Opportunities for new forage species

Published 7 March 11

Project details
The aim of this project was to review current predictions for weather patterns in GB over the next 20 years, as recently published by the Met Office using their UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) analysis tool, to review forage crops used by dairy farmers outside Britain and to generate a list of options for new forage opportunities following climate change in GB.

Some of the outcomes relating to forages and grasses of the future are:

  • New mixtures of grasses and legumes may need to be developed as the climate changes.
  • For forage crops some adaptations for climate change will be common to all species whilst others will vary depending on whether the forage is part of a short term rotation or a long term ley
  • Selection and breeding of varieties better able to tolerate prolonged periods of drought are an area which should be focused on, along with using deep rooting forage mixes that can draw water from further down.
  • The key species of improved grasslands in substantial parts of Europe, Australasia and to a lesser extent North and South America are forage grasses in the families Lolium (ryegrasses) and Festuca (fescues) and forage legumes in the families Trifolium (clovers) and Medicago (particularly Medicago sativa, alfalfa (or lucerne)). These species are the major source of grazed and conserved feed for dairy, beef and sheep production.

Completion Date
November 2010

Lead Contractor
Aberystwyth University (IBERS)

DairyCo and EBLEX

Related products and resources
Along with a comprehensive overview of the different forage species and how they may be suited to potential climate changes, this report also gives a précis of the impact climate change may have on various factors which will affect forage growth.

Grass+ covers all aspects of grassland management and includes organic sward management, improving efficiency of fertiliser use, buffer feeding and managing high yielders at grass. It brings together research from DairyCo and other organisations around the world to make it the definitive guide to managing grass. Grass+ is available by calling DairyCo publications on 024 7647 8702 or emailing publications@dairyco.ahdb.org.uk.

Farmers looking to select the most appropriate varieties for re-seeding will welcome the publication of the latest list of recommended grass and clover varieties by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB). Very few varieties are good enough to make it on to the recommendation list so if you select from it you really are getting the best on offer. The list provides detailed information on the characteristics and performance of each variety, such as seasonal yields, quality and heading dates.

For further information please contact Debbie.McConnell@dairyco.ahdb.org.uk or call 024 7647 8704