Longer defoliation interval ensures expression of the ‘high sugar’ trait in perennial ryegrass cultivars in cool temperate Tasmania, Australia
Turner, LR and Donaghy, DJ and Pembleton, KG and Rawnsley, RP, Longer defoliation interval ensures expression of the high sugar' trait in perennial ryegrass cultivars in cool temperate Tasmania, Australia, Journal of Agricultural Science pp. 1-11. ISSN 0021-8596 (2014) [Refereed Article]
Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) cultivars have been developed to express higher levels of leaf water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC), but expression of this ‘high sugar’ trait varies between environments and is likely to be further influenced by the extent of plant re-growth. The herbage WSC concentration and the ratio of WSC to crude protein (WSC : CP) in high sugar cultivars AberMagic and SF Joule were therefore compared with a control cultivar, Arrow, under cool temperate Tasmanian conditions and two defoliation interval treatments. The irrigated cultivars were subjected to defoliation at either the 1·5-leaf or 3-leaf stage of re-growth, and additional components of nutritive value (fibre concentrations and metabolizable energy content) and dry matter (DM) yields were measured throughout a 12-month period (March 2011 to March 2012). The high sugar trait was consistently expressed in AberMagic, which under both the 1·5-leaf and 3-leaf stages defoliation intervals, displayed the highest WSC concentration (mean 194 and 247 mg/g DM, respectively, compared with 153 and 178 mg/g DM for Arrow) and highest WSC : CP ratio (mean 0·74 and 1·29, respectively, compared with 0·58 and 0·85 for Arrow). Defoliation at the 3-leaf stage of regrowth ensured greater expression of the high sugar trait in both AberMagic and SF Joule, as measured by the increase in WSC concentration and WSC : CP ratio as a result of increasing defoliation interval. The strength and consistency of trait expression in AberMagic under the 3-leaf stage defoliation interval warrants further research to investigate its effect on rumen nitrogen (N) partitioning and milk production in this environment.