To develop improved plant materials that enhance productivity of irrigated pastures in semi-arid growing regions.
- Release new varieties with improved nutritional quality, palatability, and livestock utilization.
- Develop improved plants that require reduced inputs of irrigation and fertilizer.
- Discover improved selection protocols and methods for use in forage germplasm improvement.
- Develop new genomic resources for use in evaluation and breeding.
- Identify the role of plant endophytes in abiotic and biotic plant stress tolerance in semi-arid growing regions.
Line-source irrigation for drought analysis
- Improved grass and legume cultivars that have enhanced digestibility, elevated soluble sugar concentrations, and softer, more-palatable leaves to increase animal intake, gains, and health.
- New grasses and legumes that can survive drought and efficiently utilize limited fertilizer, are compatible in grass/legume mixtures, and will conserve water resources.
- Research will elucidate how plant spacing, machine harvesting versus livestock grazing, and hybrid vigor affect plant selection to make forage breeding more effective and efficient.
- Molecular biology tools used in breeding and selection that will elucidate the genetic mechanisms behind increased digestibility, soluble sugar, and soft leaves.
- Research will determine the extent and differences in plant genetic control versus symbiotic fungal endophyte effects upon drought and other stress tolerances.
Improved Plant and Management Practices
- High-yielding tall fescue cultivars with improved nutritional quality (e.g., higher digestibility and soluble sugars, and lower lignin).
- Soft-leaved fescue germplasm to be used in breeding programs to improve livestock intake and utilization of tall fescue.
- Tall fescue cultivars with increased drought tolerance that require less irrigation to maintain high yields.
- Tall fescue cultivars that are more compatible with nitrogen-fixing legumes for improved economic and environmental sustainability.
- Genetic mapping in tall fescue to understand traits of interest including soft leaves, higher digestibility, and drought stress.
- Discovery and development of evaluation and selection methods that allow simulation of seeded stands and grazed pastures.
Highly digestible tall fescue
- Recent release of "Cache" meadow bromegrass (2004) with improved yield under reduced irrigation.
- High-yielding, drought-tolerant meadow bromegrass cultivars for dryland (very limited irrigation) pastures.
"Cache" meadow bromegrass
- Recent release of "Don" yellow-flowered alfalfa (2008) with extreme persistence under reduced irrigation. "Don" also possesses a lower growth form that mixes well with grasses to provide nitrogen for grasses.
- High-yielding, salt-tolerant, spreading-type (rhizomatous) alfalfa cultivars which are adapted to the intensive grazing.
- Non-bloating birdsfoot trefoil cultivars that are high-yielding and persistent under intensive grazing in irrigated pastures.
- Drought-tolerant, upright cultivars of cicer milkvetch and kura clover as legume components in pasture mixes.
- Identify growth factors that influence compatibility of legume/grass mixtures and their interaction with the environment.
- Identify and map genes controlling salt tolerance in legumes.
Non-spreading (left) and spreading (right) alfalfa
Trefoil grazing persistence study
- Orchardgrass germplasm with improved winter survival for high-elevation, cold-temperate regions.
- Identify hybrid vigor groups that lead to high-yielding, persistent orchardgrass hybrids and cultivars.
- Develop novel orchardgrass germplasm that will be used for gene mapping and incorporation of improved stress tolerance and the forage production into current populations.
Orchardgrass grazing study
- Assess the feasibility and utility of warm-season grasses for grazing in areas with predominantly cool-season grass pastures.
- Develop switchgrass cultivars adapted to the irrigated pastures of the semi-arid western U.S.
Warm-season grasses in a temperate environment
- Collect and evaluate the potential of new fungal endophytes to improve drought, salt, and insect tolerance in grasses.
- Develop methods to transfer potentially beneficial endophytes into pasture grass species.
Seed available from the Utah Crop Improvement Association 1-435-797-2082