationship was observed. A wide range in heading date among the components of the mixtures was associated with increased yield stability over years and with a declining yield advantage for the mixture compared to its components grown as monocultures. In this aspect, the mixtures showed a more rapid decline under conservation management than under simulated grazing. Mixtures also had a flatter seasonal yield-production profile than their component varieties. Tetraploid components were more aggressive than diploids, though a more open-growing diploid maintained its proportion in the sward better than a dense-growing type and manipulating the sowing ratios could be used to influence final sward composition after 2 years. It was concluded that the differences in heading date range within mixtures had a significant impact on mixture dynamics, with the tetraploid component being the most aggressive.