Agroscope, Institute for Sustainability Sciences ISS, Switzerland

Improved performance thanks to sex: Agroscope’s new Kentucky bluegrass varieties

The year 2014 marked the first occasion when two varieties of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) from Agroscope’s breeding programme, Selista and Sepia, were included in the Swiss List of Recommended Varieties for Forage Plants. Instead of exhibiting the otherwise usual asexual seed formation (‘apomixis’), Selista and Sepia primarily reproduce sexually, like the known variety Lato. Both new varieties can be traced back to breeding and ecotype material systematically selected for sexual seed formation. Sepia particularly impressed with the best vigour during initial development, persistence, and the best dry-matter yield. Both new varieties also exhibited very good resistance to rust (Puccinia spp.) and leaf-spot (e. g. Drechslera poae) diseases. The strategy of focusing on breeding material that primarily reproduces sexually was shown to be eminently worthwhile. Both varieties of a first generation of breeding material reproducing sexually passed the variety testing straightaway. Moreover, a continuous improvement not present in the apomictic breeding material can be observed in the newer sexually reproducing breeding material.

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