Good varieties of smooth-stalked meadowgrass are few in number. The positive results of the variety-testing programme give reason to hope that two new cultivars will soon be added to the range of top varieties.
Nearly a third of crop rotation land is occupied by temporary leys, the main source of high-quality basic ration in the Swiss arable regions. Smooth-stalked meadowgrass plays an important role in leys, particularly those used for four years and more. This valuable forage grass forms a dense, weed-resistant and hard-wearing turf, making it especially useful for pasture. Since it develops quite slowly after sowing, however, smooth-stalked meadowgrass is always used in seed mixtures with species that develop more quickly and thus supply the bulk of the yield at the outset.
A valuable forage grass with few varieties
High-agronomic-quality forage varieties of smooth-stalked meadowgrass have a high leaf mass and few flowering stems. Such varieties therefore produce lower seed yields per area, rendering their seed more expensive, their multiplication unprofitable in many cases, and their survival on the seed market more difficult. This explains the limited range of top varieties of smooth-stalked meadowgrass. At the start of the 2017–2019 smooth-stalked meadowgrass variety testing programme, the List of Recommended Varieties only contained four varieties.
Field trials and evaluation of characteristics
From 2017 to 2019, Agroscope tested four already recommended varieties and six new varieties of smooth-stalked meadowgrass (Poa pratensis L.) to determine their suitability for use. The field trials were conducted on four sites spread out over the arc of the Swiss Plateau between Lake Geneva and Lake Constance, as well as on two sites at higher altitudes in Central and Eastern Switzerland. All observations were made on small plots.
Of the parameters evaluated, yield, general impression of the sward canopy, competitive ability, persistence, resistance to leaf diseases and suitability for cultivation at higher altitudes received double weighting, whilst juvenile development, winter-hardiness and digestibility were single-weighted in the evaluation. An index calculated from the individual characteristics allowed a comparison of the varieties and served the final overall agronomic evaluation of the varieties. The four already recommended varieties were used as a reference.
Two new top varieties
Of all the varieties tested, the two new Agroscope varieties ‘PP 1005’ and ‘PP 0505’ stood out in particular. In the overall evaluation, ‘PP 1005’ scored distinctly better than the best of the already recommended varieties, whilst ‘PP 0505’ came in just behind. For each of the parameters ‘yield’, ‘general impression of the sward canopy’, ‘resistance to leaf diseases’ and ‘winter-hardiness’, the two new varieties came in in first, second or third place. In addition, ‘PP 1005’ distinguished itself as most suitable for cultivation at altitudes above 900 m, whilst ‘PP 0505’ beat all other varieties in terms of resistance. Both varieties are currently undergoing the Federal Office of Agriculture’s legal and administrative authorisation process. Once this process has come to a positive conclusion, Agroscope will grant a recommendation.
Varieties recommended by Agroscope
Agroscope regularly carries out variety testing of different species of forage plants aimed at issuing independent and up-to-date varietal recommendations for the Swiss agricultural sector. The constantly updated List of Recommended Varieties of Forage Plants thereby produced is an important guide for the Swiss seed sector which provides farmers with quick access to advances in breeding such as those achieved by the new varieties ‘PP 1005’ and ‘PP 0505’.
- Agroscope tested ten varieties of smooth-stalked meadowgrass between 2017 and 2019.
- The two new varieties ‘PP 1005’ and ‘PP 0505’ performed better than the other tested varieties for nearly all characteristics.
- Agroscope will recommend these new varieties as soon as the legal and administrative approval process has concluded.
- Given the current meagre range of high-quality smooth-stalked meadowgrass varieties on offer, rapid admission of the two new varieties to the List of Recommended Varieties is particularly desirable.