Germinal, an international seed company based in Ireland and the United Kingdom, has been supplying the New Zealand market with a range of clovers and grasses for the past 15 years.
The New Zealand team is led by General Manager Sarah Gard, who also manages a North Canterbury dairy farm with her husband Will and sits on several committees for the New Zealand Plant Breeding and Research Association.
Sarah, who holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science from Lincoln University, started working for Germinal in 2014 to establish the company’s New Zealand research programme and was soon promoted to Trials and Product Development Manager. She took over the role of General Manager in June 2018.
“My rural background means I understand what farmers need,” says Sarah. “Those needs are always at the forefront of our minds in all the decisions we make.”
Focusing on research and development
Sarah is currently focused on research and development.
“This involves plot trials where we test our current commercial varieties, and new breeding lines, against other commercial varieties,” she says.
“I’m also running a new plant breeding programme where we are breeding new Germinal varieties for New Zealand, in New Zealand.”
Sarah says the breeding programme is exciting because it is the first time any material has been taken outside of Germinal’s research and development partner, the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in Wales, a world-renowned centre of excellence in plant breeding.
“By using IBERS material we are selecting the traits we want in a New Zealand environment, such as such as increasing the early spring growth in our perennial ryegrass.”
Germinal’s purpose-bred, high-performing clovers and grasses are improving animal performance, pasture persistence and leading to significant environmental benefits for New Zealand farmers.
The company’s AberLasting cultivar, for example, is New Zealand’s first successful cross of Caucasian and white clovers. It can withstand overnight temperatures of -20°C – which would wipe out 70% of other white clover varieties.
In a recent drought tolerance experiment, AberLasting maintained leaf water content for one week longer than traditional white clover when completely without water.
“We are not just a supplier, but a researcher with vital knowledge of seed development,” says Sarah.
“Our primary focus is to develop new varieties for New Zealand, in New Zealand.”