Supporting sustainable agriculture through pasture innovation

Monday 25.10.2021 , News

Committed to research and development, Germinal is focused on developing new varieties to support sustainable agriculture – resulting in innovative grass and forage products that address both environmental and economic challenges.

Sustainable agriculture research

Our global research and innovation team, Germinal Horizon, includes scientists embedded at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in Wales – a world-renowned grassland research centre working at the cutting-edge of pasture science.

In New Zealand, we also have our own research and innovation team who oversee on-farm trials throughout the country and at Germinal’s dedicated research site in Canterbury.

One of the scientists working at Germinal Horizon Aberystwyth (GHA) is David Lloyd, Head of Forage Plant Breeding. David talks about the company’s industry-leading research below, and what it means for New Zealand farmers:

“The over-riding focus of Germinal Horizon is to meet the needs of livestock farmers across Britain, Ireland and New Zealand. Our breeding philosophy is to deliver pasture varieties that farmers can rely on for optimal performance, balancing production traits such as yield and persistence with the highest possible quality.

Improving productivity in farming

Varieties bred at IBERS and GHA are available only to Germinal and are then included in on-the-ground trials in New Zealand to ensure they perform in real-life farming situations and in the country’s unique environment.

Our grasses and clovers are bred to support modern production systems, maximising livestock performance and farm productivity. This guiding principle is reflected in Germinal varieties ranking well on the DairyNZ Forage Value Index (FVI). 

Current and future challenges associated with climate change require responsibility and innovation in the pastoral sector. Vast improvements can be made to sustainable agriculture within this sector, both through management practices and by developing novel products.

Sustainable grass and clover varieties 

Significant progress has been made in reducing nitrogenous emissions through the development of our Aber High Sugar Grass (HSG) range. Aber HSG varieties contain higher levels of water-soluble carbohydrates (commonly referred to as sugars), and therefore energy, than conventional ryegrasses. Using this energy, rumen bacteria convert more of the plant protein into meat and milk with less protein wasted and reduced ammonia and methane emissions.

Similarly, nitrogen fixation is a key driver of our forage legume breeding programmes, allowing extensive reduction of applied mineral nitrogen fertiliser, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. We are breeding new types of red clover with the persistency of white clover under grazing but with protein protection in the rumen, reducing nitrogenous emissions and improving protein availability for the animal.

There is also a need to address increasingly frequent extremes of weather by developing new pasture varieties to withstand, for example, longer dry periods. By introducing genetics from drought and heat tolerant fescues, we are developing new deep-rooting ryegrasses designed for coping with future weather trends.

Similarly, we have been developing our DoubleRoot range of clover hybrids, mixing white and Caucasian clover genetics. These hybrids have greater tolerance of drought and cold conditions as well as improved tolerance of grazing. The development process for these hybrids is one of decades and the first commercial variety, AberLasting, is now available in New Zealand, underlining the forward vision required to breed plants for future scenarios.

Germinal’s well-established breeding population provides the ideal platform to continue developing the new agronomic and environmental traits most needed by New Zealand farmers now and in the future.”

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