Teaming up to create a successful forage grass

November 01, 2011

With the help of a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) small business grant, Wisconsin farmer-breeder Peter Pitts teamed up with Pure-Seed Testing, Inc., of Hubbard, Ore., to create a now widely popular variety of conventional grass forage that is also probably the first certified organic festulolium in North America.

Pitts worked with Michael Casler, who was at that time a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Today Casler is a grass breeder in Madison, at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center operated by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and the research supports the USDA commitment to sustainable agriculture.

Intrigued by Pitts' success with festulolium (pronounced "fes-tu-lo-lium"), a ryegrass (Lolium genus) with a small number of meadow fescue (Festuca) genes, Casler bred the grass with festulolium growing in old university nursery plots throughout Wisconsin. These plants had survived many years of "get tough or die" conditions like those on Pitts' old pasture on his 350-acre, mostly organic beef cattle farm.

Pure-Seed Testing's breeder, Crystal Fricker, screened the plants in Oregon for stem rust resistance, yield, and other desired characteristics. In 1996, breeder seed of the new variety, Spring Green, was produced.

Rose Agri-Seed, Inc., a sister company of Pure-Seed Testing, Inc., obtained exclusive marketing rights for Spring Green. The seed proved so popular that it is used throughout the world and is now sold by Land O' Lakes, Inc., in St. Paul, Minn. More than a million pounds of the conventionally grown seed were sold in its first five years on the market. It is becoming a staple ingredient in forage seed mixes.

Bill Rose of Rose Agri-Seed later had seed grown in Alberta, Canada, on land certified for organic farming. In its first few years on the market, 200,000 pounds of the organically grown seed were sold. Pitts, the University of Wisconsin and Pure-Seed Testing, Inc., share ownership of Spring Green.

The direct involvement of a farmer throughout the development and marketing phases of a new crop variety is rare in the United States.
-end-
This research was also reported in the American Forage and Grassland Council Conference Proceedings.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call 800-795-3272 (voice), or 202-720-6382 (TDD).

United States Department of Agriculture - Research, Education and Economics

Related Breeder Articles from Brightsurf:

Grafting with epigenetically-modified rootstock yields surprise
Novel grafted plants -- consisting of rootstock epigenetically modified to ''believe'' it has been under stress -- joined to an unmodified scion, or above-ground shoot, give rise to progeny that are more vigorous, productive and resilient than the parental plants.

'Madsen' wheat as source of disease resistance
Researchers show that 'Madsen,' a commonly used wheat variety, is resistant to more pests and diseases than recently thought, making it a good source of genes for breeding better wheat.

Bird and reptile tears aren't so different from human tears
Vision is essential for the survival of most animal species and tears provide potentially life-saving protection for the eyes.

1 in 4 UK puppies may be being acquired before minimum recommended age
One in four puppies in the UK may be being acquired before the recommended minimum age--a figure that is considerably higher than what has been reported before--suggests research published in the latest edition of Vet Record.

The evolution of color: Team shows how butterfly wings can shift in hue
A selective mating experiment by a curious butterfly breeder has led scientists to a deeper understanding of how butterfly wing color is created and evolves.

Breeders release new flaxseed cultivar with higher yield
The crop has many uses as plant-based food and fiber.

What drives multiple female acorn woodpeckers to share a nest?
In some acorn woodpecker family groups, related females lay eggs in the same nest and raise the chicks cooperatively with one or more related males.

Research brief: UMN researchers develop DIY field imaging system
Farmers and plant breeders can now build their own automated field camera track system to collect data on dynamic plant traits, such as crop lodging and movement, as it's happening in the field to help reduce losses in crop yield.

Plant breeders balance shared innovation, revenue
Crop breeding research and innovation requires funding. But funding--and revenue from the crops developed--is increasingly hard to obtain.

Australian vine can boost soybean yield, study says
Growing in its native Australia, the unobtrusive perennial vine Glycine tomentella could easily be overlooked.

Read More: Breeder News and Breeder Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.